The Blues have started the new season on a good note, currently (8-3-1) through their first dozen games, finishing October with an (8-3-0) record. That was good enough for second in the Central Division and the Western Conference overall. Not too bad for a team that was eliminated early in the playoffs just last spring.
That kind of play won’t just happen to continue, though. Despite the Blues’ solid start to the 2015-2016 campaign they aren’t leaps and bounds ahead of the other teams in the West. In all actuality they won’t feel any relief until they’ve officially made it to the playoffs come late March or early April. That’s just how the Western Conference is, especially with three-point games and the pure skill of players today.
It’s entirely possible that the Blues continue to be as successful as they’ve been thus far, but it isn’t likely. St. Louis will have to overcome adversity to make it out atop the division and make a deep playoff run. They’ll take the rest of the season by storm if they can manage to do a few things.
Full Roster: Injury and Suspension Reduction
While not always within a team’s control it’s vital that St. Louis stay healthy because they’re going to need their best players to be exactly that night in and night out. That isn’t to say that they should solely focus on the top players within the line-up to do all the work, it’s that much more difficult to win when your best players are out of the line-up.
Thus far this season injuries haven’t gone in the Blues’ favor as forwards Paul Stastny (foot) and Jaden Schwartz (ankle) will miss a decent amount of time. Star forward Vladimir Tarasenko also missed one game with a leg injury, but has since returned.
How do you prevent injuries, though? A lot of this is awareness and a lot of it luck. Organizations can only do so much to protect players from injury and training staffs do an incredible job of caring for the players off the ice, but they have to be cognizant of what’s happening around them to do their part as well. That means having their heads on a swivel and knowing exactly what can happen when in possession of the puck.
What is controllable is suspensions. Players do get ousted for a few games due to accidental violations, but more often than not it’s a conscious decision to disregard rules of player safety. While the Blues haven’t dealt with this yet this season, it’s likely they will at some point. When that time comes how they respond as a team and how the individual responds upon return will tell a lot about the mental strength of the team.
One Game at a Time
Looking weeks ahead in the schedule will get teams no where in the NHL, especially considering that every team is a legitimate threat regardless of their position in the standings. Last placed teams beat the NHL-leading teams a lot more often than one would think and as the Blues hold one of those coveted positions atop the West they’ll have to prevent it as best they can.
Approaching each game as an opportunity to earn two points and improve the team as a whole will make the Blues that much more difficult to play against, while also building their ability to depend on one another. Both are crucial components to highly revered teams.
That said, it’s also important for the Blues to leave bad games in the past. Dwelling on a game or a mistake from last week won’t do anyone any good. Although important to use past mistakes as a stepping stone upon which to grow and develop, focusing too much on negative plays will only wear down a player’s confidence and mental strength. In an eighty-two game season followed by lengthy playoff series mental toughness is demanded by the NHL.
St. Louis’ ability to stay healthy and have their best players in the line-up over the course of the rest of the season, while still managing to focus solely on one game at a time will ultimately lead to success. While not a sure-fire way to reaching their goals for the season, it won’t hurt the Blues’ bid for the ever so coveted Stanley Cup.
What do you think of the Blues’ start to the season? What would you like to see them do differently? 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