The St. Louis Blues played in one of three games around the NHL on Halloween night. The hometown team came into the game looking to snap an ugly four-game losing streak that saw them outscored 20-7 while averaging 1.75 goals per game and a whopping five goals against per game. A game that needed a desperate and hungry effort from the Blues ended in an extension to the team’s losing streak. The team’s skid can be defined by two aspects that will need to be addressed if they have any hopes of the playoffs this season: a lack of offensive production and a lack of defensive awareness.
Blues Lacking Offensive Production
With the team’s losing streak now extended to five games, the Blues have officially hit what could be looked back on as a crossroads and a deciding point in their season. After the game head coach Craig Berube said, “We’re not direct. And if you’re not direct and you’re not desperate out there, if you don’t want to dig in and play hard, you’re going to get beat. I don’t care what team you’re playing. You’ll get beat, and that’s got to change.”
Slow and non-existent scoring from the team’s top forwards has been emphasized in the Blues’ streak. While players like Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas have produced a combined four points over five games, fellow teammates Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ivan Barbashev, and Pavel Buchnevich have combined for two goals and one assist and a minus-18 rating. Missing from the lineup over the past six games, the Blues have been without forward Brandon Saad as he was scratched once again with an upper-body injury. Berube and the coaching staff have been left to juggle and balance their lineup and find the magic formula to break the offensive dry spell.
Defensive Lapses Continue to Plague the Blues
In what can only be considered a copy-and-paste statement over the last week, the Blues’ defensive coverage remains a missing element to their game. In the Kings’ first goal of the game, forward Gabriel Vilardi was left alone and behind the defense to receive an easy pass from Kevin Fiala. Blues defenseman Torey Krug was playing a wider coverage on the delayed penalty call but neglected to pick up the 23-year-old, allowing a prime scoring opportunity. The Kings found their opening and continued to exploit the coverage throughout the remainder of the game.
The Blues’ defense allowed two additional goals in the same fashion, the first scored by Carl Grundstrom, the second by Anze Kopitar. The visiting team continued adding to their offensive surge in the dying moments of their power play when Arthur Kaliyev was left alone and uncontested in front of goaltender Jordan Binnington. The Kings scored four goals in the span of 6:15 before the Blues stopped the bleeding and scored their lone goal of the game.
Latest News & Highlights
Entering the 2022-23 season, general manager Doug Armstrong continued to roll the dice with a dominant offensive-minded defensive unit instead of adding another two-way or defensive-minded defenseman to the squad. While the internal and external options may be limited this early in the season, it should not be ruled out for the club’s front office to make a significant move to jump-start the team. Armstrong and his front office staff have never been ones to make brash moves, instead looking to internal options before moving outside the organization. However, with the makeup of the team’s roster and limited internal options available, nothing can be ruled out at this time.
To complicate things further, Blues defenseman Torey Krug left the game in the third period, suffering an upper-body injury. As a result, the team may be forced to call a defenseman from the Springfield Thunderbirds to join the club. That call-up might be Tyler Tucker, who currently leads his fellow Thunderbirds defensemen with one goal and six points in eight games this season.
The Blues have two days to regroup and work out a new game plan before they play host to the New York Islanders on Thursday. They split the season series in 2021-22 with a 1-1 record and a plus-four goal differential. Defenseman Justin Faulk is tied for the team lead in points as he will be relied upon in a higher capacity should the injury to Krug leave him sidelined for an extended period. His nine points in eight games are tied for third in the NHL among all defensemen and are setting the stage for a career-high point total previously set in 2014-15 with the Carolina Hurricanes when he scored 50 points.