I was going back through some of my “Ferrario Five’s” over the last few weeks and it’s mind-blowing how much of a roller coaster season this has been for the Blues. One week we are talking about a stacked roster and the next we are discussing where the Blues sit today, a 5-game losing streak. For the first time in a while, I’m starting to question this team’s ability to win it all (which I hope I jinxed them).
The Blues Are Simply Getting “Out-Muscled” In Their Own Zone
This statement shouldn’t surprise anyone from the personnel that they lost this off-season, especially the size on the back-end from Petro & Bouwmeester. But I did not expect this group to get “beat-up” in front of their net like they did last night. The PPG goal & the 3 rd one from LA are perfect examples of what I’m talking about. Loose puck after Binnington makes the initial stop and the puck is swept up by LA and fed to another player. You can’t fix size on a roster but this problem can be solved with a group effort in their own zone. It may have to be 5 guys swarming the net when a shot is taken rather than expect the goalie to make highlight reel save after highlight reel save.
Where Has The Mobility Gone?
Craig Berube has a specific style of hockey he expects the Blues to play on a nightly basis, he calls it “north-south hockey”. This style should fall right into the wheelhouse of this roster due to their speed from their own zone. Torey Krug, Marco Scandella and Vince Dunn are mobile defenders who can skate with the best of anyone in the league but when the puck is on their stick in the d-zone, they opt to bounce off the boards which causes turnovers. The strength of this team is their ability to escape danger easily and last night it felt like they were causing more danger than preventing it. Losing streak stops once bodies start to skate with the puck on their stick rather than being passive.
Penalty Kill Is Becoming A Problem, Again
Penalties should also be brought up in this conversation but for a while there the Blues had calmed down on penalties and killed off ones that they took. Last night they reverted to their old ways by taking an offensive-zone penalty in the first two minutes and then allowing a goal :30 later. This can be tied into the challenges that are the Blues d-zone issues but PK has always been a strength of this team and they have the personnel to prove it. Just seems the Blues get caught in their own way when on the PK by trying to let the play come to them rather than going to the play. Lack of bodies in front of shots and sacrificing for pucks has bitten this team one to many times.
Slow Starts = Catch-Up Hockey
Seems like a simple solution, right? Be ready at puck drop and want it more. What I like to remind people is the other team wants the game just as bad as the Blues do but they fell into the trap of another team being more ticked off at a losing streak than the Blues were. The “x-factor” that comes into play from last night is that there’s a lot of sitting in hotel rooms for 3-straight days and then just turning it on in game action. But, that doesn’t hold up well when teams have had to deal with that same issue this season and have had success. The Blues’ issue this season is they find themselves down by a goal early and are playing catch-up the rest of the night. They have been stellar at that all season but it is taxing on your top players and it seemed like last night, the Blues finally hit that wall. This is an area that has to be fixed, and fast, because it’s not just a switch they can turn on come postseason play.
Dakota Joshua Continues To Impress
Okay, I’m done being “Debbie Downer” after a frustrating loss for the Blues and time to shed some optimism. I love Joshua’s game for the Blues. I know, this won’t help them win games but it says something when your 4 th line was your best forward group in an ugly loss. Joshua plays the Blues style, fast and heavy. He plays the north-south style that I spoke about earlier. Hopefully, this guy can be a spark plug for his teammates and get everyone else “pulling on the same rope” as Berube likes to put it. It says something that he played over a healthy de la Rose last night, and I don’t expect him to exit the line-up anytime soon.