While Blues fans consider their team the good guys, lately they have resembled one of Batman’s greatest villains.
Known for his grudge against crime and assertive political views, Harvey Dent was Gotham City’s greatest District Attorney. However, a powerful event shook his life, turning Dent to a life of crime and deceit. He was rightfully coined the nickname “Two-Face.”
The St. Louis Blues have gone down a similar path. After starting the season 6-1-0, the Blues endured a 0-4-1 run that included four straight winless games on home ice. The Blues were outscored 25-11 in that time.
Dent’s good side reared again, as the Blues hit the road and beat the Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks to climb back up the Central Division standings. That was followed up with two losses in as many days, coming at the hands of the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. The Blues mustered one goal total in both games.
This twisted string of games comes after a season in which the young Blues registered 109 points, the franchise’s second-best point total in history. The team also advanced to the second round of the playoffs, something that had not happened since the 2001-02 season.
The rocky start to 2013 was not something that was expected, as the Blues had propelled themselves into Stanley Cup favorites going into this season.
So what has caused this sudden change in the Blues’ play?
Just as Dent’s change can be pinpointed to a one cataclysmic event, so can the Blues’ struggles. On February 1 (the beginning of the Blues’ first losing streak), the Blues traveled to Joe Louis Arena for the first time of the season. In this game, Halak faced 11 Red Wing shots before leaving the game at the 16:23 mark of the first period. Four minutes earlier, Halak was struck in the mask with a shot, suffering a cut on his lip. It was believed that this was the reason Halak left the game and was replaced by split-starter Brian Elliott.
Two days later, Halak was placed on IR with a lower-body injury. In his place, Jake Allen was recalled to be the backup for Elliott. The plan was likely that Allen would be on the bench until Halak’s return. Elliott allowing 20 goals on 105 shots catapulted Allen into the starting position. After Allen changed the philosophy in net, including what some call “the save of the year,” he lost the game to San Jose and has since been sent back to Peoria.
Halak took over in net in Denver Wednesday night, as he stopped 19 of 20 shots. The only goal-against came in overtime when Avalanche right-winger David Jones glanced a shot off defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to end the game with just over 13 seconds remaining. Just before that, Halak made a dazzling save on Paul Stastny to keep his team in the game.
The Blues, who mustered 33 shots on goaltender Semyon Varlamov, were shut out for the first time this season. The team with the best power-play in the league (31.7%) ranks 23rd in goal differential 5-on-5, scoring 26 goals-for while allowing 31 goals-against.
The verdict is still out as to which Blues team is the real one. With Halak back in the lineup, the hope in St. Louis is that the team from the start of the season, the one that the city can trust, will be the one to conquer this inner turmoil. Because the team that lacks a full 60-minute game, or the one that has turned its back on the city, will not allow the Blues to be playing hockey past April.