The St. Louis Blues started out the 2017-18 campaign looking like a team that could challenge for the ultimate prize. Since then, they have more in common with the bottom feeders than the big fish.
When the St. Louis Blues opened up their 2017-18 season, they came out like a house on fire. They set team records for the best first month, etc. They looked like they could be contenders.
My, how things have changed over the following months. The Blues are now on the outside of the playoff window and the window is closing rapidly.
One of the biggest reasons the Blues are on the outside looking in is their offense, or lack thereof. The Blues simply cannot score goals anymore.
When the season began, the Blues had little trouble scoring. Despite dealing with early season, in some cases preseason injuries, the Blues averaged 3.38 goals per game in October. That was right on par with a team like Tampa Bay, who is currently averaging 3.6 goals per game.
Somewhere along the line, that all stopped for the Blues. The reason why is quite puzzling though.
The Blues have scored the fewest goals in the league since December 9, which was the day Schwartz got injured. They have a total of 84 goals in that time.
Think about that for a moment. The Blues had 93 goals prior to the injury in a little over two months of games. In a little over three months since then, they have 84.
Prior to the injury, the Blues averaged 3.2 goals per game. Since that date, it has fallen a full goal per game to 2.2. That is an astonishing drop.
The problem was that nobody stepped up in Schwartz’ absence. Vladimir Tarasenko had 13 goals and 30 points prior to December 9.
Since then, he’s done ok but not great. He’s got 13 goals and 26 points since that injury, but that’s the same amount of goals and fewer points in 38 games as opposed to the first 29 of the season.
Brayden Schenn has 10 goals and 23 points since December 9. That’s not as pretty a stat as the 14 goals and 34 points he had in his first 29 games.
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The biggest issue was nobody stepped up when those top guys cooled off. This team was always relying on one, maybe two lines to score. When that dried up, the goals went from good to none. The third and fourth lines fell way too far from the mark compared to the last couple seasons.
Schwartz also never regained his form. He had 13 goals prior to his injury. Since returning, he has six goals and 12 points. That’s not exactly firing on all cylinders.
The scoring depth along the blue line evaporated quicker than a water droplet in the desert sun too. Alex Pietrangelo had seven goals and 21 points during that first stage. Since then, four goals and 14 points. Again, that’s fewer goals and fewer points in nine extra games played.
The Blues were among the team leaders in defensive scoring at the beginning of the season. That has dropped off considerably.
We always knew that would happen when you had guys like Carl Gunnarsson scoring at will to start. However, the immense drop has been surprising.
Making matters worse, the team’s power play went from mediocre to downright bad. In those same spans, from season start to December 9 and then to now, the Blues man-advantage dropped from 17.8% to 13.1%. You simply cannot win games in a division as tough as the Central without scoring on power plays.
The shocking thing has been the apparent lack of will to score. The Blues get shots toward net, but they do not drive the net with consistency.
What is concerning is the fact that someone like Paul Stastny rarely saw anything near the front of the goal if he did not have the puck in St. Louis. Now, in Winnipeg, he is regularly screening goaltenders and crashing for rebounds. Is this a Mike Yeo problem? That seems too simplistic, but it cannot be ruled out.
If it is a coaching problem, it seems to be a lack of demand on the players. While the team would occasionally, sometimes often, rebel, Ken Hitchcock forced them to do certain things. Yeo has basically stated in the media that you can’t force guys to do things they are not comfortable with. His statement was more about fighting, but it does speak to the mindset of the boss.
Even so, regardless of who has been coach, this team has always overthought things. They seem to make the wrong decision offensively far too often.
Whether even strength or a man up, they pass far too often. They pass up open shots and miss open nets. Some of it boils down to luck and some is just the players not getting the job done.
Plenty of people are, again, jumping on the blow it up wagon. There is talent on this team. It needs to be supplemented in the offseason.
That said, these guys have to look in the mirror at some point, whether in the remaining games of 2017-18 or in the summer. They were never going to lead the league in goals, but you cannot have this kind of disparity.
To be a top goal scoring team, even against a softer schedule and then be one of the worst scoring teams cannot happen.