A former NHL head coach whose last name is that of a famous street in Hollywood once told me you can’t make the playoffs in October and November, but you sure can miss them. I love that statement because if you really think about the meaning, it is so true. Last season, the Blues won their first two games but then proceeded to drop the next three and 15 out of their next 19 contests. The early slump eventually cost Head Coach Andy Murray his job and the Blues never fully recovered. Are we really about to see a repeat?
After starting this season with impressive wins over Philadelphia and Anaheim, the Blues have yet to get back in the W column. A lackluster effort in a loss to Nashville was followed by a disappointing shootout defeat to Dallas Saturday night. The Blues outshot the Stars 43-25 and simply dominated the game at times. But the team couldn’t take advantage of a great start much the way the Predators did to them several nights earlier. However, did the Blues really deserve to win this game? Before you injure your neck nodding yes, consider some of the facts.
This game was tied at two entering the third period. The Blues then had a 5 on 3 power play for over a minute and could not muster any offense. If you deserve to win this game, you score on that 5 on 3. It’s just that simple. Good teams make you pay for mistakes. The Blues were unable to take advantage of this opportunity and then lost in the shootout. This team had all sorts of problems when presented with a 5 on 3 advantage last season, and not converting again brings back bad memories. You should definitely be able to get off more than just shots from the point with a two-man advantage. The puck movement was way too predictable and lacked creativity. If my girlfriend who knows nothing about hockey (or knows very little about anything) is complaining about how boring their power play is, then there is definitely a real issue. Head Coach Davis Payne must solve this early on or else it will become a much bigger problem as the season goes on.
As I wrote in my previous article so cleverly titled “To Catch A Predator” (which I’m sure you read and remember), I stated it will be imperative the Blues don’t make Kari Lehtonen look like the second coming of Glenn Hall. Well, they somehow managed to do exactly that. No doubt Lehtonen had a very strong game, but the team passed up on too many shots and shot when they had open lanes to pass. Again, curious decision-making at best. Also in an earlier column of mine I spoke about the importance of faceoffs. I actually wrote about this before the season began. Please go back and read all of my postings since I know you have nothing better to do with your time. The Blues were once again dismal on faceoffs. They won only 22 of 56 draws. David Backes was 6 for 11 and Jay McClement was a brutal 5 for 12. The team currently ranks 22nd in the league with a 47.7 percentage. Winning a faceoff leads to puck possession. No former head coach had to tell me this one. Please, please, please, somehow figure out a way to start winning more faceoffs. The centermen must get over the 50% mark or problems will continue.
The line of Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson and James Neal had their way with the Blues forwards and defencemen (yes, I spelled that with a “c”) every time they stepped on the ice. If this line was able to dominate, what do you think Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp might do? We will find out Monday night as the Blues visit the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Man, it still hurts to say that. The Blues need to build up points in October and November. Especially against Western Conference opponents. If they fail to do so, they will once again look back in April on these games and wish they had figured out a way to win. It all comes back to what that highly intelligent, former head coach told me. Hmmm, I wonder why he’s out of a job?
About the Author
Written by Dave Frederick
Dave has spent more than 20 years covering the NHL for a variety of different media outlets. Most notably ESPN, Fox Sports and the National Hockey League.