The Blues are more like an NBA team now, picking their spots to try hard. Picking their spots to try and win a game.Taking other nights off by barely showing up to play. It’s called “load management” in the NBA. But this is hockey, where it’s unacceptable to steal a paycheck. The boys seem to think that effort is optional, and too often lately they’re deciding to take it easy. And when the Blues go soft, it has nothing to do with load management; it’s more like presenting a load of guano.

The Enterprise Center was filled with stink on Thursday night, and I’m surprised that fans didn’t reach for the masks that are no longer mandatory for admittance. The Blues were rank.

This time they barely got out of the hammock for the opening faceoff, spotted the visiting Philadelphia Flyers a 2-0 lead, and tried (sometimes) to play catch-up. This 5-2 loss to a lightweight opponent – a team that hadn’t won on the road since Dec. 29, and who just traded captain Claude Giroux – was nothing short of a disgrace.

The best thing about mockery night in St. Louis were the post-game quotes from coach Craig Berube.

“I don’t know if it’s arrogance or what it is,” Berube said. “But you don’t compete in the game, you don’t work, you can get embarrassed like we did tonight. … you know, what I saw was just a team that skated and outworked us in the first period, that’s the easiest way to put it.”

The Chief offered commentary in another form: by benching the loafing Jordan Kyrou and an ambivalent Ivan Barbashev for much of the third period.

Added defenseman Justin Faulk: “The work ethic wasn’t there, the compete level and intensity wasn’t there from a lot of guys — I’m very much in that group. Didn’t have a good game by any means. But that’s just not acceptable.”

This game – this non-commitment to excellence – was the latest example of why I hated the idea of Blues general manager Doug Armstrong going on a trade-making bender, undermining his team’s future by making unhinged, irresponsible deals. Much to the chagrin of The Athletic and others, Armstrong displayed discipline by making just a slight overpay to obtain defenseman Nick Leddy from Detroit. He didn’t venture onto the cuckoo ledge to empty organizational assets to invest in a team that doesn’t invest in itself. Why screw up the future when the current players are screwing up their season? This team ain’t worth it.

The effort is lacking. Scorers are slumping. The Blues’ goal prevention is cracking. Like gas prices, the team’s goals-against average is going up, up, up.

Take a look, and follow the trend:

!!!  In their first 41 games of the season, the Blues conceded a stingy average of 2.65 goals per outing. The goal-denial performance led to a 25-11-5 record for a .671 points percentage that ranked 9th among the 32 teams.

!!!  In their last 22 games (10-8-4 record) the Blues have yielded 3.22 goals per contest.

!!!  The Blues are 3-5-3 in their last 11, giving up 3.54 goals per game.

!!!  While getting pelted for 3.80 goals per game, they’ve come away with one win in their last five (1-2-2.)

Over this 24-game stretch that began Jan. 24, the Blues rank 17th in the league in goals allowed per 60 minutes. Their save percentage (.894) ranks 21st.

In the last 10 games the St. Louis save rate is .885 (26th in the league) and the team is 20th in goals against per 60 minutes. Ville Husso’s save percentage is .899 in his last seven games, and Jordan Binnington has a .882 save percentage in his last four.

How poorly are the Blues playing compared to their previous, top-form level? Since Jan. 24 they’re 24th in the NHL with an expected goals-scored share of 42.4 percent at five-on-five.

Kyrou hasn’t scored in eight games and has one goal in his last 11 … After scoring 15 goals in his first 38 games this season, Barbashev has four goals in his last 24 … Pavel Buchnevich hasn’t scored since Feb. 27, and has one goal in his last 11 games.

In the 5-2 loss to Philly, the Blues had only 38 percent of the shot attempts at five on five and were outscored 2-0. The Blues’ five worst players Thursday night – relative to teammates’ performance in Corsi For percentage — were Barbashev, Robert Thomas, Parayko, Kyrou and Vladimir Tarasenko.

The Blues are down to 20 games remaining on their regular-season schedule. They’re slip-sliding, and no one seems to know what to do … wait, let me correct myself: the Blues know what to do; they just aren’t willing to do it.

Captain Ryan O’Reilly picked lousy time to offer uninspiring perspective on the team’s current malaise.

“”You can tell we’re fighting it,” he said after the game. “We didn’t take care of the puck like we need to. It’s a frustrating two points that we didn’t get tonight. We’ll be alright, we’ll keep working and get through it.”

How disappointing.

That’s a large part of the problem – the Blues sitting around telling each other “we’ll be alright.”

Will they?

The Blues, third in the Central division, are tied with the Kings for the fourth-most points (79) in the Western Conference. But with the Blues catnapping and losing to awful teams, Nashville (78) Edmonton (77) and Dallas (75) are creeping up. If the Blues think they have it made, they’re both arrogant and presumptuous. First, they have to get to work. And then they have to work harder. Earn the money, boys.

Thanks for reading …


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All stats used here were sources from Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick.