The St. Louis Blues are walking on thin ice when it comes to their round-robin performances. They better turn it around in the next game or it could be a long Fall.
Do the St. Louis Blues care about their performance and want to win every game? Absolutely, they do.
However, most everyone wants a better job. Most everyone wants to lose weight or get in better shape or be a better mom/dad/husband/wife, etc.
The problem then boils down to effort. Not everyone can achieve certain things because effort is not always a given quantity.
That does not even begin to question someone’s motives. Being lazy is not always a decision, though it often is in our personal lives.
When it comes to athletics, sometimes you just don’t have that extra mental drive to push you past a certain barrier. That is more what the Blues are lacking right now as opposed to the cliche of not trying.
It was not so worrying after the Colorado Avalanche game because the Blues still looked OK. The offense was not there, but the defense was and so was the goaltending.
If not for a bad penalty call and a fluke goal with 0.1 seconds left, the Blues get a point and we are not feeling so bad. Instead, the Blues have no points and no wins after two games and things look really bad.
There are some who continue to cling to the idea of these games having little meaning. They are still pushing the idea that the Blues can flip the switch.
Last night, after a particularly poor loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, the narrative was still that. Examples were given of how the Blues found another gear after several no-show performances in the 2019 playoffs.
The comparison was made to a team having sewn up home-ice advantage with a week to go in the regular season and treating those final regular season games as time to experiment or get guys healthy. There is a big difference though.
In that scenario, everyone is playing on a level situation. There is a cliche of the teams at the bottom of the standings playing playoff hockey since February or January or whatever, but playing with urgency is not the same as playoff hockey. If it was, we would have tons of eight seeds having won Stanley Cups instead of just a few.
Despite having a little more momentum on their side, the lower seeds have not been playing playoff hockey prior to the top seeds. In this scenario, you can tell teams playing these play-in series are in playoff mode while the round-robin games, even when entertaining, have not been close at all.
Regardless of all that, the way the Blues are playing is not something that can just miraculously change. They need to get something rolling against Dallas or it might be too late.
Even if you are capable of “flipping the switch”, it does not always happen. Look at the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019. They kept thinking they could flip a switch and coast through their first round matchup against Columbus last season. They exited in the first round.
This is not just about scoring goals or defensive matchups. The Blues are not playing as a unit and that is not something that just appears out of thin air usually.
The offense has large gaps between them and the defenders, giving opponents too much room to operate. When the Blues are most effective, regardless of their forechecking pressure, they are moving back and forth as a five-man unit.
Right now, we are seeing too many individuals flowing around, trying to figure out what the other ones are going to do.
I can buy into the Blues not wanting to waste energy on playing that tight-checking, high-pressure forecheck. There are just too many other gaps in their game to say this is all just something they can fix once the games matter.
Win or lose against Dallas, it does not really matter since they won’t be the top seed. You have to see signs of getting it though.
Even Craig Berube was not pleased after the Vegas game and his quotes were not hyperbole.
“These two games, I think the other teams have been more competitive, more hungry than we have,” Berube said, as reported by Jim Thomas. “Whether we thought it was gonna be easy coming in here in these round-robin games – they’re pretty competitive teams we’ve played here. Our compete level has to come way up.”
“We have to get to another level by Sunday – we really do,” Berube continued. “And we talked after the game that the intensity level has to come way up. Our compete has to come way up. If you want to just keep chasing the game, then we’ll keep playing. But if we want to control our game then we gotta compete a lot harder and do a lot more things with the puck.”
That last sentence was one that stuck with me and reinforced something I had thought. It’s not just pressure, but lack of control.
The Blues have enough skill to possess the puck, but it feels like they are rarely in the opponent’s zone, especially after they score a goal. That type of game is OK for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals when you have no tomorrow and can defend for your life.
You cannot play an entire playoffs that way. The Blues have to find balance and normally their game features more balance. They better figure it out quickly or we could be saying it’s going to be a long Fall instead of long Summer.