The St. Louis Blues got to where they are by playing a certain style and a certain scheme. That seems to have been thrown to the wind as they are now trying to do things they are not built for.
I’m going to throw out an unpopular opinion regarding the St. Louis Blues in their series against the Dallas Stars. The Blues need to give up on hitting.
Already you can sense the anger boiling up in some readers and you’re only three or four sentences in. I will repeat it though – the Blues need to stop focusing on hitting against the Stars.
Those that disagree will say hockey is physical and the Blues need to be physical. They will talk about how much space the Blues allow the Stars wingers and that if you hit them, they won’t go to those hard earned areas.
The problem is that is a fantasy. The Blues are hitting the Stars and Dallas is still taking every inch on the ice they want.
The Blues are not built to be physical in the way they are trying to be. There is nothing wrong with finishing a check or letting some of these pesky guys for Dallas know you’re no pushover. However, the Blues are losing focus because they are trying to show the Stars how tough they are. That is not their game.
The Blues have had over 20 hits in every game in this series. Maybe it is coincidence, but the Blues have yet to play a good game in this series, win or lose.
It is not as though the Blues can’t be a little physical and win. In Game 1 and 2 against the Winnipeg Jets, the Blues had over 20 hits (21 and 26). However, they were letting the Jets be the more physical team and wear themselves out in the process.
When the Blues picked up the pace with their own hitting, their game suffered for it. The Blues outhit the Jets in Game 3 and 4 and lost.
In Game 4, the Blues had 33 hits and were flying all over the ice. They did force overtime, but the Jets controlled most of that game.
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St. Louis did not lose their physical edge, but they took the focus off hitting in Games 5 and 6 and won. Game 5 might have taken a miracle comeback at the end, but the focus was on the play, not the hits with the Blues only picking up 14 in that game.
For some reason, the Blues have been drawn into more of a physical contest than they need against the Stars. There is not the direct correlation with the team with more hits losing, but the Blues have been the aggressors and not been rewarded for it.
Somehow, if St. Louis wants to remain physical, they must draw the Stars into the same game. When Dallas has sat back and absorbed that physicality, they have dominated.
The games St. Louis has been outhit or at least made Dallas match their hitting, the Blues managed to win. The Stars outhit the Blues in Game 1 and the Blues won. The same is true in Game 3. St. Louis crushed Dallas in hits in the second and fifth game and lost.
The only game this does not really hold up is Game 4 against the Stars. However, the Blues lacked so much energy in that one that it truly feels like an outlier.
The problem is not the Blues trying to be physical, but the fact it takes them out of their game. Game 5 was a perfect example. The Blues came out flying with Brayden Schenn laying out John Klingberg in the first two minutes.
Schenn threw a flying cross-body later in the first period that would have made pro wrestlers proud. However, Schenn helped out very little in the offensive end because he was looking for checks, not looking for pucks.
St. Louis’ forecheck was almost totally ineffective because the Stars knew St. Louis was going for the body, not the puck. So, they would just draw them in and then pass right around.
St. Louis wasted so much energy in that game looking for body checks that they often had no gas left when they actually had the puck. That forced line changes, which were often slow and allowed the Stars even more ice.
So, when it is said they need to quit hitting, that is not a true statement to the letter. You cannot not hit at all or you’ll get bullied by players that take joy in shoving guys around.
St. Louis simply cannot be what they are not. They are not the Jets, with a bunch of big bruising bodies up front. They are not the New Jersey Devils of the 90’s.
This team is built to play within their system and the focus on hits above all else is taking them out of their system. Guys that are not as physical are lost because they are forced to clean up the mistakes made by the hitters and they cannot do it. Vince Dunn showed that when the Stars continually blew past him when he had no help because everyone else was trying to take a body.
Play the game. Don’t let the game play you. St. Louis has the offense to win these games and they are not scoring and Ben Bishop is not the main reason. The main reason is the Blues are taking themselves out of their own game. Go back to what got you here, not this mindset of what playoff hockey is supposed to be.