Back when the Blues were 5-0 the coffee tasted better, the beer was colder and the take-out food stayed warm during the drive home. I napped like a cat after dinner … and with a cat peacefully purring nearby. I committed fewer typos when I wrote. Bob Dylan’s masterful 1997 comeback album, “Time Out Of Mind” was the perfect background music.
And now? The coffee tastes bitter, the beer is flat, the take-out food order was messed up, I can’t sleep, the cats are insanely chasing imaginary creatures around the house and making a ruckus, I’m a hopeless, mindless typo-blizzard writer, and I’m fatigued by Dylan’s endless croaking.
The Blues are 3-5-2 in their last 10. They haven’t won a game in regulation since Nov. 4. The penalty-killing unit has holes. The opponents are outscoring the Blues at five-on-five. David Perron can’t score. Some of their defensive pairings are as shaky as a bad marriage. An erratic effort and a flurry of mistakes has left the Blues slumped at 0-4-1 in their last five games.
I make this appeal: Let’s Go Blues.
No, really. Let’s get going, OK? You are better than this. You know it; we know it. We appreciate you. Your 8-5-2 record is acceptable, but it’s time to get back to winning more consistently. And we believe this will happen. So, how about on Thursday, when San Jose visits your home?
The season’s low point to date came in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the horrendous Arizona Coyotes, a sad-sack team that entered the Enterprise Center with a 1-13-1 record. The Coyotes were diminished by a long list of injuries and a couple of Covid-related absences but still embarrassed the Blues.
Ugly. Ridiculously so. With the Coyotes set up as victims and the Blues planning to collect two quick and easy points, these were not the kind of quotes you expected to hear and see after the game:
Defenseman Torey Krug: “I thought at times we just played stupid.”
Coach Craig Berube: “There was just not a lot of energy or life the first two periods … you can’t go out and just not play — you’ll lose to any team in this league if you don’t show up with any desperation or urgency in the game.”
Captain Ryan O’Reilly: “That happens sometimes when you see these teams at the bottom of the standings, you think it’s gonna be easier. We were kind of just missing that little jump there that makes all the difference and we gave them confidence. It’s a tough league to win in and we have to be better. Everybody in the room knows we can’t be doing that, with a chance to win a hockey game there and get back on track. It’s disappointing but the energy has gotta be a lot better.”
Berube on his players: “I just think that they maybe took the game too lightly.”
OK, this has gone on long enough.
Time for the Blues to grab the smelling salts, wake up, get jumping, concentrate, play smarter, compete harder and strengthen their backbone. Had this team displayed more resolve, sharper mental acuity and reduced their knucklehead tendencies, they could have picked up four consecutive one-goal wins instead of slipping in four straight one-goal losses.
After the Blues rolled over for the Coyotes …
Let’s Roll Four Lines:
FIRST LINE: The odd thing about Tuesday’s debacle was the flat performance and general dullness despite having several motivational factors to get them going.
The timely return of Krug from Covid-19 lockdown.
The happy comeback of fireball forward Oskar Sundqvist after knee surgery, hip surgery and a hellish and extensive rehab process.
The buzzworthy promotion of slick defenseman Scott Perunovich, the highly touted prospect who made his highly anticipated NHL debut Tuesday.
And the Blues had an in-game source of inspiration when cap’n O’Reilly came out of his post-Covid drag to notch two wonderful assists.
Only one goal at five-on-five. Two failures, two goals allowed, on the PK. And only three high-danger shots at five-on-five — and NONE after the first period. The Blues were skunked by someone named Scott Wedgewood, who played in goal for the Coyotes? Wedgewood? Ain’t that the name of a country club and golf course in Wentzville, or something? Wedgie stopped 22 of the Blues’ 23 shots at five-on-five, and blocked all six of their power-play shots on net.
SECOND LINE: In his first NHL game, Perunovich was really good. Fast, smooth, skilled. Alert in traffic. Moved the puck with calmness and confidence. He did not look out of place at any time. He did not look nervous for one second. Perunovich played 13 minutes and 28 seconds at five-on-five. When he was gliding on the ice, the Blues had a 71% Corsi For percentage, outshot Arizona 8-2, and had an expected-goals percentage of 67.2%. And he looked like a seasoned quarterback in his 2 minutes and 38 seconds of directing the power play.
Perunovich spent his largest portion of five-on-five time paired with Robert Bortuzzo, and the duo had a 66.7% Corsi Four. And Perunovich had almost identical metrics when paired with Justin Faulk and Colton Parayko. And here’s the thing: when Bortuzzo, Faulk and Parayko played next to another defenseman, their five-on-five Corsi ratings declined. Bortuzzo, for example, had a 25% Corsi For when await from Perunovich at five v five.
THIRD LINE: During the Blues’ exciting 5-0 start, David Perron pumped in six goals, had two assists and was a +2. In his last 10 games Perron has no goals and four assists and is a minus 3. In the last 10 games he’s averaged only 5.3 shots per 60 minutes, and just 1.6 high-danger shot per 60 minutes. His underlying metrics during the 10-game stretch are solid, but Perron needs to get more involved. And the Blues have to find ways to get him jump-started. It’s just a matter of time — but obviously the sooner the better.
On a related note, the Blues have been outscored 14-9 at five on five during their 3-5-2 downturn over the last 10 games.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the guys who are performing at a five-on-five deficit over the last 10 games. This is the team’s goals for, and goals against, when an individual player has been on the ice over the last 10 games:
— Perron: Blues outscored 6-3
— Tarasenko: outscored 11-5
— Barbashev, outscored 11-6
— Thomas, outscored 10-7
— Parayko, Blues outscored 13-5
— Scandella, Blues outscored 9-3
FOURTH LINE: The penalty killers are getting killed. Opponents have converted 26% of their PPs over the last 10 games, 30% in the last six games, 45.4% in the last five games, and a stunning 57% in the last four games. During the Blues’ 5-0 start opponents scored one power-play goal in 16 attempts.
Over the last 10 games, defenseman Colton Parayko has been terrific on the PK, with the Blues allowing only one goal in his 21 minutes of shorthanded time. But defensemen Faulk and Bortuzzo have been on the ice for five PP goals (each) during the last 10 games.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated 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 by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
The “Seeing Red” podcast with Bernie and Will Leitch is available at 590thefan.com — but we’re on a brief hiatus.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
* All stats used here were sourced from Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick.
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.