Blues Post Dismal Results in Early February
When it rains, it pours. In the case of the St. Louis Blues, when one area struggles, they all struggle. When one bad break happens, several bad breaks happen. The Blues' defeat against Detroit on Thursday, their second loss to the Red Wings in three games, culminated on of the worst stretches the team has played in at least two years. Zero offense from the team's forwards. Incredibly poor defending from nearly every defenseman. Finally, some extremely disappointing play from Brian Elliott. The Blues have a ton of problems and need to fix them before things really get out of hand.
Take a deep breath.
Make that two.
There's no need to hit the eject button on the season yet. The Blues have played two, perhaps three, incredibly poor games in a row. Unfortunately, the most recent two games haven't just been poor - they've been disturbing.
I'll throw out the team's 5-3 loss to Detroit where an extremely bad call on David Backes turned the tide. That was a loss, but one could argue it wasn't the club's fault.
There are no excuses for the beatings administered by the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings. Those types of losses should be a fluke. They should never occur in consecutive games, especially not on home ice. The Blues should play with increased intensity, drive and determination in front of their home crowd. Instead, the past two nights the Blues have been pushed out of the contest before they ever really got rolling.
So, what's wrong with the Blues?
Where should I start?
Jaroslav Halak's injury apparently knocked a screw loose in Brian Elliott's head. Without Halak on the bench, or between the pipes, Elliott has lost focus, giving up plenty of big rebounds and failing to make the big save when it counts. Elliott's play has been pretty dismal, but you can't place all the blame on his shoulders.
Defense. Or perhaps this should read "Lack of Defense".
At one point in time - you know, a couple weeks ago - the Blues' defense was a strong, resilient group. They played physical, harassing the opposition and pressuring the puck at the point. If the opponent was able to get a shot off, a defender in blue would try his best to block it. Meanwhile, the past two contests have seen the St. Louis defense vanish. We've seen a Predator or a Red Wing wide open in front of the net on numerous occasions. Players have been allowed to walk in on Brian Elliott's goal uncontested That same player has then had time to collect his rebound and bury it in.
The defense as a whole has been slow, lackadaisical and sloppy. Clearing their own zone has been an issue. Staying marked on the opponent has been an even bigger issue.
Enough about the defense. I pretty much could have summed up the D's play by leaving a big, blank space above and you would have gotten the message. They're no where to be found.
Offense. Or perhaps this should read "Lack of Offense".
I Tweeted out a few fun facts during the 5-1 nightmare against Detroit.
St. Louis forwards haven't scored in the past 7 periods. In fact, they haven't scored in approximately the past 155 minutes. The Blues only have two goals over the last 7 periods, both of which were scored by Alex Pietrangelo. As nice as it is to see Pietrangelo contribute to the offense, it's not a good sign when a team's forwards have been shutout for 2+ games.
Overall, the entire team has played reckless, unorganized, sloppy play.
How can the Blues right the ship?
The answer is a tricky one.
In net, the Blues need to hope Halak gets healthy - and soon. Elliott is going through a rough patch that might only be resolved when Halak is healthy enough to push and support him. If for some reason Halak has a setback with his current injury, the Blues might be forced to give Jake Allen a shot in net. After all, it really can't get much worse.
At defense, there's a lot to work on. Kris Russell has made some grave mistakes and needs to polish up his game or risk being permanently replaced by Ian Cole. The rest of the crew as a whole needs to do a better job exiting their own zone, marking forwards and playing physical.
At offense, the forwards seem to be trying to do too much. T.J. Oshie and David Perron are especially guilty for trying to do a bit too much, trying to weave around the entire opposing team when they'd be better off dishing the puck. Turnovers by the forwards down low need to be worked on.
The entire team needs to work on making solid contact with their shots, especially one-timers. Fluttering, slow shots seem to be the new standard. Whatever happened to the blistering slapper?
Unfortunately, the Blues aren't in a position to go through a punishing, grueling practice. They play nearly every other night. While a traditional bag skate is out of the picture, the Blues need to do something - and fast - before this ship really gets out of control.