The St. Louis Blues have lacked something all season long. Consistency and urgency. Many will tell you that the regular season doesn’t matter, but it does. It definitely isn’t the most important part of the war, but it is the longest battle. It so often can show a glimpse of what the future holds when playoffs arrive.
Though the Blues sit in 2nd in the Central Division, and 5th overall in the league, they have done poorly all season against the Western Conference top 8. The Blues are now 7-10-2 against the Western top 8 and they’re 4-7 against Central Division teams. Folks, these are the teams the Blues will have to get through in order to make a deep run in the playoffs. This is one instance where they lack a sense of urgency. The Blues also lack a sense of urgency when they lose a lead. Certainly, when a team takes a lead, they take the momentum as well, in most instances the Blues don’t answer, but allow more goals. I hate to be so critical as to say the Blues lack heart, but when you don’t play 60 minute games, and show no urgency when playing your rivals, what do you call it?
The beginning of this season showed just how bright of a future Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Jori Lehtera could have in the NHL. With the exception of Lehtera having some dry spells, that line has hardly skipped a beat. I would go as far as saying Schwartz has been our most consistent and most valuable player. I know some would say Tarasenko, and maybe that’s true, but Schwartz just seems to be a more well-rounded player. Not by a long shot, but just more key. Either way, I’m getting off track. Before the trade deadline, the Blues had some struggling defensive issues. At times they showed no pressure, and were giving up way too many odd man rushes. The lack of physicality and pressure is on the defense, no one else can be blamed for defense not holding pressure, not getting players out of the front of the net, and playing a more physical game. Perhaps the odd man rushes could be blamed on Coach Ken Hitchcock for instructing players to abandon their defensive posts to push up on offense. I don’t know who to blame for that, I’m not in the locker room or at practices. I don’t know what Hitchcock was telling defense, but I do know that defense pushing up so far was, and will, create odd man rushes.
As of recent, defense has tightened up a lot. Maybe some of that has to do with the addition of Robert Bortuzzo and Zbynek Michalek. Considering Michalek’s first game was last night, I’m not suggesting so much of their performance as much as the shake-up it’s self. I definitely think Bortuzzo’s physical play has been great, I hope both players help keep our defense sound.
The biggest lack of consistency has been with our top line of David Backes, Alex Steen, and Tj Oshie. This line took a back seat to the “STL” line early in the season. When trade rumors started swirling including Steen and Oshie, the line caught fire and was one of the best in the league. That fire has been put out. Steen has gone ice-cold. With the exception of his assist last night, and 3 against Toronto, Steen has been invisible lately. The Blues need more from him. Backes and Oshie haven’t done horrible, but it’s just key to get consistency from our top players. The Blues can not, and will not, succeed unless everyone gets on the same page and they all click together.
I love Jake Allen and Brian Elliott, but they are not superstars. They will not steal games like Pekka Rinne, Carey Price, or some of the other top goalies around the league. I’m not saying they’re not capable of stealing games, just not as often as the elites. The Blues’ success has to come from consistency from everyone. It’s the only way they can win in the playoffs. They can be the best team in the league if they find that consistency. I hope they find it.