By Dan Buffa
It's official. The St. Louis Blues are in serious trouble. It was only 36 hours ago that I wrote a post on Arch City Sports about the team simply needing to find an energy and back to their winning ways before the playoffs started next week. I went to a movie and came out to find that the Blues had lost 4-1 in lackluster style to the Washington Capitals(minus Halak in net). Alexander Ovechkin came in and draped the net in red Russian fury, scoring once to start things off and assisting on another goal. The Blues were beaten again at Scottrade Center and have scored only four goals in their last 4 games there. Also, the Ducks hopped over the Blues tonight with 112 points to take over ownership of the Western Conference with 3 games to go.
What is going on with this team? Let me run down a quick list of potential issues and ideal remedies.
GET A SHOT ON GOAL. Let's not speak lightly here. The Blues defensemen and forwards are horrible at putting pucks on net. If it isn't Alex Pietrangelo air mailing a slap shot from the point into the upper left boards or Alexander Steen unleashing a wildly inaccurate slap shot, the team simply isn't hitting the targets. They are the worst team in the NHL when it comes to getting shots on net. We want to. We try. We simply can't. Change that.
It's been a while since this team scored a lot of goals over a decent multi-game stretch. Sure, they have won a decent amount and risen to the top of the division via fine defense and goaltending, but the Blues aren't scoring furiously anymore. As nice as it is to see T.J. Oshie make a fool out of a goalie in shootouts, it would be swell to see this team take charge this last week and put a few pucks in the net.
*When you have trouble beating teams like Buffalo, how do you expect to fare against Colorado and Chicago? The Blues peaked in the early part of the year, went to Sochi, came back half asleep, woke up briefly and have now fallen off a cliff into pure despicable solitude. If you know a way out, comment below. I'd love to hear it.
Ladies and gents, this can't be solved with a single line change. Sure, a ton of people want Vladimir Sobotka off the second line and Dmitri Jaskin on it, but Ken Hitchcock isn't going to do that. What the team has going right now is the mixture that will spell madness for other teams or despair for the fans come next week. Fans can go on Twitter and Facebook and propose their line changes for the 505th time, but it isn't that simple anymore. This entire team is dead right now.
Anyone know of a new age healing remedy for a hand injury? This team needs Vladimir Tarasenko more than they need oxygen right now. The kid has the scoring touch and was just about to fire it up around the league before a bone break forced him out. His return could be vital to a deep playoff run.
It may not be a bad idea to let Anaheim take on the Stars in round 1 and see the hungry Dallas team knock off the higher seed, but the Blues could still face Minnesota or even Los Angeles if the Wild hopped over them in the conference standings. Does anyone want to see The Kings stand between us and advancement for the third year in a row?
Let's say we make it to the top seed but somehow Phoenix jumps Dallas for the 8th and final spot. Would it be in our favor to take on Mike Smith and the hungry as ever Coyotes in round 1? Sure, Smith is hurt right now but he is close and you have to figure if they clawed their way in he would be ready to roll. The Blues have no easy way to the promise land and they are making their situation worse.
There are no happy endings in hockey for every team who merely makes it into the playoffs. The Blues have a spot reserved but won't know their opponent until the last game of the season ends against Detroit. A month ago, that game looked like a tune up practice squad match for this team. Today, it could mean the difference between a #1 overall spot or #1 in the conference. That's hockey and sports. Things change when you go 5-5-3 in your last stretch of play.
This team looks lethargic, drained and completely out of sync right now. What do you do with that? Hitchcock gives the most candid post game interviews but that can only go so far. Patrik Berglund has to come alive again. David Backes and Oshie need to record a point. Steen needs to get those pucks on net. Jaden Schwartz can't provide all the energy and go go fire for an entire 60 minutes. Ryan Miller and Brian Elliott simply need to do their job.
The Cardinals were playing horrible and looked drained in 2006 heading into the postseason. They caught fire and never looked back. Is this the same with the Blues? What is happening right now? Exposure or failure? This all comes down to scoring goals. Putting shots on goal and scoring. If the Blues scoring woes continue, the defense and goaltending will collapse. In order to score more than 2 goals, the Blues must show some grit and energy early on and score first. Once upon a time, that was simple.
This time of year exposes teams for what they truly are. Forget December. What do the Blues truly have in store for fans right now?
Bottom line? If the Blues don't fix their issues and find their footing this weekend, they may find themselves heading home early this spring to another sad summer long chorus of "Maybe Next Year".
Dan Buffa is a Cardinals writer for Sports Rants. He is also a contributor to KSDK.com and Arch City Sports while writing for his own website, Dose Of Buffa. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @buffa82.