The St. Louis Blues are in crunch time as they begin their push toward the playoffs. Injuries have forced them to rely on players that no longer have room to make their mistakes.
Going into the 2018-19 season, the St. Louis Blues figured on having at least a couple rookies making significant contributions. The team knew Robert Thomas was going to make the team, if for no other reason than he had to go back to juniors if he did not make the NHL.
The Blues also figured Jordan Kyrou would get decent playing time. That has not happened as much as many of us thought, but he has seen a few games here or there.
What nobody planned on was Jordan Binnington playing almost half a season’s worth of games. Binnington is not a rookie in terms of length with the franchise, but he is in terms of NHL service.
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When the team was struggling, nobody batted an eye at playing the younger guys. In fact, when the team was on the outside looking in, there were calls to hand the team completely over to the young guns.
Fortunately, the Blues did not go that route. They found their roles when almost fully healthy and went on a franchise-record win streak and a solid playoff spot.
During that string, only Thomas played a major role on the ice for rookies. Binnington was a major player in goal, of course.
The thing is that they were not playing like rookies. Thomas made the odd mistake here or there, but playing mostly on the fourth line, it made no difference. His mistakes were usually made in the offensive zone too, so it was easier to make up for.
Binnington was playing like he had been in the league for quite awhile. He had a calmness about him that was above his experience level.
That has all changed recently. The Blues are now seeing too many mistakes that could be avoided.
The Binnington pass from behind the net directly to an Arizona player was a prime example. These things do happen, but it was a bad play made worse because it was a blind pass and he had no clue a mistake had been made.
Now, Kyrou has been recalled. We all hope he lives up to his talent and figures out how to play in the NHL like he does in the AHL.
The worry is that he made plenty of mistakes early in the year. They were bad mistakes too, such as turning the puck over at your defensive blue line, which is a huge no-no.
St. Louis cannot afford rookie mistakes right now. In fact, they can’t afford any mistakes as they let their lead within the division race has evaporated.
They need Thomas to find a scoring touch that will match his elite speed. They need Kyrou to figure out how to score at similar levels as he does in the AHL. They need secondary scoring and if Blais could chip in as well as using his physicality, they would be so much better off.
The Blues have to play clean hockey and smart hockey. They have put themselves in a position where they cannot have the growing pains of rookies at this point in the season, but due to injuries, they have no choice but to play some of them.
Hopefully, they all return to the form we know they can have. The Blues need each and every one of them, from Kyrou to Binnington all the way down to MacEachern. The Blues need everyone to be playing at their best.