St. Louis Blues
Game Time **7:00 pm**
St. Louis, MO- If you had asked me prior to the last Blues game against Anaheim if I thought the Blues were in real trouble I would have said no. Fast forward to post game and my answer would have begun to change. After letting the emotions of another disappointing loss settle in the dust, I took a little time to think about what is going on with the organization that is our St. Louis Blues. What on earth has this four game slide taught us about our team? Let’s look and see what we can come up with in the next few minutes.
The first thing that strikes out at me is puck control and pressure on the puck. The Blues last season were so dominant on the puck. When the puck was not in transition through the neutral zone into the offensive zone, there were multiple Blue sweaters in or around the puck. This season, in more cases then not, we find the opposition using this exact tactic against us. The Blues have not been very good at forechecking and getting guys to the puck. The drive and hunger for puck possession seems to have taken a back seat to fancy (attempted) passing and a focus on scoring goals. The Blues are NOT a team set up for tick-tack-toe passes and fancy dispsy-doodle plays in order to score goals. Sure the addition of Vladimir Tarasenko helps the Blues, that there is no question about. #91 at times can make any defenseman in the NHL drop his jock in place but the Blues are not a team of flashy offensive talent. What the Blues are, is a team that has passion, energy, and a hunger to mash you into the boards and relentlessly pursue the puck…. Or so that was the case until 2 games into the season. The Blues have all but dropped off the face of the planet in 5 on 5 play and have relied solely on the PP for offensive support. Where in God’s name did that kick ass, rough, physical team from last season go? It is time for a big wake up call in the locker room at 14th and Clark tonight.
The second thing that has become a glaring eye sore is the Penalty Kill. Last season the Blues were one of the best teams in all of hockey at killing off the man advantage. This season they are mired in the back of the pack currently ranked 25th on the pk. Folks, you can not win championships with a PK in the bottom 5% of the League. The Blues are slow and sluggish to the puck control person on the PK. When the Blues get chances to get the puck out of the zone, they flub it and the puck ends up tick-tack-toe and behind a somewhat befuddled Brian Elliot (which is a whole different box of goodies that I don’t have time to discuss.) The Note MUST get better on the PK. The style of play St. Louis utilizes leaves them vulnerable to ticky-tacky calls in this days NHL. Killing off the man advantage will have to improve soon if St. Louis wants to remain atop the NHL Western Conference.
The Blues face the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings tonight, who in the recent past have had the Blues number. The Kings are coming off a disappointing loss to Detroit and will look to get back on the winning track against an identity-less Blues squad.
*Paging Jaro Halak* Tonight Blues Goaltender Jaroslav Halak will be back between the pipes for the reeling Blues. There has not been a better opportunity or time of need for this squad then we are facing right now. If Jaroslav Halak can come back tonight and show us just what we have been missing it will go a long way to repairing the confidence this team needs to compete. Game in and game out great teams have that goaltender who can come up with game changing saves. That one timely save that takes the weight off of the team and plants it squarely back on the opposition. The Blues got goaltending of that nature last season. When called upon, Halak made some miraculous saves that kept them in or ahead in games and it showed as the nailed down 109 points for second in the West 2011-2012. The Halakness Monster will need to emerge from its hidden cavern and swallow up pucks like the Leviathan of the sea smashing a Spanish galleon.
Tonight will be an interesting night for the Blues. Will this team rediscover its identity? Will they be able to get back to a fast defensive game and relentless offensive zone pressure? There is too much talent and drive on this team for it to remain bottled up forever. As a stalwart fan through the good and the bad, I tend to lean toward the ” We have hit rock bottom” approach and can only climb from here. It may not be pretty, but the next win needs to happen soon. Very soon.. In this micro season there is little room for skids of more then 3-4 games. The Blues must get back to raking in two points tonight and it has to start with a solid 60 minute game against a tough Kings team.
Tonight’s line up for Ken Hitckcock’s Blues is expected to look something like this: