The St. Louis Blues had two mediocre special teams units heading into the final month of 2017. Over the course of the festive period, they have gone in opposite directions.
Heading into December, the Blues had an extremely mediocre power play heading into December. Their penalty kill was one of the worst in the league.
Going into the final month of 2017, the penalty kill was ranked 27th in the league. The power play was not quite as low, but they were below league average.
With two games to go before we ring in 2018, the two special teams units took opposite turns and went in separate directions. The penalty kill went north and the power play south.
The penalty kill has been one of, if not the best in the league in December. They have killed off 41 of their 43 penalties taken.
That’s good enough for a 95.3% kill rate. The power play has done the exact opposite.
The Blues are now 7-49 on the man advantage in December. Even with two games left, this month is just about unsalvageable as far as the power play goes.
For the season, the team’s power play percentage is just above 16%. That’s almost a full 3% behind the league average.
For the month, the Blues are at a paltry 14.3%. That might not sound like a big difference from their overall percentage, but two percent to the positive puts the Blues in the top 20 instead of the bottom 11. So, every number matters.
The troubling thing is not just the overall numbers. There have been way too many nights where a 0 is up on the board.
The Blues have played 14 games in December with two to go. They have failed to score a power play goal in eight of those games.
Think about that. 57% of the team’s games just in one month have seen a goose egg on the board for the man advantage.
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Even worse, it does not even feel like a man advantage. Teams know that the Blues power play is slow and languid. So, they pressure every single puck carrier, not allowing much time or space to set up.
The team passes way too much, either out of fear of shots being blocked or a strange need to make that extra pass and set up the pretty goal. With this much trouble scoring, they need to throw everything plus the kitchen sink at the net.
It seems so odd that the penalty kill unit has things figured out when their counterpart is like a child, lost in the dark. Yes, there are completely different players on each unit, but it still takes a certain mentality.
On the penalty kill, you have to be on your toes and anticipating passes. The same is essentially true for the power play. Players need to think one or two moves ahead to get around a cramped defensive box.
Still, that is no excuse. The players must do better. The coaching staff must do better.
There is only so much a coach can do to impact the team’s flow on the ice. Nevertheless, Mike Yeo has a history of bad power plays.
Whether it’s an assistant coach, Yeo himself or simply the players, someone has to get this thing figured out.
The power play cost the Blues the series against Nashville last spring. It is costing them games in the winter this season.
Nobody is expecting them to suddenly be the top team in the league. You can’t be in the bottom half and expect long term success though.
The penalty kill has found a way to turn it around, through hard work and determination. Sometimes you need more luck than skill offensively, but a bit of grit and a nose for goal would help matters a lot.