The St. Louis Blues are (1-1-0) through their first two match-ups of the new season and they’ve done some good things as well as some bad. Although the regular season has ceased to be a problem for the Blues since the 2004-2005 lockout seeing that they’ve qualified for the playoffs in all but one year, that by no means guarantees that they’ll find a similar outcome at the end of this year.
To prevent a downward spiral after last season’s disappointing first-round loss to the Minnesota Wild the Blues will focus on the year ahead of them. Here are the top 5 keys to success for St. Louis if they wish to continue their hold on the regular season.
Number 5: Defense
When teams have solid defense they’re exponentially more difficult to play against, which is why everyone is on the hunt for a number-one defender. The Blues have all the key components to make a great defense, but they don’t always execute as such.
Alex Pietrangelo’s leadership coupled with the talented goaltending duo of Jake Allen and Brian Elliott should make for a better hold on the defending the crease, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the line-up is off the hook. This season St. Louis will have to take it upon themselves individually as well as a team unit to be defensively responsible first, which will inevitably lead to more offense.
Number 4: Penalty Kill
The penalty kill is arguably one of the most important components of today’s NHL. With players as talented as Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews it’s hard not to focus on killing penalties and the Blues will have to do just that.
In the Central Division alone there’s Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche, and Zach Parise and Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild. All of those players have incredible skills that can be difficult to defend against in even strength action, let alone while they have a man advantage.
The Blues’ penalty killing units will have to do their best to cover the ice and make sure to be successful this season.
Number 3: Leadership
Whether it’s current captain David Backes or young players in the room the Blues are in need of a confidence boost from their leadership. After rather frustrating endings to the last few seasons it is going to take a lot for St. Louis to continue to fight night in and night out.
That responsibility falls onto the established leadership as well as those players without a letter on their jerseys. Hockey is a team sport and therefore every single player has to find it in himself to lead and play the best he can.
Number 2: Bouncing Back
Long losing streaks just aren’t an option in the Western Conference with 3-point games seemingly every night, not to mention the few number of points that separate playoff teams from non playoff teams.
The Blues will have to find a way to avoid losing more than two games in a row in order to allow themselves the best placement for next year’s playoffs. Back-to-back situations make it extraordinarily more challenging; however, head coach Ken Hitchcock will have to find a way to make it happen.
Number 1: Looking Ahead
The most important key to success this upcoming season is forgetting about seasons past. Long-time wearers of the blue note have certainly grown tired of their habitual dominance of the regular season and subsequent breakdown during the playoffs. That is in the past.
St. Louis has to go into every game with the right mindset and not focus so much on the standings as on playing the right way every game. If they can do that they’ll find a lot more success than if they let the issues that have plagued them before find their way into this newly started season.
What do you think are the keys to success for the Blues? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Allison Scott is currently pursuing a journalism degree at the University of Missouri. She is passionate about the NHL and is a fan of both the St. Louis Blues and her hometown Dallas Stars. More articles by Allison can be found on Blackout Dallas where she covers the Stars. Follow Allison on twitter for more hockey and random tweets! @allisonnnscott