Cleat Geeks

Duelly Noted: What Are the Keys to the Blues Winning the Central?

The St. Louis Blues are a few players short but they are still doing well for themselves this season. They defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks all in the same week to climb to first place in the Central. However, recent losses to the Oilers and Flames have seen the Blues fall back to second. The Blues can still win the division but they will need to make a few adjustments to finish strong.BluesJakeAllen

The first adjustment they will need to make is tightening up their defense around the goal. Jake Allen has been a great goalie for the Blues since Brian Elliott’s injury but the team has left Allen and new backup goalie Anders Nilsson vulnerable to breakaways and easy goals so often during the past few games because they either spent too much time in their own end or suffered bad turnovers. What makes this adjustment particularly important is that up until the games against the Blues, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames were not doing very well at all. If the Blues expect to win the division, they can’t afford to show weakness against teams that have struggled so much. The Blues need Joel Edmundson and the rest of their defense to clear pucks and guard Allen in front of the net. The return of Elliott against Vancouver will help somewhat but they still cannot allow easy goals going forward,

DavidBacklesSecondly, they need wins in regulation heading into the stretch. To do that, they need guys like Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes to continue scoring while the entire team plays a full 60 minutes of two-way hockey all the way through. Two or three goal leads that are held late into 3rd periods are usually good enough to win most games. While the Blues managed to win lots of those games, they only won them in overtime or the shootout and have given other teams points in the standings by letting them get back in the game. If the Blues are serious about winning the division and the playoffs, it is important that the team dominate until the last buzzer sounds.  They could especially use that dominance in their second to last regular season game against the Blackhawks.

Lastly, they need to stay out of the penalty box. They fight to stay at full strength all the time and it has led to teams getting quick power play goals due to the man advantage. The last two games against the Flames and Oilers are examples of this. Questionable calls like the goalie interference call on Backes that resulted in a goal are not helpful, but the Blues do need to play as clean as possible to keep themselves out of the box and take advantage of every power play that they end up with.DuallyNotedFeature

The Blues are on a losing streak at the moment but the return of Brian Elliott may give them a mental lift. They need to find the fire that allowed them to beat three of the NHL’s hottest teams back to back to back. Playing at full strength and getting more chances on the power play will open up more opportunities for the Blues offense down the stretch. There aren’t very many games left to play in the regular season.  As long as they can get out of their zone, figure out how to keep leads in regulation, and stay out of the penalty box, they will win the division very soon.

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