All-Star Break Checklist for the
St. Louis Blues
Following a huge game against the Red Wings tonight and a big test against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday the St. Louis Blues will enjoy a lengthy amount of time off as the league takes a break for the All-Star festivities. Following their game on Tuesday the Blues won't have another contest until Friday, February 3rd when they host the Los Angeles Kings at the Scottrade Center. With only Brian Elliott participating in the All-Star Game in Ottawa, the rest of the club has a checklist of items to address during their sizable break.
Rest & Recover
First and foremost, the Blues deserve a bit of a break. To date they have had an outstanding month of January that has seen them not only retain a spot in the playoffs but also challenge the best teams in the league for the number one spot. Granted, the club's schedule has been a bit easier than most. They have enjoyed spending the vast majority of their time playing at home while other team's have been forced to travel more often.
Looking ahead the Blues have a February that has a considerable amount of travel. The Blues only play two road games in the month of January compared to a February that has them on the road nine times.
For the most part, the St. Louis Blues are pretty healthy. One could easily claim that the Blues are one of the healthiest teams in the league. Still, the break presents an opportunity for those that are suffering more serious injuries to continue progressing while not missing any NHL time.
Andy McDonald, Kent Huskins and Alex Steen could all use the break as a chance to finally turn the corner in their road to recovery. Steen appears to be the closest of the three but he hasn't been able to climb over the last hurdle separating him from NHL action.
The rest of the squad can use the break to heal up from all the minor injuries that naturally occur during the course of regular action in the NHL. All the bruises, cuts, scraps, strains and sprains will have time to mend during the team's nine days between games.
Work on Improving
While the St. Louis roster enjoys some time off the coaching staff needs to figure out if there are any strategies and tactics they can develop and employ that will help carry the Blues to the next level. The power play has improved, the defense and goaltending have been spectacular, but the team's overall offense still leaves a lot to be desired.
In my opinion, it is the responsibility of the players to improve the offense as the coaching staff has created a winning strategy. Upon returning to practice, one can hope some time off might be the magic solution to getting the St. Louis offense firing.
The Blues have won a lot of their recent games by working harder than the opposition. This mentality is one that the Blues can't afford to have suddenly go missing after some time away from the rink. While the break should serve as a time to get away from the game for a little while, the Blues can not let it derail their aspirations and more importantly, their focus.
The biggest test of the year lies ahead and the Blues need to come back from the break focused for a challenging run down the stretch. Their recent success has been enjoyable yet it came during a portion of the schedule that favored the Blues heavily, with so many games at home and several coming against faltering opponents. Now the Blues will need to translate their success at home on the road and will need to continue their recent rate of success against a tougher opposition.
The break should be used as that - a break. It shouldn't be a time where players lose focus, momentum or determination as the Blues will need to fire on all cylinders if they hope to maintain their spot in the standings.