The St. Louis Blues were questioned during the offseason about their plan to transition to a speed game. So far, it has worked out just fine.
Over the summer and arriving at the opening of the 2016-17 season, the biggest question for the St. Louis Blues was how well they would transition to a speed team. Well, the results speak for themselves…so far.
The Blues have opened up the season with a record of 3-1-1. While there have been issues game to game, there is a case to be made that the team could and should be 5-0.
Regardless of their current record, the Blues look like they have settled in nicely to this new style. Truthfully, the style itself doesn’t appear all that different.
The Blues still dump and chase more than we would like. They still have issues on the powerplay and with defensive accountability.
When it comes to the pure idea of becoming a faster team, they are having success. We can hem and haw over the last two games and what went wrong, but most people would gladly have taken a 3-1-1 start if offered it.
Perron A Defensive Gem?
was brought in for his offense and he has no goals five games into the season. On that narrow view, he has not done what we would have hoped.
Still, his defensive game has improved ten-fold. Yes, the Blues need him to score, but if he played the way he is right now in his first stint with the Blues, he may have never left St. Louis.
He has also been given extra responsibility. Ken Hitchcock has a history of using players in somewhat unconventional roles, but if anyone would have told me Perron would be killing penalties with relative success, I would have called you a liar.
Perron has been rewarded with ice time as well. Through the first five games of the year, he has been on the ice an average of 18:30. Perron has not seen that much ice time since his first year in Edmonton in 2013-14.
There has been nothing to make us believe he’s going to score a boatload of goals, but he’s going to score. Perron is not a fourth line player and when people give the kind of effort he is outside of fourth liners, they are usually rewarded.
Yakupov Trade Looks Better And Better
Speaking of someone looking to get rewarded, Yakupov has been just short of a revelation since arriving in St. Louis. While he has been put back with the third line, he was rewarded with some first line minutes due to his speed, hustle and finishing.
Just let that stat sink in for a moment. Yakupov has a fourth of his entire goal total from last year through five games this year.
Nobody is saying he is going to be the Blues second leading scorer. As long as he keeps up his current effort though, it seems hard to believe he won’t get well into double digits for goals scored.
His edginess is just what the Blues need as well. Yakupov readily challenges defenders as he displayed against Edmonton on the play he hit the post.
That is something his teammates need to pick up on. No matter how much speed the Blues possess, they lack a willingness to challenge defenders with that speed.
This is another thing people worried about when changing styles. If anything, the defense looks just as good as it did last season when they were third in the conference in fewest goals allowed.
Jumping into the play hasn’t been too much of an issue either. The Blues have given their opponents more chances than poor play has.
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Turnovers have given the Blues fits so far this season as well as being unable to clear their zone at times. Neither have anything to do with transitioning to a faster team.
If anything, the Blues have opened up a bit. Colton Parayko continues to grow and could join the offense more, but also shows a keen eye and lots of skating ability for a guy his size.
Jay Bouwmeester will continue to be the whipping boy for now, but he has carried over his renewed footwork and skating from the World Cup. He still has the occasional positioning issue, but he looks much more like the player the Blues want and need than anything we saw last season.
Another reason the transition to a faster team has been successful is that it has not hindered the team so far. It is very early in the year, but the Blues still have enough of all aspects of the game to hang with almost anyone.
In Edmonton, the team’s biggest line – containing Patrik Berglund and Dmitrij Jaskin – were throwing some good hits. The fourth liners have been physical enough to deter any wrong doing as well. The physicality has dropped from last year, but that seems to be league wide also.
While there are still some who worry the Blues can/will get pushed around, they have not shown it so far. In the team’s two losses to date, size or physicality was not an issue.
The Blues hung in with the very fast, very young Oilers. Their own miscues and mistakes cost them the two games, not any disadvantage in size.
The emurgence of Yakupov and Perron as solid two-way players can only help the team too.
While the actual style of play isn’t all that different, it’s been good to see a solid team game from the Blues so far. That’s the mentality they need to succeed and if everyone is chipping in, replacing the lost production won’t be that hard.
Nothing against the players no longer on the team, but 39 goals isn’t exactly impossible to replace. A typical year from Perron, a really good year from Yakupov and one or two other players raising their total by reasonable standards and that gives you the difference.
The Blues are going to have their ups and downs, like any year. Nothing seen so far though gives any indication that the switch to a speedier style will play any part in a step back.
St. Louis still needs to score, stay out of the box and get good goaltending. Those are the same things that were true when the Blues were a more imposing sight.