ST. LOUIS – The Blues are right in the middle of a 3-team race for the Central Division crown. To win the Central and vie for the top spot in the Western Conference, the Blues will need to dig deep and achieve a far superior level of consistency than what they currently possess. After winning 6 games in a row, 4 against contending teams, the Blues have dropped 2 in a row against the worst teams in the Pacific Division. St. Louis will need to quickly fix several issues if they want any chance at winning the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup.
- Special Teams
The Blues power play is currently ranked 6th in the league at 21.8% on the power play and 3rd at 84.4% on the penalty kill. The Blues will need to pay especially close attention to their power play, which allowed 2 goals against in their recent outing against Calgary. The Blues will need to lock down the penalty kill and be stronger on the power play to have success. The penalty kill must continue to turn pucks over quickly in either neutral ice or just inside the defensive zone blue line. The key will be to not allow offensive threats, like those present on the Stars and Hawks, to establish the cycle or get easy paths to the net with speed. The power play will need to win the offensive zone faceoff and quickly establish zone pressure. The Blues will definitely need to be as aggressive as possible early in the power play by getting shots to the net through traffic and picking up rebounds.
St. Louis owns a plus-5 goal differential going into tonight’s game against Vancouver, which is less than stellar. The Blues will need to find ways to score key goals in tight playoff games, and to do so, they will need more balance from all 4 lines. Players that could step up on the score sheet would include guys like Dmitrij Jaskin, Kyle Brodziak, and Scottie Upshall. The Blues will need to win more one-on-one battles along the boards in the offensive zone, apply a stronger fore check, and be more crisp and accurate on their passes. The Blues are turning pucks over in the neutral or defensive zone far too often, and will need to correct it by simplifying their rushes and puck movement through neutral ice.
Injuries have killed the Blues all season long, and both Brian Elliott and Jake Allen have spent time on IR. Healthy, strong and clutch goaltending is necessary to win in the playoffs. Elliott is coming off of IR and will start in tonight’s game after suffering an injury that kept him out for 10 games. Both Elliott and Allen have shown stretches of brilliance this season. The question moving forward will be whether or not Hitchcock leans on Allen or Elliott more, especially once the playoffs begin. Either way, St. Louis will need to trust that the goaltending is going to be ready to take on the playoff pressure. Whether it’s Allen or Elliott, one of them will need to be dominant and locked in to begin the Western Conference Quarterfinals.