The St. Louis Blues started out the season like a house on fire with their powerplay. The question now is whether it was fool’s gold.
The 2016-17 season could not have opened up much better for the St. Louis Blues powerplay. They got fans’ hopes up high with a stellar performance in Chicago, but we have not seen that since.
The Blues scored three of their five goals against the Blackhawks in the season opener on the man advantage. The Blues looked crisp, fast and a team to contend with in that game.
Since then, their powerplay has been hit or miss, well, mostly miss. They have one powerplay goal in eight tries after going 3/5 in the season opener.
Statistically, the Blues are still pretty good overall. The season is very young and St. Louis is clicking at 30.77%.
If we were halfway through the season and that was the team’s percentage, there would not be many complaints. The problem with 30.77% right now is how much of a crash it is from the start of the season.
Now, none of us are foolish enough to believe that the Blues powerplay was going to stay at 60%. After all, the best percentage in history was 31.88% by the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens.
Based on that, 30.77% looks pretty good, right? Wrong. The problem is the Chicago game may have been fools gold.
The Blues showed more of what they have been and what they might be in the games to follow. That is not to say there may not be some improvement for the powerplay under Mike Yeo, but there is still plenty of room to improve.
The problem with the PP unit is there is just too much of a feast or famine mentality. That isn’t even from a pure goal production perspective.
The Blues struggle to even gain the offensive zone on some powerplays. It is one thing to not score, but to look completely inept is quite another.
If St. Louis could get their offense set up and failed to score, very few of us would complain. The Jekyll and Hyde appearance of their man advantage is what is so frustrating though.
Even within one game, you can see a complete difference. The Blues will look like a minor league team by failing to even get control of the puck in the offensive zone.
Then, they look like an All-Star team with their puck movement once they finally do get set up. It does not seem like a sustainable model.
Clearly, we focus more on the Blues and only see other teams when they are the Blues opponent. Still, other teams don’t seem to have the same issues.
Yes, there are teams more ineffective at actual production. Still, they seem to be able to get into the zone and get set up though.
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That is what is frustrating about the Blues powerplay. They have the talent to score and move the puck and be a constant threat. For whatever reason, it is too hit or miss even considering that the best teams only score three out of ten times.
Gaining the zone is just something the Blues are going to have to figure out. Clearly teams know it is a struggle and stand up at the blueline. Once the Blues get set up though, there are a few things they need to do or keep doing.
The Blues need to shoot more from the point. We’ve seen it much more this year, but still not quite enough.
When you’ve got great offensive defensemen like Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo, there needs to be more of a threat to shoot. Colton Parayko has a bomb not seen in the Note since Al MacInnis. He needs to have the freedom, whether from the bench or within his head, to unleash the shot whenever he wants.
The Blues need to continue to move without the puck. It sounds so simple, but all teams have lazy moments. They get caught along the boards and just try to pass their way out of trouble.
The best the Blues powerplay looked in a long time was when they did not even score against Minnesota. There was a constant cycle of players without the puck. There was such a cycle of players that defenders had to stick to their spot because they had no clue where the St. Louis players would go.
When the defenders are standing still and don’t know what your offense is going to do, that allows you to have more options. You have more shooting lanes, more chances created and goaltenders left out to dry because defenders are then on their heels.
I’m not saying this is all simple. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
This is one area that the Blues need to be more like Chicago though. People are so brainwashed by the Blackhawk aura that they don’t realize the Blues are actually deeper than Chicago now. However, in terms of powerplay units, there are few better than the Hawks year to year.
That’s because they tend to make teams pay for going into the penalty box. The Blues’ percentage might be fine right now, but you still don’t get the sense that they make teams pay for being shorthanded.
It’s early in the season. There is plenty of time for the Blues to iron things out.
Despite the early season injuries, they have the talent to get things done on the powerplay. It’s about execution and the Blues just need more of it.