Welcome to this week’s edition of the St. Louis Blues’ Stock Up, Stock Down, a weekly column detailing the ups and downs of the team’s roster from the week that was.
For the St. Louis Blues, unfortunately this season has featured a lot more “stock down” than “stock up.” Prior to facing the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 10, they had not won in over two weeks, losing eight straight games in regulation. After defeating the Sharks, 5-3, they’re now riding a one-game winning streak heading into their weekend tilt with the Vegas Golden Knights. Even with the victory, the Blues still have a mere eight points and are in the basement of the Western Conference.
In a season in which the Blues haven’t had much go their way, Vladimir Tarasenko has been one of their more steady performers. It doesn’t always show up in the scoresheet each night, but his effort on the forecheck, backcheck, play against the boards, and physicality allow him to affect the game in his own way. He’s at 10 points through 12 games (four goals, six assists), keeping with his roughly point-per-game play from 2021-22.
Even with the losing streak ending, the Blues are a team that may find themselves browsing the trade block in the coming months. Should general manager Doug Armstrong opt to sell and retool for next season, Tarasenko is likely going to be their most coveted piece. He’s doing everything right so far and will either be in St. Louis for the turnaround or playing elsewhere to end the year.
Alternate captain Brayden Schenn has arguably been the Blues’ most steady performer this season. He’s tied for first on the team in points (11) with Justin Faulk. Due to his physical play style and his versatility to play center or wing, he’s been moved up and down the lineup this season by head coach Craig Berube. He’s spent time on each of the Blues’ top three forward lines.
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In the victory over the Sharks, the third line of Ivan Barbashev, Schenn, and Jordan Kyrou had three high-danger scoring chances for versus two high-danger scoring chances against. They also led the team in expected goals for percentage (xGF%) at 61.57 percent. Schenn’s shooting percentage (S%) of 20 percent leads the Blues while also being fifth on the team with 24 hits.
Finally, the Jordan Kyrou everyone came to know and love from 2021-22 is starting to emerge. While his four goals and one assist in 12 games so far isn’t glamorous by any means, what has improved over the last three games is his confidence and play without the puck. In speaking with Blues’ beat writer Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic after the win, Kyrou had this to say about his game coming around:
“I’m just trying to focus on working hard and competing hard. That’s how you get your game going, and that’s how the team gets their game going. Obviously, when you’re in it, it’s tough, but you’ve just got to keep battling your way through it.”Jordan Kyrou (from ‘Relief finally comes for Blues, Jordan Kyrou, who’s ramping up’, The Athletic, Nov. 11, 2022)
In the last three games against the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, and Sharks, Kyrou has scored one goal and recorded one assist while registering 13 shots on goal. He’s had his fair share of breakaways this season, but they haven’t led to much success until he drew a penalty on his most recent chance that resulted in him scoring on the power play. His strong play recently won’t be enough on its own to get this team out of the hole it has dug for itself, but he could be the catalyst this offense desperately needs.
This season continues to be tough on team captain Ryan O’Reilly. He’s scored just two points, both coming on goals and has zero assists. He’s still producing in the faceoff dot, winning 53.7 percent of his draws, but the rest of his offensive game seems like it may have taken a pretty steep nosedive, as his 7.1 S% is his lowest output since his rookie campaign with the Colorado Avalanche in 2009-10. He’s also seen his ice time take a dip this season. As Berube has shaken up the forward lines over the last three games, his minutes have dropped from 18:54 down to 15:53.
It’s possible O’Reilly has lost a step, which would be an unfortunate turn for him and his pending free agency status this offseason. It’s also possible that he’s been stuck in the same rut that the rest of the team has been, forcing him to over-try and play “hero hockey” rather than sticking with the fundamentals of his game. Either way, it’s been tough sledding nonetheless. For his sake, as well as the team’s, they need him to find his way to regain relevancy.
The Blues had one of the league’s best special teams units in 2022-23. Overall, they had the second-ranked power-play unit (27 percent) and the fifth-ranked penalty-kill unit (84.1 percent). With the key losses this offseason of David Perron (11 power-play goals) and Jim Montgomery, who was the assistant coach that headed up the penalty kill, the team has yet to find its rhythm in both phases of the game.
Even with the power-play goal by Kyrou against the Sharks, the Blues sit 13th overall at 22.6 percent. Even though it’s much lower than where they were last season, it’s still a respectable unit as a whole. Where they’ve dropped off the most is in the penalty kill, sitting at 29th in the league at 70.8 percent. In the game against the Bruins alone, the special teams units went 0/5 (0/3 power play, 0/2 penalty kill), which is a stark contrast from where they were a year ago.
Like many teams, the injury bug has continued to bite the Blues. Just within the last few days, both forward Logan Brown (upper body) and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (upper body) were placed on injured reserve. As of now, there has not been a timetable announced for a potential return for either. Forward Josh Leivo and defenseman Tyler Tucker have been recalled to take the vacant spots on the roster.
The organizational depth has already been stress tested this season with the preseason losses of defensemen Macro Scandella and Scott Perunovich. Both Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Saad have missed multiple games as well, although they have since returned to the lineup.
The Blues now sit at 4-8-0 and have a tough road ahead of them. They’ll travel west to take on the best team in the league in the Golden Knights on Nov. 12. From there, they’ll get back to the Central Division to face the Avalanche on Nov. 14 and the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 16 before returning home for their Reverse Retro 2.0 debut against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 17. For the Blues to turn this season around, it has to start with this road trip.
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Marcus Ashpaugh is a team writer at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues organization. He enjoys writing about the team at the NHL level as well as the prospects within the organization.