The St. Louis Blues had a miracle start to their season in 2017-18. While plenty of things derailed it, there was one constant and it was a big one.
The St. Louis Blues 2017-18 season may go down as one of the most disappointing when viewed as a whole. The Blues set a team record for the best start in franchise history and then proceeded to miss the playoffs by one point.
St. Louis opened the season 12-3-1 and 6-1-0 on home ice. Despite all that, there was one constant that was holding them back – the power play.
Simpletons will latch onto the goaltender theory. After all, it’s simple and easy to pick out one player and say they’re the root of all the problems. A certain Post-Dispatch writer definitely thinks Jake Allen was the biggest problem, but you can search that out if you want. I’m not about to link it and give that garbage theory any more clicks.
The power play was the biggest downfall of this team. Yes, Allen had some clunkers in there but there were so many more games in which the power play could have made the difference than games where the goaltender literally cost you.
That’s where Mike Yeo has to shoulder a ton of blame. Yeo is the one constant regarding power play ineffectiveness.
Yeo’s teams in Minnesota had mediocre to bad power plays his entire tenure there. Except for one season, all of the Wild’s power plays were below the league average.
You try to give him the benefit of the doubt and say it could have been personnel or maybe he changed systems, learning from his mistakes. So far, it does not look like Yeo has learned anything regarding special teams.
Say what you want about Ken Hitchcock, but the Blues always had a top 10 power play unit under Hitch. It might not have always felt like it, but the stats bear it out. Suddenly, with very little roster change, the Blues go from a top 10 power play to one of the two worst in the league. I’m sorry, but Kevin Shattenkirk‘s loss does not drop a team from top 10 to worst in the league, no matter how good you contend he is.
Kevin Wheeler of 101 ESPN radio had an astounding stat. At the time, the Blues had 37 power play goals. They ended the season with 38. Before that, the Blues fewest power play goals scored in an 82 game season was 45.
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Think about that for a moment. Remember those terrible teams in the mid-2000’s. Think teams in the early 90’s that had star power but often finished close to .500. If you are old enough, think back to the mediocre teams in the mid-to-late 70’s.
Of all those teams, this one set a new mark for futility. They had the fewest power play goals per game of any in franchise history. They almost set a record for fewest goals scored on the power play period.
By scoring that 38th goal, they avoided tying the all-time mark for fewest power play goals in a full season set in 1972-73. Just for reference, if you look at 2012-13, you’d see the fewest goals ever scored in one season at 29. That really puts it in perspective that this team could only muster nine more power play goals in 82 games than the 2012-13 team did in 48 games.
As Wheeler pointed out in his segment, all the Blues needed was an average power play. They did not even need to be top 10.
The league average was 20.19% and 50 power play goals. That’s 12 more goals than St. Louis scored.
In the last two months of the season, the Blues were involved in seven one game goals alone. If you score those 12 power play goals, maybe you don’t go to overtime. Maybe you win in regulation or things are more comfortable at the end instead of scrambling all the time.
There were so many games where the Blues either had numerous power play chances or had the man-advantage in key situations. More often than not, the Blues came up empty.
That’s where Yeo has to man up and make changes. The Blues depth was not great this season, due to injury and just a realization there is a lack of talent overall. They had enough talent to be decent though. So, it boils down to scheme.
Yeo never made any alterations to his power play. It was always the same slow, plodding style that cycled the puck too much, passed up open shots and looked for back door plays that never materialized.
This scheme also had the team’s best scorer, Vladimir Tarasenko, at the point for much of the season. I had discussions with some that argued he was in the slot and drifted out, but it does not matter. Your best scorer does not have a slap shot and he was the furthest player from the goal more often than not.
It does not matter if that was Tarasenko’s decision or the coach. It has to change. It was completely ineffective. In fact, the Blues power play got better in the brief time Tarasenko was hurt because they were forced to change their style.
This has to change for the 2018-19 season. You can add whatever free agents or make any trades you want, but if you’re fitting good players into a scheme that does not have a clue how to score goals, it won’t matter.
We saw it in the 2017 playoffs. The power play was the difference between the Blues losing and Nashville winning. The same rang true for so many games this season. Yeo had better fix it or he’ll be out of work sooner than later because this team is going nowhere without a power play.