THE BLUES REVIEW:
1–The Blues were exposed by Vegas over the weekend. The Blues were playing at home but visited to reality when the Golden Knights came to Enterprise Center for two games.
The Blues had no answer for the Golden Knights’ pace and rush.
The gap between the teams was alarming.
In 97 minutes of 5-on-5 play, Vegas had 109 overall shot attempts to the Blues’ 62 and outscored the home team 8-3.
The Blues had only 41.6 % of the shots on net, 34% of the scoring chances and 40% of the high-danger shots.
Taking all of that into account the Blues were fortunate to filch a point in Friday’s 5-4 overtime loss. But in Saturday’s 5-1 blowout the Blues got nothing except a beating.
Sure, the Blues are still playing short because of injuries and that tempers expectations. That said, the Blues made too many glaring mistakes over the weekend that had nothing to do with roster quality. In Saturday’s whupping the Blues’ top three lines were outscored 4-1.
And those top three lines featured familiar names: Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jordan Kyrou, Mike Hoffman, Oskar Sundqvist, Zach Sanford and Sammy Blais.
2–The 0-1-1 weekend dropped the Blues to 4-7-3 at home for a dreadful .393 points percentage that ranks 27th among the 31 NHL teams. As you know, the Blues are a different group of creatures on the road with a 10-2-2 record for a .786 points percentage that ranks No. 2 in the league.
The Blues have played an equal number (14) of road and home games. And the home/road splits are gross. I’ll just keep it simple and list the goal differentials:
- At 5v5: plus 8 on the road; minus 9 home.
- Even strength: plus 10 on road; minus 6 home.
- All situations: plus 8 road; minus 11 home.
- Power-play success: 29% road; 12.5% home.
The Blues are slightly better on the penalty kill at home (75%) compared to road (73.5%.)
3a–Home brew has gone sour: At Enterprise this season the Blues have managed to harvest only 11 out of a maximum 28 points — or 39 percent. On the road the Blues have cashed in for 22 of a possible 28 points, or 78.5%.
When asked if part of the problem is not having the extra boost of energy that comes with a full house of fans, Schenn dismissed the premise.
“Fans, that doesn’t mean (anything),” he said. “I don’t know what it is. We got to California and there’s no fans and we win. And here we have fans and we’re not (winning.) Fans aren’t the issue, it’s us. We just have to get back to it at home, playing more simple, playing together, relying on our structure, the details of the game to win us hockey games. And not try and overcomplicated things like we’re doing at home so far.”
3–The Red Hot Chili Peppers song, Road Trippin’ could be the Blues road-trip anthem for 2021. “Fully loaded we got snacks and supplies. It’s time to leave this town, it’s time to steal away.”
And time to collect some valuable points during their travels.
We’ve been down this road (ahem) before.
The Blues were supposed to open a six-game roadie with two in Los Angeles. But Monday night’s Blues-Kings game was postponed when LA couldn’t get home because of the massive pile of snow in Denver. The schedule will be updated, but as of now the Blues are set to play at LA on Wednesday followed by two games at San Jose, one at Vegas and one at Minnesota.
Any games against the Kings take on added importance for an obvious reason: the top four teams in the West division will make the playoffs. The Blues (14-9-5) are fourth in the West in points percentage (.589), one spot ahead of the Kings (11-10-6, .512.) The Blues have to scoop up three or four points in the next two games at Staples Center to ward off the Kings. The Kings figure to be ornery; after winning six in a row they’ve gone 2-4-3 in their last nine games.
4–According to MoneyPuck, the Blues have a 34.1% chance of making the playoffs. (Whoa!) In addition MoneyPuck gives St. Louis a 10.5% crack at advancing to the postseason second round, a 4.2% shot at making the final four, 1.7% to make the Stanley Cup finals. Winning the Cup: 0.4%.
5–No big dreams will be realized unless the Blues can tighten their increasingly loose goal prevention. This is a substantial problem and a huge change from the Blues’ extensive history of being among the best NHL teams at suppressing goals-scored totals against them. Going into Monday’s game at LA, the Blues are tied for 23rd in the NHL with an average of 3.21 goals yielded per game.
If that average holds up, it would be the worst by a Blues team since 2005-2006. That season the Blues were invaded by opponents for 3.46 goals per game, ranking 28th in the NHL. And that was a depressing, tear-it-down Blues team that finished with a league-worst record of 21-46-15.
In eight of their previous nine seasons coming into this one, the Blues ranked no worse than 7th in the league in average goals-against. And in five of the nine seasons they they finished among the top five teams in average goals ceded.
Two things: defensive-zone turnovers and goaltender Jordan Binnington’s expected-goals allowed rate that sits 2.4 goals below the league average. The Blues rank 17th in the league for most defensive-zone turnovers this season. That isn’t hideous but reflects the erosion of the Blues’ smart and disciplined play. Two seasons ago the Blues had the 6th fewest DZT in the league and were just about as good (7th fewest) in DZT last season. Binnington was 4.5 goals above average last season and 10.9 goals above average as a rookie in 2018-2019.
Thanks for reading…
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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.