For those that follow the St. Louis Blues, it is easy to notice that the team tends to play to the level of the opposition. While the Blues are enjoying a solid regular season so far, sitting comfortably in 2nd place in the Central Division, there are still consistency issues with the team that need to be resolved.
With recent losses to teams such as the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, and Montreal Canadiens, there is now an established pattern when St. Louis faces off against teams that are out of playoff contention. That much is obvious, but the reasoning as to why the team struggles against opponents that are inferior on paper should be addressed.
Lack of Intensity
Using the eye test as the barometer for judgment, the common theme in the recent losses for the Blues is an apparent lack of intensity. When at their best, the Blues are a team that is able to get out to a hot start and play the possession game after establishing an early lead. That hasn’t been the case in several games in which the Blues were considered heavy favourites. They have often come out of the gate slowly and lethargic, leading opponents to open up the scoring and turn the Blues’ game plan on its head.
One has to wonder if it’s simply a case of a team buying into its own hype. Many of the players on the 2021-22 squad were in St. Louis for the Stanley Cup in 2019. The winning culture that has been established over the past decade has led to a team that expects victory and nothing less. Though as so often happens in professional sports, the expectation of victory alone is proving to be insufficient.
In order to regain the consistency that is necessary to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, the Blues need to dig deep and remember how they got to where they are in the first place. The championship team of three years ago was famously in last place halfway through the season, so this group of players should know that position in the standings does not always dictate the outcome of a game. The hard work and dedication that is required over a full sixty minutes still apply whether you are in the first place or last.
Will it matter come playoff time?
The good news for the Blues is that there are no bad teams in the playoffs. It will be difficult for the team to play down to its competition when every possible opponent is in the top half of the NHL. There is still plenty of time between now and the start of the playoffs, however, consistency in the regular season only sets you up for a more favourable postseason.
What often separates the good teams from the elite is the ability to constantly defeat the teams you are expected to beat. More often than not, great teams will win about half of the games against the other good teams, but separate themselves in the standings by consistently defeating inferior opposition.
That recipe is often what separates division winners from wild card representatives. While the Blues are unlikely to catch the first place Colorado Avalanche, who look to be on their way to a second consecutive President’s Trophy, home ice in the first round of the playoffs is still very much in play and is something the team should strive for down the stretch. The Blues have been tough to beat at the Enterprise Center all season long and could stand to use that advantage at least for the first round.
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