The St. Louis Blues have had a rough start to the 2018-19 season. They fell to the Winnipeg Jets 5-1 in their first home opener loss in four years, and they experienced their second home loss 5-4 in overtime on Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite the streak of bad luck, they are set on showing fans that they have the ability to bounce back and start putting more points on the board. They just have to work out a few kinks first.
With a long season still ahead of them, the Blues need to shake off these losses and keep their sights on the upcoming home game against the Calgary Flames. In the meantime, the Blues should be working on both defensive and offensive performance. If they want to start winning, they need to be more aggressive with the puck and keep the pressure off of goalie Jake Allen.
After the loss on Saturday, Ryan O’Reilly said in a locker-room interview that the team has been letting Allen down.
“He gave us a great chance,” O’Reilly said. “He made some huge stops, especially when, you know, we opened the door a bit. And we’re making mistakes, he’s stood on his head for us. And you know, we have to be better in front of him. You know, we can’t—we can’t rely on him every night. (We’ve) got to be smarter and better that way.”.
The Good, the Bad, and the Not so Bad
Pro: Vladimir Tarasenko has still got it. Coming off of 33 goals and 33 assists last season, Tarasenko didn’t get off to the start he expected in the opener, but he made up for it in the second game. With 21:14 in ice time, Tarasenko scored twice on Blackhawks goalie Cam Ward. He brought energy to the game early on and tied it up when the Blues were trailing in the third.
Con: The Blues need speed. In the first two games of the regular season, they were noticeably slower than their opponents, which limited their ability to hold onto the puck and opened up scoring opportunities on Jake Allen. During power plays, the Blues look like they’re the ones that are shorthanded with their low-effort skating.
Pro: The defense is a dynamic asset. They have the size to smash guys into the boards plus the ability to score, as seen with defenders Vince Dunn and Colton Parayko. Dunn scored the lone goal in the opener against the Jets, and Parayko scored an early first goal on a power play against Chicago.
Con: The Blues keep changing the roster. This one could be either a pro or a con, but only time will tell. In preparation for the game against the Blackhawks, new defenseman Niko Mikkola was sent down to play for the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, according to Tom Timmermann’s recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (from ‘Blues recall Thorburn, send Mikkola down’, St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Oct. 5, 2018). He was replaced by right winger Chris Thorburn, who the Blues have flip-flopped between sending down and bringing back up in a span of just a couple of days.
Following the overtime loss to the Blackhawks, the Blues also sent down defenseman Chris Butler to make room for Finnish defender Jakub Jerabek, who finally cleared up issues with his work visa. Jerabek is expected to join his team on the ice in the upcoming home game on Thursday against the Flames.
In his third season as head coach, Mike Yeo’s 2018-19 outlook has gone from seeing great potential in his young team, to openly saying in a post-game press conference on Oct. 6 that the Blues are “playing sh**ty hockey” and need to step up their game. While the comment was harsh, you can’t really blame Yeo for how he feels. The Blues are not playing up to their potential, and everyone knows it.
Thankfully Yeo showed a little optimism in addition to his blunt remarks, and said he feels there can be a turn-around if the players really work for it:
It’s correctable. It’s just a matter of us figuring out how long we want it to take before we decide if we want to be a good team, or if we want to be a team that plays the game without purpose.
After watching the disappointment in Yeo’s press conference, I can only imagine that he didn’t hold much back when he met with the players in the locker room after the game. Maybe this is what the Blues needed to hear, though, and just maybe we’ll see some swift improvement down the road.
Blues Moving Forward
While the Blues have tried and true players that they can count on like Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo, and Parayko, they also have the growth of talented rookies to look forward to. Given this balance of old and new skill, St. Louis should be able to build chemistry between lines and improve accuracy in moving the puck down the ice.
If they can achieve this, they just might have a chance to make the difference that the team desperately needs both in scoring drives and helping Allen protect the crease. The Blues will attempt to break their losing streak as they host the Calgary Flames on Oct. 11 at 8 p.m.