The St. Louis Blues Take on the Yotes again!!
The St. Louis Blues will play their 14th game of this shorten season tonight against the -gasps- Arizona Coyotes for the 5th consecutive time. What is worse, is the next two games are also against the Yotes. Welcome to the Covid-19 era in major sports.
The Blues are at the quarter pole and while some things look rosy, there are other things that just make you want to yell and scream with “BluesFanreacts” on YouTube.
This season has been one that it is hard to say “this one thing” or “that problem over there” or even “it is still early” but those are the things you hear coming from the team and the fan base.
Let us delve into some of the happenings. Let us look at a few of the numbers. What is going right? What is going wrong? Let us also look ahead at what we can expect as the schedule continues to shift.
The Changing Schedule and standings.
What started with one player in Vegas has now become multiple teams and numerous postponements and the team that may be most affected has no one on the COVID-19 Protocol list. The St. Louis Blues currently have 8 games that have been rescheduled or pending rescheduling.
The Blues and Arizona Coyotes will play a record 7 straight games against each other, having played 4 in St. Louis and scheduled to play three in four days over the holiday weekend starting today. During the four-game homestand, the Blues picked up three of an available eight points. A losing homestand can leave a bad taste in the mouth for all involved.
The Blues have played 13 games of this shortened season and they are one game short of the quarter pole.
The Blues currently sit second in the Honda West division standings.
West Division Standings by Points on 12 Feb. NHL.com
At face value that may be ok but if we take a deeper look, the numbers can be unnerving for the team and the fans. First, while the NHL lists the division rankings by points, Points do not account for games in hand. The NHL used Points Percentage, the percentage of points earned against total points available, to determine the 24 teams that made the postseason in 2020.
If we look at the standing based on Points Percentage (P%), we see a different story.
West Division standings by P% on 12 Feb. NHL.COM
Here we see the Colorado Avalanche overtakes ST. Louis and the Minnesota Wild jumps into a playoff spot. Both the Wild and Avalanche are still not on the ice. Vegas has been on a tear since returning to play but could have more games postponed as a player was taken off the ice during their games against the Anaheim Ducks the other night.
Points percentage could come into effect if all of the teams do not play 56 games in a division.
The NHL has been as proactive as it could be given the circumstances. On Tuesday they released a second update to the COVID-19 policy. These changes are to help slow the spread of the virus and keep team, fans, and families safe.
While COVID-19 has been the headline, the Blues special teams have been the subheading. The Blues were the third-best team in the league on the Power Play (PP) last season and 18th on the Penalty Kill (PK). This season 18th is not looking all that bad.
St. Louis’ PP going into tonight’s contest sits at 28th in the league a whopping 11.4%. The PK is 29th at 69.6% the Blues have not allowed a short-handed goal nor have they scored one. During practice, this week assistant coach Steve Ott worked with the PK and the PP. Former Dallas Stars Head Coach Jim Montgomery was brought in as a special team’s guru, but his message has not taken root yet.
Special teams can be looked at as one area that improvement could mean improvement in the standing and P%.
Both the PP and PK have a new look this season. D Torey Krug and F Mike Hoffman, both considered to be specialists on special teams joined the Blues in the off-season. To this point, St. Louis has only 5 PP goals. The PP has seemed very discombobulated. Not taking good shots or not taking shots at all.
Another number that may go along with the failure of the special teams would be hit. The Blues are considered a heavy team, meaning they are in on both the forecheck and backcheck. With the number of penalties called on the team, they must be at the top of the league in hits, right? Nope.
The Blues are 15th in total hits at 277 but 19th in Hits/60 at 20.91. for a heavy team, those numbers do not compute.
The Blues defense should be one of the best in the league. Krug and Colton Parayko along with Marco Scandella and the resurgent Justin Faulk is a solid top four who can give you lots of minutes in every situation.
Scandella is day-to-day, and Parayko has an undocumented injury, possibly lower body that has hindered him all season. Vince Dunn in the third pairing was expected to have a breakout season has been rumored to be on the trade block and has been up and down at best.
Niko Mikkola has been somewhat of a bright spot but is young and learning.
The Yotes, again? Yes, St. Louis the Yotes again!
This team has the talent to win now!!! What is holding them back is the question? The Coyotes do match up well against the Blues, but they should not be losing three in a row to a team that many looked at as an also-ran.
Tonight, the real Blues need to show up, control the Neutral Zone and slow the Coyotes down. This task will be made even harder as Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be back in the lineup tonight for the Yotes. The Yotes are running high after taking 3 straights at enterprise and will be looking for some home cooking to fry the Blues just a bit more.
I wrote a few weeks back that this season was the toughest test for St Louis’ Head Coach Berube and he also stated, “he is tired of losing to the Coyotes,” now is the time for him to take this team by the nostrils and lead them to a string of victories.
The season is short and due to COVID, you will play the Knights, Wild, and Avalanche for almost a month in March.
The Time to win is NOW!!!!
Till next time Hockey FANS.
Guy “Hawaii Blues Fan” Bensing