I’m tired of writing about the Blues.
That’s because it’s so tiring to watch the Blues.
Just about every game is the same: the Blues strain to score as much as a single goal. It’s an ordeal to score a goal. Scientists can develop a vaccine easier than the Blues can produce a goal. Turnovers. Giving up soft goals. Losing the clashes for control of the puck. They get drubbed. They lose. They sink in the standings.
The season is slipping away, and the Blues can’t do a damn thing about it. Or maybe I have that wrong. Maybe the Blues know the season is slipping away, but they won’t do a damn thing about it.
The disgusted, disillusioned, tough-guy coach looks like a man that wants to gnaw on a hockey stick — either that or use the stick to smack his players upside the head.
The Blues players appear via video conference to speak to the media. Off the ice, these Zoom calls are used in observance of social distancing. And they’re an effective way of communicating.
Problem is, the Blues also practice social distancing on the ice and give the opposing goaltender plenty of space. Problem is, the Blues must be doing a poor job of communicating with each other. The players rarely bother to make an attempt to fix what’s broken. The more they talk, the worse it gets.
The Blues say the right things after failing to actually do the right things in their latest, feckless defeat. Have to do better, they say. Have to get bodies in front of the net, they say. Have to stick together, they say. We believe in each other, they say. The goals will come, they say.
And then nothing happens … except for another version of the same tedious game, another depressing defeat, and the maddening cycle continues.
It’s the same story, constantly repeated.
That’s why I want to quit doing this.
Actually, no. I won’t quit.
I don’t want to be like the Blues. It’s a team that sure looks like it’s in the process of packing it in, slowly withdrawing from competition, and become more accepting of their likely fate.
The latest embarrassment was Monday’s 6-1 loss to Vegas at Enterprise Center. Nothing worked except the very nice tribute video to former captain Alex Pietrangelo.
Petro being back at Enterprise for the first time since signing with Vegas should have revved up the Blues. It didn’t.
Coach Craig Berube put No. 1 goaltender Jordan Binnington on the bench and started Ville Husso. There was no response from his team. Husso got yanked and Binnington returned. There was no response from the team.
Berube remixed his lines again. The response from the team was one goal.
Mountainous defenseman Colton Parayko gritted his teeth and returned from a painful 21-game absence to put his ailing back in action. For Parayko, it was a genuine, heartfelt attempt to stir his teammates. There was no response from the team. Parayko blocked three shots, moved around the best he could in his nearly 20 minutes of ice time. He finished at minus 3. Lost cause.
The Blues have lost seven in a row (0-6-1), getting outscored 25-8 in the process. Tell me how that reflects a team that still cares. It doesn’t reflect that at all.
The Blues are 2-8-4 in their last 14 games, getting outscored 49-26. Tell me how that is representative of a team that remains determined to compete at the maxim level. The Blues do not meet that standard. Not even close.
In their last 28 games the Blues are 9-14-5 for a .411 points percentage that ranks 28th in the NHL since Feb. 4. They’ve been outscored 91-67 overall and 63-35 at 5-on-5 during that time. Tell me why this agonizing stretch of 28 games — that’s half of the entire season schedule! — shows a team that’s viable, trending in a positive direction, and are on the verge of breaking through to snatch a playoff spot. The answer: sadly the Blues are opposite of that.
And then there’s the 4-9-4 record at home. They’ve been outscored by 20 goals at Enterprise Center this season. They haven’t won a home game in regulation since Feb. 2. Since then, the Blues are a humiliating 1-8-3 on home ice, having been outscored 45-24 overall, and 33-11 at 5v5. Their home points percentage is the worst in the league (.208) since Feb. 4. Their home points percentage for the entire season (.353) ranks 28th among 31 teams.
Where is pride?
That question applies to the Blues’ recent encounters with Vegas, Colorado and Minnesota — the three best teams in the West division, and three of the top 10 teams in the entire NHL. In seven make-a-statement games against superior opponents, the Blues went 0-6-1 and got buried 28-9 in the goal count. In their last three games against Vegas (all losses) the Blues came up a little short on the scoreboard: Vegas 16, St. Louis 3.
Again: where is the pride? I keep hearing and reading how the Blues worked hard during their two one-goal losses at Colorado over the weekend. Please take that nonsense somewhere else. Working hard? Is someone handing out medals for that? The team with the NHL’s second-highest payroll has an obligation to work hard. It isn’t optional.
After Monday’s thumping by Vegas, Berube’s criticism was especially sharp. A sampling:
— “Total collapse in the second period.”
— “A pretty unconfident group right now when things don’t go right out there. Things are going to happen, goals are going to go in. You better be a lot mentally tougher than that. That’s weak — weak-minded right now.”
— “Soft plays, coverage, things like that around our net, goals that probably should be stopped, things like that.”
— “They’ve got to have a lot more will than they have right now to score and they’ve got to go to the harder areas to score goals.”
— “We don’t have enough of our guys that are supposedly goal scorers doing that. So it’s hard to score.”
Of course, an increasing number of fans are hollering for Berube’s firing. No surprise there. That’s how we roll as a hockey town: always blame the coach.
Berube coached the Blues to their only Stanley Cup in 51 years? Fire him?
I don’t care about no stinkin’ Stanley Cup. That’s ancient history. Fire the coach!
Berube’s job is safe. But it’s pathetic to think about this. Thinking about how the Blues won the Cup less than two years ago, only to become a team that can’t win a home game in regulation time for more than two months. A team that, with the season on the line, have scored only eight goals in the past seven games.
The Blues are making it easier for GM Doug Armstrong to offload salary and pick up some draft choices at the trade deadline.
Last year the Blues got booted from the playoff bubble after a listless performance. We gave them a mulligan. Covid-19, interrupted season, tough to get the fire burning, etc.
This year, it would take a few miracles on ice for the fifth-place Blues to awaken, win a bunch of games against Vegas, Colorado and Minnesota, and suddenly rise to a playoff rung.
The Blues, 16-6-6, will play 14 of their final 17 regular-season games against the Golden Knights, Avalanche and Wild. The combined record of the three teams: 74-30-8.
This is an imposing challenge. Will the Blues take it on? Will they respond in an inspiring way? Doubtful.
Sure, the Blues would be insulted by the term “quitters.”
Good. I hope so.
Now go out there and show us.
Thanks for reading…
Please 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.