The St. Louis Blues have been accused of having two, distinct sides this season. Right now, we are seeing the version that is the one we do not want.
All season long in 2018-19 for the St. Louis Blues, we accused them of being a Jekyll and Hyde team. Sadly, we had no clue how right we were.
The two distinct sides have now shown themselves in the light of day. On the one hand, you have the team that was playing loose and free, but within their system. That team won 11-straight games, a franchise record, and was dominating some of the best teams in the NHL. That team shut down this season’s most prolific offense in the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The, we have the other team – the team we are seeing in the middle of March. This team got embarrassed by the Arizona Coyotes one night after the Coyotes let up seven goals to Chicago.
This team just got shutout by the Ottawa Senators, the worst team in the NHL. That is about as night and day as you can get.
Everyone has bad losses in professional sports. To dominate the best team in the NHL and get shutout by the worst just makes no sense.
The problem is the Blues lack confidence when they are at their worst and, unfortunately, there is no middle ground. The Blues seem to be either extremely hot or bitterly cold.
We saw it early on in the season. The team was struggling to score or struggling to defend and sometimes both.
Right now, thankfully, the defending is alright but you put too much pressure on a goaltender and the defenders if you expect them to have shutouts every night. The offense is simply too tight at the moment.
The effort is there. The players are not just gliding around hoping to save energy, or it does not look that way as it did early in the season.
There is not enough will. Players are not driving toward the net or getting to the crease with numbers.
St. Louis has far too many shots from the perimeter. They pile up the numbers, but not enough shots are quality scoring opportunities.
In their two losses to Ottawa and Arizona, the Blues had over 100 shot attempts and around 75 total shots on goal. You never really felt them as a threat though because they were too much in their own head.
The issue now is you can see players acting uptight. Ryan O’Reilly was pissed off, for lack of a better term, following the loss to Arizona. While he kept his words somewhat diplomatic, he basically said the Blues were better and had no business losing to a team like that. In the famous words of Dennis Green, the Coyotes were exactly who we thought they were and the Blues let them off the hook.
Things are not as dire as they were early in the season, but the Blues are having too many mistakes that come from trying too hard pop up right now. On the Kevin Wheeler Show, they compared it to a hitter trying to hit 500 foot bombs when they are in the midst of a hitting slump.
While that’s not exactly apples to apples, it is a good comparison. O’Reilly, who has been one of the team’s most consistent performers, is gripping the stick too much. His growing frustration has shown in his body language too, with his head looking to the sky.
Jaden Schwartz has been that way the entire season. He had a blip or two where we thought he might break out of it, but the confidence is around zero. Schwartz’ assist numbers are the only thing keeping his points respectable. Through 70 games for the team (57 for him) he only has seven goals.
You can tell in his play and that of several others. In one play during the Ottawa game, a right handed shot had a great chance to shoot from the right circle. Instead, they dropped a pass to Schwartz (a left handed shot) who could do nothing but shovel it toward the net.
While certain players exhibit that behavior more than others, it has become a team-wide epidemic.
Brayden Schenn is looking much more frustrated with each failure lately. He has narrowly avoided re-injury, but that is clearly not the only thing bothering him.
It is very easy for someone sitting on a couch to say a team needs to loosen up, but they have to do that. The Blues cannot be playing like that this late in the season.
When they were loose and having fun, they were a team that could compete in the playoffs and maybe, just maybe for something more. The way they play when they are tight, they would get swept by almost anyone. It is that night and day of a difference.