The month of March cannot end soon enough for the St. Louis Blues. After enjoying five months of exhilarating hockey, the team has completely fallen on its face this month. Through twelves games in March, St. Louis is an abysmal 3-6-3, with two more games to go before the calendar turns to April. Before this recent slide, the Blues were largely viewed as a contender in the Western Conference, however, if the ship is not righted in a timely fashion, St. Louis could see a quick exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
So what exactly is wrong with the St. Louis Blues? How can a team that stacked wins for three-quarters of the season struggle so much as we near the finish line? Players and coaches have been asked these questions following their two most recent losses and their conflicting answers tell us that the situation is a bit more complicated than simply a lack of effort.
The defense has been questionable at best
Defense has been the focal point for Blues hockey for the better part of the last decade. To see the team struggling so much with what was once their greatest strength has been frustrating for St. Louis fans. The harsh realization that this year’s defensive group is not the same as the group that won the Stanley Cup has been an eye opening experience, though one that most fans should have anticipated. Only Colton Parayko and Robert Bortuzzo remain from that 2018-19 defense. After a series of trades, free agency departures, and retirements, the defense in St. Louis is not the defense of old.
This current defensive group not only has different personnel compared to past seasons, but the structure of the group has also changed significantly. While the Blues of old were full of large defenders who loved to clear the crease, this current group is built on speed and the ability to move the puck from zone to zone. While this style of play can be effective and fun to watch when all is clicking, as we have seen for the past few weeks, it can grow very tiring during times of struggle.
The goals have dried up
While the defense has received criticism pretty much the entire season, the offense has deservedly received praise throughout the 2021-22 campaign. The Blues currently have four players with at least twenty goals this season, with another three within two goals of adding their names to that list. The power play has ranked in the top five in the NHL all season and is currently the number three unit in the league.
The offensive depth has been nothing short of impressive. However, as the old saying goes, what goes up, must come down. Unfortunately for the Blues, all of their offense is seeming to come down at once. After a sensational start to the year, Jordan Kyrou has been struggling to find the net, while snipers Vladimir Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich have also undergone dry spells of late. Ryan O’Reilly has not been the offensive force this year that he has been in the past, while veterans Brayden Schenn and David Perron both experienced slow starts to the season before catching fire recently.
If the Blues are to be serious Stanley Cup contenders, it is going to take all of their offensive weapons to find their game at the same time. As the league’s trade deadline is now behind us, there are no reinforcements coming. The 2021-22 St. Louis Blues are built to win with offense coming from both their forwards and their group of puck-moving defensemen. The problems defensively are frankly too much to completely get right before the end of the season, so it is going to take an offensive renaissance if the Blues want to hoist silverware this spring.
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