I’m here to offer praise to the Blues instead of condemning Jake Allen, demanding the public caning of Jay Bouwmeester at Kiener Plaza, or blaming everything and anything on Vladimir Tarasenko simply because his name is Vladimir Tarasenko and he doesn’t drop the gloves and fight and get down and dirty in that old-time hockey way that is the true measure of manhood.
Here’s what impresses me about the Blues:
— The are winning games by soccer scores. At this point I have to wonder if the Blues, as a team, will outscore Harry Kane, Mohamad Salah and Raheem Sterling — the top three goal-scorers in the English Premier League.
— The Blues’ goal-scoring shortage is acute. I haven’t seen a shortage so extreme since the oil crisis of 1973 when cars lined up for a mile to get to the gasoline pumps at my grandparents’ general store.
— While the essentially important Jaden Schwartz is legitimately out of the lineup with a fractured foot, I have no explanation for the absence of Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen and other Blues forwards in the goal column. Do they still play for the Blues? Kidding. It was nice to see Steen and Stastny contribute the biscuits in Thursday’s 2-1 win over Las Vegas. The team needs more of that, gents.
— Since Dec. 1 the Blues have averaged 2.06 goals per game, which ranks 31st in the NHL. Given that there are only 31 teams, I’d say that’s pretty bad.
— After straining for two goals in Thursday’s triumph over Vegas, the Blues have now scored three goals or fewer in 13 consecutive games. It’s no coincidence that the 13 games have been played without the services of J. Schwartz, who had emerged as one of the league’s top two-way forwards before the untimely and fluke injury.
So why the hell am I impressed?
Because the Blues are passing a test.
A vital test … a test that will challenge every team in every sport during the course of a season.
And the way a team handles these difficult tests can shape the direction of their entire season.
Despite their offensive blight, the Blues as of Friday morning were in first place in the Central division, and second in the Western Conference, with 54 points. Given their circumstances, The Note’s 26-15-2 record is more than respectable.
Thanks to hard work, structural discipline, a healthy attitude to deal with adversity and the lockdown security provided by goaltenders Carter Hutton and Jake Allen, the Blues are doing enough winning to maintain their prominence in the standings. They have not fallen through the ice. They’ve slipped, sure. But they are not gone under one of those ice-fishing holes to drown.
Over the last 18 games — despite their league-poorest goals per game average of 2.06 — the Blues have managed to go 9-8-1. Now some of you may ask: what’s the big freaking deal about a 9-8-1 record, Dumbo? Why are you giving the Blues a free pass for a mediocre 9-8-1 record since the first of December? My answer: because that 9-8-1 easily could have been 4-13-2 instead. That’s why. It ain’t easy to win games on a daily diet of two goals.
During the current stretch of disconnect — with the Blues mustering only 19 even-strength goals in in the 13 contests sans Schwartz — the boys have limited the damage with a 6-7 record.
That 6-7 record should be much uglier.
They Blues are hanging in, and hanging tough, until Schwartz makes his comeback.
The goaltenders are leading the salvage job. Going back to my Dec. 1 frame of reference, the time when the goal production began to wane, the Blues rank third in the NHL in fewest goals allowed per game (2.17) and they’re sixth with a .927 save percentage.
Hutton has started the last three games and it isn’t because Allen stinks — which is what stupid people would tell you. Hutton is playing, rightfully so, because he’s out of gourd right now. In his 11 starts this season, Hutton with an 8-3 record and preposterous .948 save percentage.
Another Hutton, actor Timothy Hutton, won the 1980 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his exquisite work in the film “Ordinary People.”
Carter Hutton surely will be up for a Best Supporting Goaltender award for his exceptional work in his hockey documentary, “Extraordinary People.”
Goal prevention was the team’s strength under coach Ken Hitchcock.
And with Mike Yeo as coach, the tradition of rigid goal prevention is still the shield that protects the Blues. Unbowed by the cruel hit of injuries that’s blasted them all season, the imperfect but resolute Blues are holding up.
To me, that’s the sign of a good team… one that grinds out wins, scrapes out wins. A team that won’t sulk and pout and feel sorry for themselves. A proud team that refuses to buckle and collapse during the hardest of times.
The goals will come.
For now, the Blues are scoring plenty of points with their competitive character.
Have a swell weekend … and as always thanks for reading.