The St. Louis Blues had another hiccup last night, falling 6-4 at home to Ottawa. They only mustered 23 shots on Sens goalie Mike Condon — and that’s been a theme in their past seven games. In fact, the Blues haven’t registered more than 26 shots since beating Chicago in the Winter Classic.
It was a particularly disappointing effort against the Senators. St. Louis had just returned from a California road trip, which started with a bad loss in Los Angeles but finished with encouraging wins in San Jose and Anaheim.
“We just didn’t manage the puck very well on the boards,” head coach Ken Hitchcock said, per the Post-Dispatch. “We weren’t as determined and as effort-based on the boards as were the two games previous.”
The Blues’ record now sits at a modest 23-17-5. For a team that only lost 24 times in regulation last season, it’s been a fairly significant fall-off. It’s also fair to say the departures of David Backes, Troy Brouwer, and Brian Elliott have been felt.
Slightly more than halfway through the schedule, St. Louis is by no means guaranteed a playoff spot. Nashville, with a game in hand, is lurking just three points back for third place in the Central. And if the Blues are caught by the Preds, they’ll have to fend off Los Angeles, Calgary, Vancouver, and perhaps Dallas or Winnipeg for one of the two wild-card spots.
It would be easy to just blame the goaltending. But while it’s true that neither Jake Allen nor Carter Hutton have been very good, the Blues have not been the dominant possession team they’ve shown they can be. In their last 20 games, their score-adjusted Corsi ranks 20th in the league. Now compare that to their last 20 games of last season, when they ranked third.
“I’d like to see us take control of the game a little bit more,” said forward Alex Steen, who’s been with the Blues long enough to know what a good performance looks and feels like.
Looking ahead, the Blues get a big test Thursday at home to Washington, then hit the road for three games in Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, and Minnesota.
A better performance against the Caps would go a long way. But only if it’s followed up with another and another.
Bottom line: it’s time for the Blues to get back to playing the way they can. If they still can.