The Pandemic takes its toll on St. Louis.
When we look back on the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of thoughts will be instantly placed in our minds. For some people, the image of never being able to go to a relative’s funeral will pop in mind, or for others, it may be the canceled trip to the Bahamas you saved up for years to see and yet never happened. To me, it is how I have worked on myself in the pandemic to be the best man I could possibly be.
For the National Hockey League, the last game played in the 2019-20 regular season was on March 11, 2020. When the pandemic hit, the NHL teams were bracing for the postseason as some teams were coming in hot to the postseason and some were cooling right down prior to the playoffs. The pandemic changed the whole landscape of the NHL world when it happened though, as the Blues, for example, were in first place entering the shutdown. They had just won the makeup game against the Anaheim Ducks.
They had 94 points in 71 games, good for first place in the West and the team was effectively holding off the Avalanche to maintain that position. Something changed in the three months that followed the shutdown entering the playoffs though. In the playoffs, the Blues had to face the other three top teams in the conference, which resulted in the team falling from first place to fourth place in the conference.
This was mostly due to the fact they lost the three games against their formidable opponents. What is even worse than falling down when you were first in the league a few months ago, is when you lose in the first round against the upstart Vancouver Canucks whose speed took over for the tired veteran squad of the Blues. For St Louis, the pandemic was the worst thing to have possibly happened to them as they went from Cup contender and reigning champ to a first-round outage.
Entering the pandemic shorten 2020-21 NHL season, the Blues had tempered expectations but many people still had picked them to finish third in their division and easily making the playoffs. That was not the case. The Note entered the season off of a disappointing run most notably rippled by poor goaltending and a lack of speed, but also without numerous key veteran pieces who shaped the team such as captain Alex Pietrangelo, Alex Steen, and Jay Bouwmeester.
All three of them were part of the team’s identity for numerous seasons and represented that leadership core. While the Blues acquired Torey Krug to replace Pietrangelo and signed Mike Hoffman to add a scoring punch, the Blues were a vastly different team than the one who won the coveted Stanley Cup merely 18 months before the start of the season.
The fact that the Blues lost a lot, and struggled in the bubble, should’ve given us an indication to temper our expectations of them entering the season. Quite simply, the Blues have gotten worse. Combine that fact with the rising Minnesota Wild, the powerhouses of the Avalanche and Golden Knights, and the pretty average but still able to provide a challenge to the Blues in the Arizona Coyotes. In this division, we truly overestimated the Blues making a dent in the standings. That may be why they did not do as expected this season.
Throughout the duration of the 2020-21 NHL Pandemic season the Blues struggle. They lost the season series to the mediocre Arizona Coyotes and only had a 21-18-8 record from February to May resulting in the Blues going from 94 points in 71 games, a .64 point percentage, last season to a measly 63 points in 56 games. The Blues dropped from a 64 points percentage to a 56 p%. In a full season last season, the Blues were on pace for 109 points. This year they were on pace for 92 points. That is a 17-point difference, which is a big fall in the National Hockey League.
The offense had players like newly named captain Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, and Jordan Kyrou leading the charge. The Blues’ biggest sniper, Vladimir Tarasenko, was injured for much of the year, resulting in him only playing 24 games this season. Despite that, the Blues finished the year with 169 goals which finished 14th best in the league. This means that even if Tarasenko were healthy, the Blues would not even have a Top 10 offense.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) May 24, 2021
Defensively, the Blues had 170 goals against in the league, 19th best. This below average mark was due to Binnington’s struggles in the net, the loss of key backup Jake Allen, and the revitalized Blues defense corps which fell well below expectations for what they used to be just a year before.
The entrance into the 2021 NHL playoffs had the Blues, a very average club entering the postseason with a record since February. Most teams entering the playoff hunt eventually miss the cut, but the Blues made it and had a date with the reigning President Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche. While the Blues entered the postseason with an average offense and a below-average defense, the Avalanche entered the playoffs with the best offense in the league and the third-best defense.
Quite frankly Colorado just outmatched the Blues in every single category. There is a reason why the Blues were swept and it was because they were outplayed at nearly every level except perhaps goaltending where Binnington made up for his abysmal season and had a stellar yet short postseason. Despite the loss of Justin Faulk in the playoffs due to Nazem Kadri’s hit, the Blues were still out of this world outmatched and honestly whoever had the Blues winning the series was relying on their fandom.
The Blues pandemic season was disappointing this year and I hope this helps explains why and how they were a disappointment and maybe eases a little pain. Let us hope the Pandemic Blues are buried when the next season begins.
That is the view from up North.