The St. Louis Blues have been known as a team that is stout defensively, top to bottom in recent years. Lately, their group of forwards are not helping in that cause.
The St. Louis Blues are usually one of the better defensive teams in the NHL. They don’t have the muscle or size of some and are not always picture perfectly organized. However, they keep goals out.
The entire team has failed to do that lately, allowing 18 goals in their last six games. That includes a shutout in that span as well.
The defense has to shoulder the blame here. There has been a lot of standing around, not moving feet and backing off the opposition.
The goaltending has not been perfect either. Even as a fan of Jake Allen, he has played his part in allowing some goals that he kept out earlier in the season.
However, the forwards shirk most of the blame but have to take some responsibility. Surprisingly, the stats bear out that the forwards are as much to blame for bad defense as anyone.
It’s been discussed plenty of times before that the plus/minus system is going the way of the dodo. Like ERA in baseball, it does not paint the entire picture.
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Even taking that into account, it can still tell you a little bit. In the case of Alexander Steen, it is quite telling. Steen has widely been regarded as the best two way player on the team. Despite this, he has the worst plus/minus rating of anyone on the Blues.
He’s not alone though. Paul Stastny, who, admittedly, is not a defensive dynamo is currently a minus-7. Fourth liners are supposed to be tough to play against and help keep goals out. Chris Thorburn is currently a minus-4.
In fact, looking up and down the lineup, almost all the minus-players on the Blues are forwards. Not surprisingly, the only defenseman in the minus is Joel Edmundson, who has been shakier of late than we are accustomed to. However, Edmundson has a fairly high defensive point share (3.1) despite being in the negative side of the plus/minus.
The problem is there is no easy fix. It’s not just a matter of man marking or puck watching. Sometimes the effort is simply not there.
Even players like Vladimir Tarasenko has been guilty of that. We’ve seen him and almost every forward, save perhaps Tage Thompson, lollygag back after a turnover, whether they made it or not.
It’s easy to say as a fan, but you would expect pros to hustle back after a mistake. They know better, regardless of how much is actually in the tank. You can forgive fatigue, but forgiving effort is something else.
It’s not just a lack of effort though. Sometimes it’s something you can’t put your finger on. Afterall, there are only a handful of teams that have allowed fewer goals in the conference.
You have to want to defend though. It is easy to say you’re a forward and your job is to score goals and you would not be completely wrong.
You have to make a decision that you are going to help defend each game. That is hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
The Blues need their forwards to do it though. They need them to all make that decision.
Plus/minus might be a dying stat, but you can’t have half your forwards in the minus. They need to come together, as a group, and help get the job done.