It would be easy to just blame Jaroslav Halak. When a goalie gets yanked after allowing three goals on eight shots — as Halak did Saturday in a 5-2 loss to Anaheim — he’s going to be a target.
When that same goalie boasts a modest .910 save percentage on the season, he becomes an even easier target (e.g., for bloggers who think the Blues should give Buffalo a call about Ryan Miller.)
But to pin the St. Louis Blues’ recent struggles on one position would be entirely unfair. Saturday’s loss was their third in four outings. And to be perfectly honest, they weren’t all that great Thursday when they beat the Islanders, 5-1.
“I just don’t think we’re working hard enough,” forward Vladimir Sobotka said, per the Post-Dispatch. “We’re losing every battle. We’re just not prepared for a battle.”
One of the NHL’s best possession teams based on measures like Corsi and Fenwick, the Blues have been far from dominant in their last four games.
In graphical form, via Extra Skater:
Those last four bars suggest the Blues were out-possessed when the score was close in each of their last four games. You can see the bars are usually in positive territory for St. Louis. (PHT analysis made easy: Up good, down bad.)
“The execution of the game plan the first five or 10 minutes is unacceptable,” defenseman Barret Jackman said in plain English. “That’s not the way that this team is built. We’re built on strong starts and getting engaged early and we haven’t been doing that.”
The Blues will get their next chance to get engaged early when they play the Jets tomorrow in Winnipeg.
“We’ve had a lot of success, but now we’ve got to really dig in,” said coach Ken Hitchcock. “Every game is a process. It’s not the end of the world, it’s a process. We had lots of success with the process. But we’re going to have to get a better buy-in, and this really starts with your top players. Our top players have to buy this because otherwise we’re just going to become a collection of individuals.”