The Blues experienced more failure and frustration during their weekend visit to Colorado, losing back-to-back games by one goal.
It was 3-2 on Friday, 2-1 on Saturday and a 48-hour dive in the division standings. The Blues are tied with San Jose for fifth place and are three points behind fourth-place Arizona, which currently holds the last playoff spot in the West.
As usual, a dearth of goals was the Blues’ problem. The visitors could not pluck a single point from the two-game set despite holding the Avalanche to five goals overall, with three coming at 5-on-5. And keep in mind that we’re talking about a Colorado machine that leads the NHL in goals per 60 minutes this season at all strengths and at 5-on-5.
The Blues cooled the lava-hot Avalanche offense over 120 minutes. Under normal circumstances this should have resulted in a pretty good trip to Denver for the Blues.
Ah, but the 2021 Blues have entered a new normal.
And it’s abnormal.
Despite having the NHL’s second-highest payroll according to Cap Friendly, the Blues can barely buy a goal. Ownership’s investment includes $47.6 million for forwards, and another $21 million for defensemen. There isn’t much to show for all that dough.
The paucity of goals has been submerging this team for two months now.
You have to go back 27 games ago, to Feb. 4.
Since then the Blues are dead last in the NHL with 1.54 goals per 60 minutes at 5v5. And it ain’t much better at all strengths; the Blues rank 24th with 2.41 goals/60.
The Blues have scored no more than a lone 5v5 goal in 19 of their last 27 games. And during their current 2-7-4 rut the Blues have scored two goals or fewer (all strengths) in 10 of the 13 games, averaging 1.82 goals/60.
Look, we can discuss a bunch of excuses or theories. The extreme roster damage caused by injuries. The rustiness of returning injured players. Not enough traffic in front of the enemy net. The malfunctioning power play, which is 7 for 37 in the last 13 games. The inconsistent and at times half–hearted commitment to Berube 5v5 Hockey. The defensive-zone turnovers. The soft goals that get by Jordan Binnington or Ville Husso.
And sure, many of these factors explain why the Blues’ goal-production pipeline is drying up.
Defenseman Carl Gunnarson (knee) and forward Oskar Sundqvist (knee) are lost for the season.
Other than that, the only injured player missing right now is defenseman Colton Parayko. He’s an important player, and his absence leaves a huge hole.
That said, the Blues have no excuse for their destitution on offense. We can talk about the same things over and over, but with the Blues already having played two-thirds of their 56-game schedule, it really comes down to this:
The guys who are being paid to score goals need to start scoring goals. Full stop.
The Blues can’t fix all of their problems, but a much healthier rate of production by goal-scorers is the most accessible, direct-line cure.
And we know they’re capable of it; all you need to do is look back at their first 10 games of the season. In going 7-2-1 the Blues led the league in 5v5 goals per 60 minutes (3.74) and were fourth in goals/60 at all strengths.
Save for Sundqvist, the team’s supply of forwards is restored — but the goal production is not. These gentlemen have scored plenty of goals before, and they can score plenty of goals again.
This isn’t optional. They MUST score goals.
The Blues have seven forwards making at least $4 million this season:
Vladimir Tarasenko ($7.5 m), Ryan O’Reilly ($7.5 m), Brayden Schenn ($6.5 m), Jaden Schwartz ($5.3 m), Tyler Bozak ($5 m), Mike Hoffman ($4 m) and David Perron ($4 m.)
Add it all up, and it comes to just under $40 million. We can’t leave out the two highest-paid defenseman, Justin Faulk and Torey Krug, who each make $6.5 million this season. Both were advertised as d-men capable of moving the offense.
Now we’re up to $53 million for those nine players.
Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas aren’t in the big-money stage of their careers, but they have the talent to make a difference. They haven’t done much lately
Other than O’Reilly and Perron, who have combined for 10 goals (all strengths) in the last 13 games, the amount of production isn’t close to matching the amount of the payroll costs.
This is bad:
- Tarasenko has two goals in his 13 games since returning and is a minus 8. We also note his six assists.
- Schenn is scoreless in his last 11 games and has one goal in his last 14 contests.
- Schwartz has no goals and two assists and is a minus 5 in eight games since returning from injury.
- Hoffman has a mere 4 goals at 5v5 in his 35 games, and one power play goal all season.
- Kyrou has scored three goals in his last 19 games; two, however, came in one game.
- Thomas has no goals or points in six games since returning from injury.
- Krug does not have a single goal this season at even strength or 5v5. His only goal in 37 games came on the power play.
- Faulk scored 5 goals in the first 14 games. Since then, he’s gone 23 straight games without scoring and is a minus 11.
When the Blues score 3 or more goals in a game this season, their record is 15-3-3. When they score two or fewer goals, their record is 1-12-3.
Craig Berube’s team ranks 28th among the NHL’s 31 teams with a .426 points percentage over the last two months. The Blues have been outscored 85-66 over that time overall, and 57-34 at 5v5. They are in real danger of missing the playoffs.
Here’s a simplistic, obvious message to the goal scorers: Hey, you! Please score some damn goals!
Thanks for reading …
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