St. Louis Blues Power Play Will Sink Or Swim Entire 2023-24 Season

The St. Louis Blues power play has been historically bad. Just getting it to mediocre could save their season.
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Blues, for all their problems in the first part of 2023-24, are not in terrible shape. Approaching the midway point of the season, they're above .500 and still in sniffing distance of a playoff spot.

Coming into the year, we worried about the defense. While there are definitely still issues, there has been improvement. The Blues have actually allowed fewer goals than three teams ahead of them in the divisional standings.

The offense has been too sporadic, with 115 goals in 40 games. That's actually fewer than two teams below the Blues in the standings.

A gigantic problem with the offense has been the power play, or lack thereof. We've all known the power play was bad, just through the eye test. However, I don't know that we fully understood that this has been an historically bad power play.

Through the first 39 games of the season, there were only two teams in history (since 1960) that had fewer power play goals than the Blues. That includes the tail end of the "Original Six" era and also the beginning of the expansion era when teams were just cobbled together at times.

Think about that. In 64 years of hockey history, this current Blues team essentially had the third-worst power play through the first half of the season.

It's not that they've simply failed to score either. It's the key moments they've failed.

I had a feeling this was the case, but it was confirmed by some research done by Brandon Kiley of 101 ESPN. The Blues have killed themselves in the standings by having a horrible power play.

Through 39 games, the Blues were 1-82 in key situations. They had managed to tie the game with a power play goal once all season long to that point.

They had not yet scored a power play goal to either take the lead or increase a one-goal lead. The Blues were 0-64 on the power play with an opportunity to take a lead or give themselves a cushion.

Imagine how many games might have turned out differently even if you had two or three goals in each category (tie, take the lead, increase a one-goal lead). I would say that's easily another six points, or more, in the standings. That would have the Blues currently sitting in the top wild card spot instead of on the outside looking in.

Things took a slight turn for the better in game 40. The Blues got two power play goals, giving them their first goals to take a lead and cushion their lead all season long. It's no wonder they won 5-2 instead of sweating at the end or even crapping the bed and losing the game.

Beyond just the simple fact of two goals, they got scoring beyond Pavel Buchnevich. In the first half of the season, Buchnevich had the vast majority of the team's power play goals, so if/when he goes cold, the power play was even less a threat.

I don't care who the coach is, the power play has and will make a difference, one way or the other. Bannister has a pretty good record since taking over the Blues and it's no small part because the power play has improved.

The Blues were below 10% with the man advantage prior to the coaching change. Just in the time since the coaching change, the power play is running at above19%.

That's still not great, but it gets you into the conversation of being a threat. Nobody worries about your power play when they have a 91% likelihood of killing it off. If you can score 20% of the time, suddenly they have to be wary.

If you get that number up to about 25%, you're really in business. Scoring a goal once every four or five power plays is huge, especially since the Blues have been earning three to five power plays a game pretty regularly.

The weird thing is that the coaching change could only have so much impact. Regardless of Craig Berube or Drew Bannister, Steve Ott has been running the power play.

He was involved in the power play when it was top-five in the league and also when it was dead last. The only time he wasn't fully in charge, as far as we know, is when Jim Montgomery was here.

So, it's a combination of players and system, with neither fully meshing for some reason. The Blues need to figure that reason out though.

Fans can balk at the team making or missing the playoffs, but the Blues are not a big enough market to sustain their current business model forever. As a small to mid-market team, they need the influx of playoff cash to help them keep their spending towards the top of the salary cap.

Missing the playoffs a second season in a row would be disastrous. Whether they make or miss the playoffs will be highly dependent on whether the power play can improve.

The amusing thing is this team doesn't even have to be good on the man advantage. If they were merely mediocre, they could easily be a playoff team.

Now we know why that is. When you're historically bad and can still eek out wins, if you simply get to the middle of the pack, you increase your chances of winning even more.

Next: Is Robert Thomas the Blues best first-time All Star?