The St. Louis Blues were quite poor against the Chicago Blackhawks in their pre-playoff exhibition. There is reason not to worry though.
For those of you that sat through or listened through the St. Louis Blues lay an egg against the Chicago Blackhawks, they saw Chicago come out ready to play and the Blues not. Chicago won the game, pure and simple.
It was a disappointing display to watch, mostly because we did not see the Blues play their game. Craig Berube had talked about his players needing to get to their game early and they really didn’t get to it at all.
They were slow, had poor passing, did not generate enough offensive pressure and looked sloppy defensively. St. Louis looked like they treated it as an exhibition game while the Blackhawks came out with something to prove, even if only to themselves.
However, we don’t need to fret too much. While there are things that individuals definitely need to work on, the Blues success is based on something that we were probably foolish to expect in a game that means nothing.
A friend of mine brought this idea up on Facebook and the more I thought of it, it made perfect sense. They will remain nameless only to avoid being pestered on social media.
The general idea was that the Blues championship was built on a consistent, badgering forecheck. As Doug Armstrong said, the Blues beat you by a death of a thousand cuts.
That kind of style requires a certain mental will even by the team inflicting the punishment. You know you are going to be physically taxed when it all comes to an end.
During the 2019 playoffs, there were multiple analysts that marveled at the Blues ability during the playoffs but said it could not be sustained over a full season. That’s the point.
No team would even dare try to play that high-tempo, punishing style because it would take as much, or more, out of them as it would their opponent.
While the numbers are not vastly different, you can tell a slightly different style was adopted by the Blues during the 2019-20 season after the longest playoff run of their lives. In 2018-19, the Blues had five players with over 100 hits and everyone in the top-nine in hits had over 80.
In 2019-20, they only had four with over 100 hits, nobody with hits in the 90s and the top eight had 80 hits or more. These are not gigantic dropoffs, but there were 144 fewer hits as a team in 2019-20. One could argue those numbers are made up if they play the final 11 games, but St. Louis just appeared less physical during the regular season.
That’s because they now knew what it was going to take in the playoffs. Once you go through something and know it works, you know the physical toll it will take, you are not as likely to go through that during the regular season.
So, it would stand to reason the Blues would not play that kind of style in a warm up game. We might not even see it during the round-robin games.
St. Louis has some things they need to clean up. Zone entries have to be cleaner and that is not predicated on their forechecking ability.
But, their playoff success came from grinding opponents into dust and being able to outlast them. As series wore on, the Blues just wore teams out. If the Dallas series is best-of-five, the Blues are out, but they just had that extra will to get it done in the last two games. That comes from seeing an opponent over and over and imposing your will on them.
The Blues had success when not always playing with that hard an edge. They still had the talent to be in the top spot of the Western Conference for much of the season.
So, there is no reason to think we will automatically see a repeat of the Chicago performance against Colorado or any of the other top seeds. We simply might not see an unleashing of that systematic forecheck that frustrates teams.
Once the Blues get into a series, that’s when they will go full bore. Until then, we have to hope their conditioning and timing is as good as it will get and that the Blues are just a sleeping giant, ready for their alarm clock to go off.