Well, that escalated in a hurry. After a stretch which the Blues picked up three of ten points in a five-game span, they started a three-game home stand with weekend wins over the Blue Jackets and Avalanche.
Here are five areas that turned things around.
1) They played harder. As Ken Hitchcock said after a 5-1 win over Colorado, and a first period that he said was the Blues’ best of the year, “our puck pursuit, our tenacity, our secondary forecheck was excellent.” In games against the Rangers and Stars during the week, the Blues found themselves chasing the game. In New York, they were down 2-0 midway through the first period, and their defensive presence and puck pursuit were almost non-existent. Goalie Jake Allen didn’t have a chance.
In Dallas, the game unraveled quickly. After Paul Stastny tied it for the Blues midway through the second period, Dallas tied it 31 seconds later and the Blues disintegrated as the Stars extended the lead to 4-1. Over the weekend, the Blues handled adversity well and kept pushing.
2) Pucks found the back of the net. Fox Sports Midwest had the great stat on Saturday that the Blues’ thirteen hit posts were five more than any other team in the NHL. Add that to the fact that the Blues just haven’t put enough pucks on net in good position, and they weren’t scoring.
Allen figured it was going to happen. “We knew goals were going to come. You could see how many chances we were getting. Pucks weren’t finding (their way) to the cage, and tonight in the second period they did for us, and the tide turned a little bit.” After scoring zero, one or two goals in seven of eight games (a total of seven goals in those seven games), the Blues scored seven in two games.
3) The Blues kept the chances down against their goalies. After hanging Allen out to dry in New York and the defense crumbling in Dallas, the Blues outshot Columbus 30-21 and the Avalanche 28-23. Not only did the Blues keep the shots down, but their goalies had good looks at most of the pucks fired on them. Allen especially got good looks on Sunday against Colorado. The Blues defended will and, as mentioned, checked with much greater intensity over the weekend.
4) Vladimir Tarasenko on Saturday and Robby Fabbri, Jori Lehtera, and David Perron on Sunday all broke out of extended slumps. Tarasenko had gone seven games without a goal before his overtime winner on Saturday against Columbus. Fabbri and Lehtera hadn’t yet scored this season, and Perron had only scored in one game, notching a hat trick at Calgary.
Getting those guys on the score sheet on a regular basis is going to be imperative if the Blues are going to succeed at a high level, so having them score against Colorado has a chance to be important if they can sustain some offense. Over the weekend, the Blues’ best line was their fourth line. That’s great for a weekend, but if the line of Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Reaves comprise the Blues’ best over a period of time, they’ve got problems.
5) These two wins give the Blues some confidence heading into a tough part of the schedule. The rest of this month has the Blues facing Chicago, then a trip to Nashville and Columbus, San Jose and Nashville at home, and a trip to Boston and Washington with the Stars and Lightning on the horizon, all by December 1. The Blues needed a jumping off point and this weekend hopefully provided that.
It starts with a rivalry game against the Blackhawks on Wednesday night at Scottrade. The ‘Hawks have heated up, and are now the top team in the Central division and are tied for the best record in the league.
After their bad trip, the Blues needed to snap out of their malaise. Now they need to use the weekend as a jumping off point for a good stretch. Too many bad stretches can knock you down a few pegs in the toughest division in sports.