The St. Louis Blues have never had the luxury of a dominating power play, at least not in recent memory. This year’s unit is particularly troublesome at the moment.
The St. Louis Blues have been Jekyll and Hyde all season long in 2018-19. It should come as no surprise that their power play unit has reflected that overall play.
The Blues have been just as up and down throughout the year on their special teams as they have in their overall play. You might argue the penalty kill has been solid all year, but the power play has been anything but.
The issue the Blues have with their man-advantage is they either seem to score or look absolutely awful. There is almost never any kind of middle ground from which to work off of.
Oddly, the Blues seem to find a way to even everything out. In the regular season, they actually finished ninth in the league in power play percentage.
Of course, from a fan’s perspective, it does not help that power plays are like hitting in baseball. You have to wrap your head around the idea that scoring two out of every 10 times is a good thing. Fans demand perfection. That is not something you are likely to achieve no matter how much scheming goes on.
That said, the Blues are looking like they might cost themselves a potentially long playoff run if their power play does not sharpen up. You cannot just look at the stats for this argument either.
If you only look at the stats, the Blues are doing OK I suppose. They are 6-26 on the power play, which puts them around 23%. That is actually better than their percentage during the season.
They are currently 1-7 against the Dallas Stars, however. That is only coming in at 14%. Again, that is not as awful as it could be – the Nashville Predators went 0-15 – but not going to cut it either.
The bigger problem is the eye test. Granted, the eye test is subjective, but we all saw how terrible things looked in Game 2 against Dallas.
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The Blues could barely cross the blue line. When they chipped it in, they either had it cut off by Ben Bishop or were not fast enough on their entry to get to it first.
On the rare occasion the Blues have been able to set up, their attack petered out quickly and the Stars were able to clear. It was particularly embarrasing at the end of Game 2.
While not a power play, the Blues had an extra attacker. They could not even cross the blue line, getting stood up time after time and eventually surrendering an empty net goal.
The Blues had a brief five-on-three attack and you would have thought the Stars had five men as much as they controlled the puck.
You can chalk it up to one bad game if you wish, but the team’s man advantage has just not been good. It seems like if they do not score in the first 10-30 seconds, they end up like lost puppies, just wandering around hoping for something good to happen.
There is no clear solution. If there was, the team would have utilized that already since Craig Berube has been good at making necessary changes.
For simple solutions, the Blues just have to be sharper. As good as Bishop is at playing the puck, if you’re going to rim it around, you have to do it a lot harder than St. Louis currently is. You have to clear the puck past the goaltender and you have to enter the zone with speed.
You cannot just glide in on the backside and figure the puck will be there. The Blues need to enter with purpose and resolve.
Additionally, they have to find ways to get the puck on the net. The only team in the playoffs that rivals the Blues for shooting wide is the Carolina Hurricanes.
While they did not score, the Stars had eight shots on one power play in Game 2…eight shots. St. Louis is lucky to get two shots when their power play is really good.
Something in between would be fine. I know I come from an old school mentality, but if you cannot get four shots on goal during a two minute span when you have an extra player, it just seems something is wrong.
The Blues might also want to tweak some things with personnel. While he can be a defensive liability at times, perhaps Vince Dunn needs more time.
That is an odd thing to say since he had four minutes of power play time in Game 2 alone. Alex Pietrangelo had closer to six minutes and he was a big part of the issue in that game.
Pietrangelo could not cross the blue line because he was weak with the puck. He also failed to hold the zone on some key plays when the Blues were actually looking like they could pressure.
Perhaps give Colton Parayko a longer look too. He seems more comfortable with his shot lately and 12 seconds of power play time does not suit a potential weapon like that.
Ultimately, the Blues just need to be better and get a little more luck. It seems like every time they shoot wide, the puck ricochets out of the zone.
If they show a little more decisiveness, like the quick passes and shot taken by Vladimir Tarasenko in Game 1, they would be better off.
Of course, the Dallas penalty kill deserves credit. They’ve done a good job at applying pressure.
Even so, if you consider yourself a championship team, you have to overcome. You have to make your opponents pay for going into the penalty box.
The Blues did that against Winnipeg and it helped them win. They need to find that again in this series or it might cost them as it did a couple years ago against Nashville.