The St. Louis Blues have made a habit of looking like Jekyll and Hyde in the 2023-24 season. On this most recent road trip, they spared us the ups and downs and just decided to play badly right from the start.
For the second night in a row, the Blues gave up a goal within the first five minutes of the game. Perhaps it took longer for the Blackhawks to score than Columbus, but the Blues trailed early in the contest no matter what.
A common theme for the game was a transition play from the Blues offensive zone to the defense and then an inability to get the puck out. That's what happened on the first goal and Chicago made them pay.
You might as well lump the second goal into that category. Though the Blues didn't have any clear puck possession, they looked like they were killing a penalty with as much as they might get a blocked shot but couldn't track the puck for a clear. This led to a screened shot going over the glove hand of Jordan Binnington to make it 2-0 before the first period was halfway done.
Frankly, the second period should have gone by without a goal, or at best, a Blues goal. Despite St. Louis outshooting Chicago, they couldn't capitalize on the power play and another inability to clear the puck - this time there were at least two or three missed clearing attempts - ended with a third Chicago goal and a 3-0 score after 40.
The Blues continued to play better in the third and gave Chicago nothing. The shots in that period alone ended up being 16-2.
However, St. Louis couldn't generate anything sustained. It was all one and done.
The Blues got a tiny bit of life after they took a penalty because Oskar Sundqvist scored on a shorthanded rush. Frankly, it's alarming the Blues actually have as many shorthanded goals this season as power play goals, but you take what you can get.
The game would finish 3-1, just like the previous night. Give the same effort and get the same results.
Cons: No will
I do my best not to be like the average social media fan who wants to call out players left and right for having no heart. These are men doing a job and they try each and every time and do care, but for whatever reason, some nights it isn't there.
That said, it's impossible to defend them at this point and time. For two nights in a row, they had absolutely no will to do anything difficult.
They lost just about every puck battle there was. Broadcasters are pretty even keel most times and often sugar coat things for the team they're covering. However, the color announcer on the radio mentioned several times that there was just no drive to win any of the puck battles.
When your own announcer calls you out, things are not going well. That was essentially the problem for all three goals.
Maybe you give the second goal a slight pass since there was no clear possession. The Blues had a total of at least five combined attempts to clear the puck on the first and second goals. They could not and we saw the results.
That's an unwillingness to keep your feet moving, to keep your sticks in the lanes and to engage with the opponent. Some nights you just don't have it, but this team doesn't have it too many nights.
This was not Jordan Binnington's best night. Honestly, he wasn't tested as much as we've seen in previous games. He only faced a total of 24 shots.
However, outside of him, there were maybe two or three guys at most actually playing hard and well. Binnington wasn't spectacular, but he was the only reason this game stayed close.
Perhaps Chicago only had 24 shots, but the Blues just allowed way too many looks from good spots and on odd-man rushes. The Blues continue to allow odd-man rushes when St. Louis is on the power play and Binnington has to bail them out.
The contest only remained 2-0 and 3-0 because of the Blues goaltender. It could easily have been 4 or 5-0 before St. Louis even thought about scoring.
Cons: Power play
As I said the last game, copy and paste. It's to the point where even the most tolerant of us are sick of this nonsense.
Blow up the power play units. Put guys out there that will get shots or, at worst, not give up shorthanded rushes the other way.
Take Torey Krug off the top power play unit. I don't care what his career stats are, he is not getting the job done. The quarterback of an awful power play unit does not deserve the benefit of the doubt when the team has other options like Justin Faulk or even Colton Parayko.
Put five forwards out there for all I care. It can't get much worse than it has been when you automatically know the game will be two minutes later without a goal when the Blues have the man advantage.
I don't like losing to Chicago when they're on the same level or even when they're better. When they're one of the worst teams in the league, it's just frustrating to watch.
The Blackhawks were the better team on this night, but that's not saying much. If anything, it showcased how bad the Blues were.
You keep Connor Bedard off the scoresheet, but don't even play that good a game defensively. Your offense has almost 40 shots, but barely bothered the Chicago goaltender.
St. Louis was credited with 15 hits, but there wasn't much physicality. Whatever defensive structure had been gained with this new system is showing cracks and the back door goals are starting to pop up again.
I don't know what the answer is right now. Replacing the coach simply won't have more than a temporary effect with this team.
I still don't think a total rebuild is necessary, but the worry is that the young guys are now coming up in an environment where losing is tolerated and not playing the 200-foot game is accepted in the locker room.
Hopefully that's all fan conjecture and simply not true. It's hard to see these types of efforts be the norm though.