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Two games in, Ryan O’Reilly has played as expected, winning faceoffs and assisting goals.
I will admit that, following the Blues’ 5-4 OT loss to the Blackhawks on Saturday, I was alarmed.
And I think many other fans were too. After all, the Blues lost their first two games of the season. Jake Allen surrendered way too many goals. The defense was atrocious. The only forward to have any goals so far is Vladimir Tarasenko. The first thought to cross my mind, and many others, is that these are the typical Blues who don’t do the hard work and hustle necessary to win hockey games.
But after a day to calm down, have some cofffee, and contemplate it further, we need to take comfort in the likely fact that the ship will be righted in due course.
There are 5 factors at play, and their resolution will go hand-in-hand with improved play from the Blues:
- The defensemen have been at less than full strength. Robert Bortuzzo did not play in the first game of the season due to being suspended during the preseason. And Joel Edmundson is recovering from a minor injury. Those 2 are very important pieces to the D-corps, and having both in the lineup will help Pietrangelo and his rearguard play better and consistently.
- There are a lot of new faces on the roster, 7 to be exact. That’s 1/3 of the roster, actually, and it could take time for everyone to play their part and make up the identity of the club. Sure, they’ve had the preseason games to do that, but preseason games are different from regular season games. NHL clubs don’t run out their full squads for any particular preseason game. Like the Blues, the other clubs use the games to play young kids like Thomas and Kyrou, to see if they can contribute during the regular season.
- The leaders will show the way. Alex Pietrangelo has been singled out for poor play, and he is very much aware of that, and that he needs to correct it. And he will. Ryan O’Reilly said that the team is playing to score, not executing the fundamentals and playing protectively through the neutral zone. I believe that the Captain and his alternates will hold the team accountable, especially after Coach Mike Yeo took them to task in his press conference.
- Believe it or not, the Blues have goalie depth on which to lean. Now, Jake Allen is the No. 1, through and through. But, winning is everything, and if Allen’s play does nto improve, provided he’s supported by offense and defense, then Coach Yeo will have no choice but to give Allen extended time off by playing Chad Johnson. Perhaps Doug Armstrong would even consider calling up Ville Husso for a start or two. It’s rare that an NHL club would carry a 3rd goalie, but you know what they say about desperate times….
- The individual Blues have a better track record than this. Ryan O’Reilly is a proven producer. And he’s showing that in just two games, winning faceoffs like crazy and showing his playmaking skill. Pietrangelo, Edmundson, and Parayko are good defenders who know how to protect against goals. Allen is capable of stellar netminding. We will see these elements come together and put wins in the “W” column.
With all these things to consider, it’s simply too early to make any real judgments about this team. Every team in the league will lose games they shouldn’t. Or play bad defense for a time. Or whose goalie will let in softies. Let’s not worry too much and see how the team responds to these first two games. #LGB.