Is it time to load up the Blues-colored bandwagon? This season it’s been pretty quiet on there, with a shortage of passengers, no party balloons, and many complaints.
Not exactly the Delmar Loop trolley, but I digress …
As I keep saying, don’t waste your time trying to understand the Blues. It’s a team that wins despite being outplayed for extensive stretches of games. It’s a team afflicted by injuries, so many that we could be polite and give them an excuse for losing. But they don’t want our sympathy. The more players the Blues lose, the more games the Blues win.
The Bandwagon Update
* Down 3-1 to Calgary going into the third period Tuesday night at Enterprise Center, rally to tie it up, and then win 4-3 in overtime on a goal from Robert Thomas who partnered with Jordan Kyrou on a 2-on-1 invasion of the Calgary goal. The Blues are 4-1 in their last five games of chance.
* Their latest victory gave the Blues a record of 9-3-3 in their last 15 conflicts. Warning: a check of the standings can lead to dizziness. Since Dec. 11 the Blues lead the Western Conference and are tied for third overall with 21 points. And St. Louis has the NHL’s seventh-best points percentage over that time.
* In the West, only the Los Angeles Kings have a better points percentage (.714) than the Blues (.700) since Dec. 11.
* Per FiveThirtyEight, STL’s probability of making the playoffs is up to 49 percent. That isn’t something that takes your breath away, but your favorite team has made significant progress after being down and counted out by the skeptics … including this skeptic.
* With 45 points, the Blues are now tied with Edmonton for the No. 2 wild-card position in the West. And if the Blues can out-wrestle Calgary on Thursday, they’ll draw even with the Flames for the No. 1 wild-card slot.
* The Blues have a positive setup in the schedule, and it’s time to eat up points. They have six games left on the current home stay, and 13 of the next 18 will take place at Enterprise. The fellas can’t afford to crash the Blues-colored Bandwagon. This is their opportunity to take full advantage of the favorable itinerary. If they sag in their effort, resume their bad habits on a mistake-cluttered rink, and reverse to an earlier time this season, the Blues-colored Bandwagon will be towed to the junkyard.
Let’s Get Goofy … I’ll start.
Until recently, the disappointing and undependable Blues were “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty.
And now? Let’s go old-school and say the newly dashing Blues are Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight.” Or as Ol’ Blue Eyes put it: “Lovely, never, never change. Keep that breathless charm. Won’t you please arrange it? ‘Cause I love you, just the way you look tonight”
One Question: Why?
As I wrote earlier this week, the top reason for the Blues’ renewal is mostly about their rush of goals. Sure, the organizational depth has supplied grit and tangible contributions. The Blues wouldn’t be 4-1 in their last five games without the emergency volunteers from their AHL affiliate in Springfield.
Shooting and scoring is the difference. The Blues have found the right touch. It may not last, but they’re scoring in a way that brings back memories of last season’s team that finished third in the league in goals per game.
In their first 29 games of the season – with a record of 13-15-1 – the Blues averaged 2.88 goals per 60 minutes at all strengths. That ranked 23rd in the NHL.
But since Dec. 15 – with a record of 8-3-2 – the Blues are scoring at a rate of 3.68 goals per 60 minutes (all strengths) which ranks No. 6 in the NHL.
The boom in scoring has compensated for the injuries, the roster instability, careless defensive lapses, and the occasional screw-ups in goal.
The No. 1 Star …
That would be Jordan Kyrou. I don’t want to slight other Blues, because they’ve been lifted by a cadre of players during the team’s upturn – especially Pavel Buchnevich, Brandon Saad, Brayden Schenn and Robert Thomas. But Kyrou is really rolling.
Kyrou had a goal and two assists in Tuesday’s cooling of the Flames. That gave him three goals and three assists during the Blues’ 4-1 run.
If we go back to Dec. 15, we’ll see evidence of how Kyrou is leading the charge.
– Kyrou has seven goals at five-on-five since Dec. 15, which is tied for second among NHL forwards. Boston’s David Pastrnak has eight goals (five-on-five) over that time.
– At all strengths Kyrou has 10 goals and eight assists in his team’s 13 contests since Dec. 15. That ranks third among NHL forwards during that time.
– Since Dec. 15 Kyrou leads all NHL forwards with an average of 5.24 points per 60 minutes at all strengths. And he’s second (to Pastrnak) with 2.91 goals per 60.
The Molten-Lava Hot Line
Since Dec. 15 the line of Buchnevich, Thomas and Kyrou has been used for 103 minutes in all situations.
With that line on the ice, the Blues have outscored opponents 11-3 for a 78.57 percent goal share, have an expected goal share of 62.3% and have a massive 70-30 advantage in scoring chances.
Exploring the Depths
In their last 15 games the Blues have gotten goals from 16 different players … and 23 players have chipped in at least one point. The production has been generated by the high-end players down to the AHL fill-ins. The win over the Flames was typical. Four different players scored for the Blues, ranging from Kyrou to rookie Nikita Alexandrov.
“I think our key’s been for many years now, at least since I’ve been here, is our depth,” Robert Thomas told reporters after Tuesday’s victory. “We’re getting goals from everyone and that’s really important. It seems like every night someone else is stepping up. That’s what in a long season it takes to be successful. That’s been our key.”
The Blues are earning trust. The Blue-colored bandwagon won’t stop unless the players wreck it with a return to substandard play. And when the injured players begin to reenter the season, they’d better find a way to put ego aside and keep the momentum going.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. 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.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
All stats used here were sourced from Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick and Evolving Hockey.