St. Louis Blues Early Season Struggles: Statistical Breakdown

Nov 1, 2016; New York, NY, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) reacts after giving up a goal during the second period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 1, 2016; New York, NY, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) reacts after giving up a goal during the second period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

Through the first 11 games of the season, the St. Louis Blues only trail division leader Chicago Blackhawks by three points. But it may not seem that close given the team’s early season patterns.

Coming off of Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, the St. Louis Blues are now winless in four of the last five contests. To make matters worse, the team is only 2-4-2 since opening the season three straight victories in the first week.

Pinpointing the struggles is no easy task. Perhaps the offseason losses of David Backes, Troy Brouwer and Brian Elliott have resulted in some missing elements. It’s more than these absences that kick-started  the team’s sudden decline.

Let’s start with the amount of goals scored against the Blues. Admittedly, the Blues have been unlucky facing the likes of household names such as Patrick Kane, Connor McDavid and Tyler Seguin. Among the nine teams St. Louis has played so far, six rank in the league’s top 10 for team scoring.

When this happens, there are two ways to successfully counter this trend. You can improve defensive habits or exceed the opponent’s offensive output, neither of which have worked for the Blues recently.

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One could make the argument that the Blues have maintained a similar core of physical blue liners and two-way forwards, therefore the defensive scheme that has resulted in the second fewest goals against since the 2013-14 campaign shouldn’t be a problem.

In retrospect, it has been a major problem. St. Louis surrendered under 200 goals per year in that particular span, an amount this year’s team is on currently on pace to exceed by more than 38 tallies.

Several factors have led to this defensive downfall. The Blues are above the league average in power plays against (3.91) and empty net goals allowed (3), while compiling the fewest hits per game (17.9) of any Central Division team besides the Dallas Stars.

To a certain degree, St. Louis’s defensive identity has been challenged in pursuit of an offensive dynamic. This shift may have started after the San Jose Sharks fast-paced offense eliminated the Blues in the Western Conference Finals last year, in addition to a speedy Pittsburgh Penguins team winning its first Stanley Cup since 2009.

This need for speed has led to unforeseen tendencies such as frequently dumping pucks, lower faceoff percentage and a growing reliance on the top two lines to log heavy minutes. For instance, Vladimir Tarasenko is near his career pace for points per game (0.81), but is currently riding a seven-game goal drought with ice time nearly two minutes above his career average.

Other players have fell into similar traps. Sophomores Colton Parayko and Robby Fabbri are still without a goal after evolving as offensive contributors last season.  David Perron‘s second go-around with the Blues has not been the most graceful either, as he sports a team-worst -6 in plus-minus rating and has only registered one point outside of his October 22 hat trick in Calgary.

Goaltender Jake Allen has had a relatively strong presence during the team’s collective struggles with a 2.55 GAA and .898 save percentage. However, the new No. 1 netminder has been a victim of mixed results as recent as this week.

The 26 year-old has allowed nine goals over his past two outings, including three from the Blues penalty kill. Outings like this don’t necessarily make an impression for his durability either, not to mention that he has never played more than 47 games in a season since his NHL debut.

Next: St. Louis Blues Beyond Frustrating Right Now

Fortunately for the Blues, the upcoming schedule offers a good chance to mentally regroup and adjust. The team begins a three-game homestand tomorrow and four of the next six opponents missed the NHL playoffs last year.

With plenty of points at stake ahead, changes could be coming sooner than Blues fans expect if St. Louis is unable to take ownership of its recent struggles and revert back to the team’s winning style of hockey.