The St. Louis Blues have had a franchise year. They’ve shattered team records, and have held a spot in the top five of the league all year. Brayden Schenn has played better than arguably any Blues player in the past 20 years. Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Jaden Schwartz have been a deadly top line for the team. The three have combined for 108 points already this year.
The St. Louis Blues defensemen have also been a popular headline. In the beginning of the year, they were the main reason the Blues were winning. The defensemen are still a factor in the team’s offense, but not nearly as much as they were earlier on. Between the eight defensemen who have donned a Blues jersey this season, there are a combined 82 points. About 62 percent of these points have come from star defenders Alex Pietrangelo (28) and Colton Parayko (23). Unfortunately, those scoring streaks are drying up.
The St. Louis Blues Defensemen Stopped Defending
The defenders have calmed down with their scoring, for now. The three D who see the most ice time, Pietrangelo, Parayko, and Joel Edmundson, have combined for only seven points in the past five games. Without their prolific scoring, the Blues back six simply haven’t looked good.
It’s not that the team’s defense is terrible in their own end. They aren’t. All six players who man the Blues blue line have great defensive awareness, but slip up in little areas. These little mistakes snowball into bigger ordeals, and it’s costing St. Louis their winning record. In the 4-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the defense had a lot of these slip-ups.
Adam Lowry’s Goal
The first came early in the second period when Adam Lowry opened the scoring. Jets Kyle Connor skated the puck into the zone on a typical break-in. He carried it around the net and was chased by both Parayko and Edmundson, the two defensemen on the ice. Some coaches would argue even having one defenceman chase behind the net is intolerable. Having both players chase the puck carrier below the goal line would be enough to make some older coaches’ heads explode. For good reason too. When Parayko and Edmundson both sandwiched Connor to the boards, he kicked the puck to Andrew Copp who was in the corner.
This left Paul Stastny, who was in great position covering Lowry in front of the net, in a very sticky situation. Copp had the puck in the corner, with plenty of ice to either step up for a shot or step closer to the net to open up a pass or rebound. Copp did the latter. Stastny, in an attempt to try and protect against both the pass and the shot, dove. Once Stastny hit the ice, it was a simple backdoor pass to Lowry who buried it. To put it simply, both defensemen going behind the net left both Jake Allen and Stastny out to dry. There wasn’t much either could do to prevent a goal there.
Mark Scheifele’s Goal
There was another big slip up in the third period. While it wasn’t as drastic as Edmundson and Parayko doing something 14-year-olds know not to do, it’s still wasn’t pretty. The Jets forced the puck from one end to the other and then went for a line change. Only two Jets were in still the zone, though, the rest going for a line change. The two Jets were Josh Morrissey, who had the puck, and Mark Scheifele, who was cutting to the middle. Instead of picking up Winnipeg’s leading goal scorer, Vince Dunn and two forwards moved progressively closer to the weak side boards.
This cut the ice into three zones. The first zone held Morrisey, who was being fairly well defended by Pietrangelo. The second zone held Schiefele, who was crashing the net. The third had Dunn and the two forwards, just realizing that Schiefele was wide open in front of the net. Before Dunn could get there, the puck was on Schiefele’s stick and a split second later it was in the net.
This was terrible positioning by all Blues on the ice, but Dunn especially. As the weak side defenseman, he should generally be protecting the center ice pass. Instead, he was on the other side of the ice. If Dunn could’ve lunged and lifted Schiefele’s stick, or dove to knock the puck away, there’s a good chance the puck wouldn’t have ended up in the back of the Blues net. Instead, a combination of poor positioning and a lack of determination cost the Blues another crucial goal.
These mishaps aren’t rare anymore, either. It seems every game the defense has a note-worthy mistake. Yes, the players aren’t perfect, but some of these slip-ups aren’t acceptable, including the two mentioned above. They know what they need to do, but it seems like they forget to actually do it sometimes.
Some fans are quick to blame scoring or goaltending for the lack of success lately. But neither of those are worries, at least for the time being. The biggest issue is the defensive awareness of, well, the defense. Since Schwartz was put on the injury reserve, the Blues are tied for the most losses in the league (8). They’re also among the top of the league in goals against during that stretch. They have allowed six more goals than the Jets and seven more than the Nashville Predators; the two teams above them in the Western Conference.
If the Blues want to find the win column again, they need to stop allowing so many mistakes in the defensive-zone.
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