St. Louis Blues Chemistry Woes Have Returned Once More

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 2: Jaden Schwartz #17 of the St. Louis Blues controls the puck against the Dallas Stars at Enterprise Center on March 2, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 2: Jaden Schwartz #17 of the St. Louis Blues controls the puck against the Dallas Stars at Enterprise Center on March 2, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Blues have let many things from their early season woes creep back into their game. A big reason why might be down to team chemistry.

The St. Louis Blues might have only dropped two games in a row for the first time since the end of December, but it does not feel that way. Since the end of their franchise record 11 game winning streak, we have seen far too much of what doomed them at the beginning of the season return.

It has become a similar story, even in one or two of their wins. They are allowing far too many odd-man rushes against them. Much of that is due to poor passing or bad zone exits/entries.

St. Louis is also allowing too many grade-A chances against. In their back-to-back losses to Carolina and Dallas, the Blues outshot each opponent and held them to relatively low shot counts. Even so, the shots they did allow were in prime real estate and difficult for the goalies to stop. Yes, mistakes were made by both goaltenders, but they are being asked to be superhuman again.

The offense has dried up too. The Blues scored three or more goals in 10 of their 11 straight wins during February. Win or lose, they have failed to score more than two goals in six straight games following that streak.

The defense is sputtering again. Players look like they have cement skates again. You could at least chalk that up to fatigue, which the Blues do have since they played 14 games in the shortest month of the year.

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What makes matters worse is the lack of cohesion suddenly in this team. We have gone from watching a team that looked like it was a well oiled machine to one that is sputtering with cogs flying off their spokes.

The biggest reason for all of this boils down to chemistry. It was the reason the team stumbled out of the gates to start and is a reason they are tripping over their feet now.

At the beginning of the year, it was understandable. You brought in enough new faces that almost a third of your team was new or, at least, not on the roster in 2017-18.

You are bound to have growing pains with that many new guys, regardless of talent. For whatever reason, it just took a lot longer for the team to come together than anyone anticipated.

Once they finally gelled, they showed how good they could be during that streak. Not only were the Blues winning, but they were dominating opponents.

They shut down or held in check two of the best offenses in the league. They had repeated shutouts while racking up the goals. They were playing a brand of hockey that made you ponder the postseason possibilities.

Sadly, injuries are a part of this game and the Blues lost two of their best offensive players during that span. It took awhile to catch up to them, but we are seeing the chemistry problems now.

When the Blues were clicking, you had the same lineup almost every time out. Now, coach Craig Berube has been forced to throw names into a hat and see what sounds good on a nightly basis.

St. Louis has tried a few different combinations on the top line since Brayden Schenn went down. Jaden Schwartz went to the top line, but that didn’t quite work.

Schwartz is one of the most important players on this team. The Blues win/loss record with him out of the lineup shows that. However, for some reason he just has failed to get anything right in the 2018-19 campaign. You hate to even entertain the idea that he could be done as a consistent performer, but he has been as snake-bitten as anyone in recent memory.

The Blues gave Robert Thomas a sniff here and there on that line, but nothing that would give you the idea they intend to do so for an extended time. St. Louis even returned to the attempt at using Pat Maroon on the top line. Maroon has been on top lines with other teams, but it just has not worked in that capacity in St. Louis.

Clearly, the Blues have to have Schenn back. He provides a certain something that cannot be easily replaced. He has enough speed to get by defenders, but enough puck sense to not just mindlessly drive down ice into a situation that is untenable. He can score and set people up, which is why he’s wanted to be a center, even though he fits this team as a wing.

Schenn is also a glue guy. He had great chemistry with Schwartz last season and as good a chemistry with Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko this year.

Seemingly equal in importance is David Perron. Perron was on pace to equal career goal totals and eclipse Blues point totals until his injury struck. Once the team cooled off a bit, their secondary scoring has dried up and you can only depend on your third and fourth line guys so often.

Perron also provides a different chemistry issue. When he was at his hottest, he was paired with O’Reilly. So, it begs the question of whether you put O’Reilly with Perron again or have Perron on another line. That is a worry this team would like to have instead of their current predicament.

While supremely talented, it has been surprising how much the loss of Schenn and Perron has thrown this team for a loop. They went from a next man up mentality to a team that feels like it has no depth. They are trying to plug round holes with square pegs again.

None of this is to sound like Chicken Little. The sky is not falling, but there is a crack or two.

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The Blues just need to find their chemistry again. Getting healthy will certainly help, but you cannot guarantee health in the playoffs. So, they need to learn to play within themselves no matter what line they have to fill.

Easier said than done, but it must be done. There is just too much talent there to let things slip from their fingers again.