I have to say, it’s a little confusing at times to make my way through Blues’ chatter, whether it be media opinions and observations or the criticism offered by the team’s passionate fans in online chats or comments sections.
For example, I keep hearing or reading how captain Ryan O’Reilly is off to a “slow start.” Can he play better? Of course. That applies to all of the Blues. But just because we agree that O’Reilly can improve on some aspects of his game, that doesn’t mean he’s struggling or lurching throw a slow start to the new campaign
Sure, he’s a big part of the special teams, and that’s been a significant problem area for the Blues so far. I don’t think O’Reilly is screwing up on the power play or penalty kill in a way that justifies anything beyond the kevel of, say, muttering.
With the Blues PP and PK units there’s plenty of blame to go around. But if you want to file your “Slow Start O’Reilly” papers in the court of public opinion … well, OK.
What else? Oh. My personal favorite is the penalty-minutes accounting and related stewing. O’Reilly has five minors in 16 games, and sure, that’s unusual for him. After all he had only 10 minutes in 71 regular-season games last season — and 12 minutes in 82 reg-season during the Blues’ Stanley Cup season.
But maybe, just maybe, this increase in O’Reilly’s sentencing time has to do with … oh … well, you know … NHL officiating?
This is funny. We go off on NHL officiating and growl about the gross negligence and incompetence and inconsistency after most games — but in the case of Ol’ Slow Start O’Reilly, we don’t cut him much slack, and give him the benefit of the doubt. Hysterical.
So yes, these early-season penalties on O’Reilly are a little odd. And he’ll try to stay out of the box, but too many calls are random. I wouldn’t put this in the “The Captain Is Feeling Pressure And Is Off To A Slow Start” classification.
Outliers happen, my friends.
(And the bearded man is averaging more minutes per game this season than he did last season or the season before that. Though, granted, there isn’t much difference. But maybe he gets tired at times.)
I have many faults.
Here’s one: I like to research things, especially when a narrative becomes gospel and strikes me as partially untrue, mostly untrue, or just absolutely ridiculous.
So what I did here is look at O’Reilly’s stats and rates through 16 games and compared them to his first 16 games of last season.
Goals-assists: 5-9 this season; 4-12 through 16 last season.
Plus-minus: +9 this season; + 1 through 16 last year. Wait a minute … I thought he was off to a slow start.
Even strength goals-assists: 3-7 this season; 4-7 last season. One stinkin’ point.
Some other even-strength rates and stats:
Corsi (total shot attempts): Blues control 52% with O’Reilly out there this season. Through 16 games last season, that percentage was 48.5%
Shots on goal percentage: The Blues have 55% of the shots when O’Reilly is skating; last year at this point that number was 48%.
O’Reilly’s faceoff win percentage: 59.8% now; 57.5% then.
Even-strength team goals for-against when O’Reilly is on the ice: 17-8 this season (68%) compared to 15-13 (that’s 53.5%) at this stage last season.
Scoring chances for-against: 51% with O’Reilly on ice this season; 48% through 16 last season.
Giveaways-takeaways: O’Reilly was definitely better in this area through 16 games last season, with five giveaways and 13 takeaways. This season the ratio is even, 6-6.
When O’Reilly is in service this season, the Blues have scored 68 percent of the goals at even strength. Only five NHL forwards (minimum 200 minutes) can claim a higher rate.
No question the captain has to do his part to improve the special teams, and his takeaway-giveaway ratio should be cleaner. That’s correctable. And we should hope (eternally?) for more consistency from NHL officiating.
But this isn’t a slow start.
In most categories — those that truly matter — O’Reilly has done better through 16 games this season than the first 16 games last season. He’s a team-first player. He’s a two-way player. A skilled workhorse that handles every type of responsibility.
And his team-related metrics count for a lot, and those numbers tell us the true story. It makes sense to base most judgments on how the Blues are doing during O’Reilly’s even-ice shifts. We can moan about the special teams, but don’t let that distort the more accurate picture of O’Reilly’s complete value.
Check out Bernie’s 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 live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.