The Blues will lug a four-game losing streak onto the ice at Enterprise Center on Monday night, hoping to halt the recent depreciation that’s consumed the benefit of their fast start to the season.
After a 3-0 new beginning that left many locals panting with excitement, the NHL schedule made corrections. After a comfortable and leisurely pace in their early schedule, the Blues were required to get busy. The assignment: playing four games in six days. Shucks, they lost all four, getting out-scored 20-7 in a blur of of failure. And all of a sudden their season had turned into a Metallica song title: “Trapped Under Ice.”
The Blues made too many mistakes to attain respectable results over that time. Their many substandard performers were apparently working on their Halloween costumes – hopefully discarding the ghost look and dressing like a real NHL team for Monday’s game against the Kings.
After the Blues were flogged 7-4 by Montreal in an embarrassing Saturday evening of hockey, Vladimir Tarasenko was dispatched to distribute spicy quotes to assembled media. He did not want to talk about the mistakes. He wanted to correct the mistakes.
“I said it before. You seen the game,” Tarasenko said. “We can’t play like this. I don’t see the reason to find any issues right now. It’s unacceptable and we should fix it.”
During their four-game crash, the Blues have careened into hazardous spaces that leave me questioning the very existence of the song “Gloria” and the collective strength of Berube Hockey.
Was it all a dream?
In the four straight losses, the boys:
* Were outscored 11-1 in the third period.
* Were outscored 13–3 at five-on-five.
* Missed the net entirely on nearly 30 percent of their 189 even-strength shots directed at the net.
* Managed to score on only 2.94 percent of their five-on-five shots. As a point of reference, last season the Blues scored on a league-best 10.42% of their shots at five-on-five.
* The general sloppiness is obvious. The Blues are a poor minus 22 so far this season in the takeaway-giveaway ratio at even strength. And some of their best players are guilty of fumbling.
* This next item only applies to those who invest in the various outcomes of sporting events. But if you played the Blues and the money line for the third period in their last four games, you would have received a MINUS 70 percent on your investment. That is … not good. That is very, very bad. That’s money flushed down the toilet. If you’ve been betting on the Blues to finish strong, then I hope you’ve stashed away enough money to feed your kids and keep your personal mini-fridge stocked with beer.
The problem with the Blues is fairly easy to explain.
As mentioned earlier: They are not finishing.
They are not finishing plays (too many turnovers.) They are not finishing scoring chances (too many squandered opportunities.) And they are not finishing games with a strong third period (absolutely horrendous.)
During the current skid, the Blues are getting plenty of shots. Despite being outscored by a whopping 10 goals at five-on-five over the last four games, the Blues have mustered 47 percent of the overall shot attempts, 49 percent of the shots on goal, and nearly 47 percent of the high-danger scoring chances. They haven’t had the upper hand, per se, but their shot volume and quality is fine. They can’t put enough pucks in the net because (1) they mess up potential scoring chances with sloppy play that kills the scoring chance; and (2) they shoot worse than Russell Westbrook.
(I know I just slid an NBA reference in there, but let the boy have some fun. The Lakers are 1-5 on the season, and everybody in LA hates Russ, because Russ has made 4 of 20 three-pointers, 7 of 28 jumpers, and somehow has managed to miss 61 percent of his layup attempts. Russ refuses to stop shooting. Oh, and the Lakers are paying him a salary of $44.2 million this season.)
The Blues need to work harder – mentally, more than physically. Yes, they could spend more time camped near the net. They could, generally speaking, be more active. But their downturn is mostly the result of mental errors – the knucklehead mistakes by those who aren’t normally like that – and increased stress under pressure that’s causing some of the fellas to wildly misfire when presented with an open net – or, in hockey parlance, the Golden Scoring Chance.
The Blues have to become a more locked-in team at five-on-five, and that includes putting more pucks in the net. That’s something they’ve usually done under Berube in defiance of the fancy-pants “expected goals” metric. That always makes the advanced-stats crews cringe with frustration and even anger …
The Blues Shouldn’t Be Scoring So Many Goals! They Are Disrespecting Our Model! It Will Catch Up To Them, And They Will Suffer!
Well, maybe a little.
In the Cup-capturing 2018-2019 season, in their final 45 regular–season games, the Berube Blues scored just under 60 percent of the five-on-five goals. Ridiculous. The following season (2019-20) The Note scored 55.6 percent of the five-on-five goals. Not as ridiculous … but still ridiculous. In 2020-21, injuries played a major role in a decline to a 48.3 percent goal share at five-on-five. But the Blues got closer to their form last season by scoring a quite respectable 54 percent of five-on-goals.
This season? It’s only seven games but St. Louis has been outscored 18-10 at five-on five. That share – 35.73% of the five-on-five goals – ranks 31st among the 32 NHL teams.
Needless to stay, that must change, and it will.
Dear Blues: It’s time to clear the brain fog and go to work. And please remember to finish what you started — whether you’re about to shoot the puck at a gaping net, or firmly closing down the opponent with abundant authority in the third period.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app which is available in your preferred app store.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
Statistics used here were sourced from NaturalHatTrick, Evolving Hockey and Hockey Reference.