In evaluating performance, I tend to get lost in deep-dive research. I do find a lot of relevant statistical information by going under the surface for stats, and that can be informative and valuable. But there is a downside.

At times I’m guilty of making things too complicated.

Keeping it simple can be better.

A good example: The St. Louis Blues and their improvement in bottom-line success since discharging coach Craig Berube and appointing Drew Bannister as the interim leader.

Bannister took over on Dec. 14, and the Blues are 15-7-1 since GM Doug Armstrong made the move. Their .674 points-earned percentage is seventh best in the NHL over that time.

The only teams to do better than STL since the changeover are Edmonton, Vancouver, Carolina, Florida, Winnipeg and Dallas. As they go into Tuesday night’s game at Toronto the Blues are 7-1 in their last eight.

This is the part where I keep it simple rather than get lost in the maze of advanced stats. We know that the underlying metrics haven’t changed that much since Bannister moved in behind the bench. We’ll monitor that. But winning is … good, right?

I’m keeping it simple. Impactful special teams and sharp goaltending can do wonders for a team’s health in the standings.

Other things matter, too. Competing harder. Developing a firmer resilience that can flip narrow losses into close wins. There’s the benefit of having your best players performing as best players should. There’s the plus of getting contributions from all parts of your roster.

All of these attributes apply to the Blues and are duly noted.

But let’s keep it simple by focusing on what’s driving the Blues forward.

1. Power play electricity: since the coaching shift the Blues are cashing in on the power play, and the “before and after” difference is profound.

* In 28 games played before the coaching change: 31st among the 32 teams with a pathetic power-play success rate of 8.4 percent.

* In 23 games since the change: sixth in the NHL by converting on 24.6 percent of power-play opportunities. Only one Western Conference club (Colorado) has a higher PP success rate than St. Louis during the Bannister takeover.

* The Blues scored seven power play goals in their first 28 games. Heck, they’ve scored just as many (7) in their last five games.

* Because of the extra juice generated by the power play, the Blues have scored 3.08 goals in their 23 games with different coaching leadership. With Berube the Blues averaged 2.85 goals in their first 28 contests.

* The Blues have improved their penalty-kill percentage with Bannister as coach,  but the difference isn’t significant. The PK has improved by 1.5 percent since Armstrong replaced Berube. Hey, it’s still progress.

The obvious takeaway: when your team is pumping in power play goals at a substantially increased volume, it goes a long way in compensating for your deficiencies at even strength. Before, the Blues power play was a damaging liability. And now it’s a potent strength, powerful enough to elevate their winning percentage.

2. It’s almost always about the goaltending. Nothing new here. But good luck to any NHL team that has shaky, mediocre goaltending. Fortunately for the Blues, their goaltending has provided tighter security. And that’s reflected by the basic save-percentage numbers and the reduction of goals against.

* At 5-on-5 before the change: .911 save percentage, ranking 15th. After the change: .927 save rate that ranks 7th in the league.

* All strengths before the change: .897 save percentage which ranked 18th. After the change: .913 save rate, which ranks 5th.

The goaltending from Jordan Binnington and Joel Hofer combined with systematic improvement have made the “new” Blues a more difficult team to score against.

In all-strength situations before the change, the Blues ranked 25th in goals yielded (3.30) per 60 minutes. Since the change rank 11th with 2.67 goals allowed per 60. It’s even better at 5-on-5, with the goals-against yield per 60 minutes going from 2.95 per (27th) to 2.23 (5th.) The goal suppression is real.

This is elementary. When you score more goals and allow fewer goals over 23 games, your record will show that. In the first 28 games of the season we saw the exact opposite from the Blues: fewer goals scored and more goals allowed. The 13-14-1 record was evidence of the consequences.

With Bannister’s guidance the Blues have propelled their way into the Western Conference wild-card chase. And no matter what the advanced metrics holler at us, the power play and goaltending are the leading factors in an impressive turnaround.

With a greatly improved power play and superb goaltending, the Blues are stacking up the victories. They’re also beating their own underwhelming metrics. And that’s the simple way to explain it.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

All stats used in this column were sourced from Hockey Reference and Natural Star Trick.