Blues Struggles Go Beyond Goaltending
Jake Allen has been one of the few bright spots on a Blues team that’s tinkering with underachievement.
The Blues entered the season with heavy expectations and high hopes, they only have so long to turn things around.
Jaroslav Halak is paid to be the Blue number one goalie. The team expects him to play at that level and that’s been the case since he came over from Montreal.
There’s an obvious issue with backup goaltender Brian Elliott. He hasn’t looked comfortable virtually all season and there’s only so much time available to get him straightened out. No team in the NHL, outside of Chicago, can afford to give away games and the Blues certainly fall in this category.
Anyone who saw the Blues 6-4 loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday knows Halak didn’t play well. In a game where the Blues should have secured two points Halak didn’t give his team a chance to win. St. Louis is fragile right now and much of this is contributed to shaky goaltending.
Once LA cut the score to 4-3 you could almost sense the walls were about to cave in.
With Allen coming up the Blues will once again give him an opportunity. Only this time presents a different kind of pressure than he faced last go around.
Last time Allen dealt with nerves, this time there’s pressure to play well and win games for a team needing points.
Allen has been very good, sometimes great, in his four NHL starts. Maybe this is the jolt the Blues need. Afterall he’s delivered the best stretch of goaltending we’ve seen from a Blues netminder this season.
Going into Tuesday’s game Halak had been fine since returning from his injury. His two previous losses included a 1-0 overtime loss to Colorado and a 3-0 blanking to Chicago.
With Elliott struggling there’s even more pressure on Halak’s shoulders to perform. He’s their guy and the Blues are going to either sink or swim with him as their starting goaltender.
Where will Halak’s mind be after essentially being benched tonight? You’d hope he’ll handle himself properly and go about his business in a professional manner.
The Blues had no choice but to get Allen up with the NHL club. How many more times can the team realistically afford to throw Elliott back in there?
I do think Allen can help this hockey club but Halak still needs some assurance that the team believes he can get the job done.
More Than Just the Goalie….
The Blues issues go beyond just goaltending. They have a hole defensively that’s growing by the game. In fairness to Ian Cole, he isn’t a top two NHL D-man yet he’s being asked to be that guy for the Blues. Can he eventually develop into being that player down the road? Who knows but the experiment hasn’t worked.
The questions the Blues have defensively are no secret. It’s the elephant in the room and everyone is seeing the same thing.
The Blues are searching for an upgrade and until then it’s up to these guys to keep their head above water.
The gap on the left side has also affected Alex Pietrangelo’s play. He played a good game on Tuesday but there are times when he’s almost playing shorthanded.
Turn That Frown Upside Down…
Offensively you can see the demeanor on some players specifically T.J. Oshie. He’s struggled the last two games and for one reason or another isn’t playing with the same enthusiasm or passion he’s shown his entire career.
Is it time to separate Oshie and David Backes? These two have been together all season and a different look could maybe do some good.
Hitchcock uses these guys in hard defensive matchups and we may need some clarity as to who they are as players.
Backes is a good secondary offensive player and is very dependable defensively. He plays in all situations and does them very well. Who works harder on a consistent basis than this guy? The question becomes where Backes best slotted? Is he a 2nd line, 3rd line guy? He's got a lot on his plate considering the minutes he plays along with the repsonsibility he's given every single night.
Will the Blues be better served using Alex Steen as their top center when he returns from the IR?
Winning cures all.
The Blues have signed a couple of recent draft picks in Joel Edmundson and Yannick Veilleux.
The team is also working on contracts with Dmitrij Jaskin, goaltender Niklas Lundstrom, Ryan Tesnik, and Teemu Eronen.
More to come,
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