Clarifying the Blues Depth
The teams who show the ability to move on from wins and losses will be the ones to have success this season. Those who carry one game into the next or get too high or too low after wins and losses will struggle.
When you play virtually every night there is no alternative but to turn the page.
There’s a lot of discussion regarding how deep the Blues are offensively. This needs to be clarified just a tad.
There’s no question the Blues have depth, but we’re not talking star power or individual explosiveness. It’s more about the Blues having the depth to play a style that makes them successful.
Anyone who has watched the Blues the last 79 games can see what formula works for this club. They’re deep enough to play a fast pace, forechecking, backchecking, in your face, brand of hockey that buckles the opposition.
When they try to play a skilled game or an individual game, or when they cheat as Ken Hitchcock likes to say, they get exposed. We’ve seen this happen two games in a row.
There are players in the Blues dressing room who feel a superstar added to the mix would disrupt team chemistry. On this team every player is expected to forecheck and dig pucks out of the corners. Everyone plays under the same rules, there are no separate guidelines for individual players.
Now I’m not ignoring the fact the Blues have talent but rather pointing out they have to play a certain style if they want to be taken seriously as a contending team. This is why they struggled under previous head coaches. Trust me they didn’t become good overnight under ken Hitchcock. The players bought in to how he asked them to play and it led to a 109 point season a year ago.
There’s a difference between scoring depth vs. depth to play a specific style. The Blues have the personnel to win with but they better stay on the same page.
Playing with Expectations…
Your world changes when you no longer sneak up on people. Opposing teams know how good the St. Louis Blues are and they measure themselves when they compete against them.
Playing with expectations is still new to this group when you consider the last six or seven seasons. They’re getting everyone’s “A” game and this won’t change anytime soon.
Ken Hitchcock agrees with this assessment and tells me he needs his club to embrace the challenge every night. One way or another they need to find a way to plow through it.
The adrenaline the team carried the first five games has worn off and they must find a way to get the energy back.
The last time the Blues were forced to respond with expectations was in the playoffs last year against Los Angeles.
Russell Sits…Redden to play with Poalk.
The last two games have been nothing to get excited about especially for D-men Kris Russell and Roman Polak. Collectively they’re a minus-4 and haven’t looked anything like what we saw last spring in the playoffs. They were the best pair in the post-season and played around 60 games together last year.
They’ve been caught running around which has led to numerous breakdowns. When you don’t control your gap and have bad body position it leads to bad bounces landing on the stick of the opponent. Both Nashville and Detroit did a good job of going to the net but we don’t typically see these two get beat the way they have the last two games.
The Blues have already indicated they’d like to re-sign Russell who is in the final year of his contract and I don’t anticipate him being out of the lineup very long.
Even Reaves will admit he’s trying to do too much. He watched every one of his shifts against Detroit and termed his play as a “debacle”.
He says he put too much pressure on himself before Detroit and it led to an off game. One thing he knows he can’t do is chase hits that aren’t there. We saw this multiple times Thursday night and I expect his game to calm down and get under control.
One of the best off-season moves might have been adding longtime NHL D-man Sergei Zubov to the organization.
A major reason for him coming on board was to look after Vladimir Tarasenko. Obviously he has a history with Doug Armstrong and Hitchcock during his time with Dallas. He also was an assistant coach with SKA in the KHL where Tarasenko was traded last season and finished the year. These two have formed a very good relationship and Tarasenko says has been very helpful in adjusting to life in North America.
Zubov also talks with Hitchcock and helps analyze the Blues play defensively. This guy belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame and was pretty much an automatic 10 goal, 40 assist player during his career.
Defensively the Blues are a collective minus-23 the last three games.
The Blues have added some speed to the David Backes, TJ Oshie line with the addition of Andy McDonald. Look for this line to play at a much quicker pace and for Oshie to find himself way more involved offensively than we’ve seen.
David Perron slides down to play with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart.
Alex Steen centers Tarasenko and Sobotka.
Jaro Halak looked sharp today taking in the morning skate as he continues to recover from a groin injury. He could be ready Monday when the LA Kings come to town.
It’s important the Blues gets some points at home, you only get so many four-game home stands in a 48-game season.
The team will honor Wade Redden for his 1,000 game milestone prior to the game.
Ian Cole slides in with Alex Pietrangelo…Cole couldn’t ask for a better opportunity. Will he step up and take advantage?
Alex Steen told me after Thursday's game it's time for the Blues to"Man Up".
More to come,
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