The Blues should scram and run away from home. Enterprise Center has turned into a scary place for them this season, and the latest homestand became the site of the latest debacle.
After defeating Calgary in overtime in the first of seven consecutive games in their home arena, the Blues were tied for a wild–card spot in the Western Conference standings and had a 49 percent chance to make the playoffs according to FiveThirtyEight. From that point the Blues proceeded to fall down again by losing four of the next six.
The non-competitiveness was a problem again Tuesday, when the Blues allowed the first four goals of the game and lost 5-3 to Buffalo. Pretty much the same thing happened in Saturday’s 5-3 upending by Chicago. If you combine the scoring pattern in the two dreadful losses, the Blues were blistered for seven goals before scoring their first goal. Disgraceful.
And as the Blues prepare to evacuate the premises for a three-game roadie, this is how they left things in their house:
— A crummy 3-4 record in their barn and a seven-game chance and failure to make things right.
— A revised playoff probability of 18 percent according to FiveThirtyEight.
— They have 49 points on the season and are six points out of the second wild-card spot. It seems like they’re 60 points behind. But to get to the second spot that’s held by Calgary (55 points), the Blues would have to overtake Minnesota (54) and Nashville (52.)
Tuesday’s post-game theme of the day was “Slot Shots” as in leaving the sweet-spot shooting zone unattended to make it easier for opponents to pepper-spray the STL goaltenders with shots. Jordan Binnington must know how it feels to be a turkey in the first couple of weeks each November.
If it isn’t all about the Slot Shots, it’s Defensive Zone Turnovers, or Missing the Net, or Lack of Compete, or Not Playing For Each Other.
Let’s just go ahead and call it a mess.
The Blues (23-22-3) are 23rd in the NHL in points percentage (.510). They’re 10-12-2 at Enterprise Center for a home points percentage (.458) that ranks 27th among the 32 teams. The true indicator is the Blues record in regulation time: 16-22-10.
But yeah, the slot shots are a massive problem. Blues’ opponents have controlled 55 percent of the high-danger scoring chances this season and have used that heavy advantage to outscore St. Louis 97-63 on close-range goals.
That’s a minus 34 in the high-danger goal differential.
In 2018-2019 when they won the Stanley Cup, the Blues were a plus 12 in the high-danger goal count. In the next season, they were plus 19. In 2020-21, they were minus 7. Last season they were minus 4. And now, minus 34.
The Blues’ system – the Craig Berube system – has collapsed. The team is yielding an average of 3.52 goals per 60 minutes this season, which ranks 25th in the NHL. That’s a hard comedown from where they used to be.
The other side has it too easy in getting themselves set up for the high-percentage goals … and easiest goals. Only six NHL teams have committed more defensive zone turnovers than the Blues this season, and STL has a takeaway-giveaway differential of minus 73.
Coach Berube can’t get through to the players and he might as well save his voice and have a robot come out to chat with the media and repeat the same faulty diagnosis of the team’s lousy play. Too many of GM Doug Armstrong’s contract decisions have turned into costly mistakes.
The roster is overpaid and inadequate, the goaltending is mediocre, and the highest-salaried dudes are (mostly) disappointing. The collection of defensemen is undersized and lacking in toughness and instincts. As a group, the Blues’ D-men are among the top five in the league for highest salary compensation. Poor play, poor value, investments gone bad.
The only real thing to look forward to is the NHL trade deadline in early March. Armstrong has to auction off as many of these loose parts as he can, with the hope of improving his team’s 2023 draft position and collecting draft choices that will be ready to lead the next-gen Blues after the inevitable rebuild. Yeah, I’m in a blue mood today. I wonder why. The Blues are just that.
Thanks for reading …