ST. LOUIS — Sure, the Blues have some bodies out of their lineup. OK, they have a couple line’s worth of skaters out.
Sooner or later, that stuff will eventually catch up to you.
It’s caught up to them the past couple games, most recently on Saturday in a 4-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Enterprise Center that dropped the home side’s mark to 8-10-2 here.
There in lies another issue with this Blues team.
I’ve gone over a number of them, and some of those reared their ugly heads again on Saturday (two backdoor tap-in goals) that have been problematic, and when the special teams is ineffective, and the power play was pretty bad on Saturday, and the penalty kill was average at best, allowing a man-advantage goal to a potent Lightning squad, but let’s touch on a lingering issue that’s been a gorilla in the room.
This home record is poor, at best, borderline pathetic.
Out of 20 games and 40 possible points, the Blues have a total of 18 points past the midway point of the season.
Their eight wins is tied for third-fewest home wins in the league with Chicago, Vancouver and Anaheim. Only Arizona (seven), which has played in just 15 home games at their college rink and San Jose (four) have fewer home wins. Last I checked, none of those teams are even a sniff away from being a playoff-type team.
Other teams are becoming quite accustomed to celebrating on your home ice, and that’s a problem. Enterprise Center has become home away from home for the opposition far too often.
“Our home record’s not been good,” Blues center Robert Thomas said. “It hasn’t been good all season. We still got some games at home here before we head on the road trip to bring it back. So we need to be more urgent and win at home.”
When the Blues came back home off a terrific four-game road trip, going 3-1-0 and winning in three tough buildings (Toronto, New Jersey and Minnesota), they had a chance to make inroads not only in the standings and make a necessary playoff push, but they did so with the chance to make a firm stance during a season-long seven-game homestand, and 14 of 19 games at Enterprise Center.
They pulled out an improbable 4-3 overtime win over Calgary to start it only by overcoming a two-goal deficit in the third period to do so and now have fallen twice in a row, going 1-2-0.
They are minus-15 on home ice for the season, having been outscored 72-57.
I can’t stress enough how poor that is. Forget the playoffs with those kinds of numbers. Who the heck is going to come into your building with any kind of fear should that even happen?
And let’s not make any excuses for Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Torey Krug and Robert Bortuzzo to name a few being out of the lineup. This home record has been poor with them in the lineup as well.
So coach Craig Berube won’t make excuses for it either, and he shouldn’t have to.
“Well we went on the road and should have won four out of four, we won three. We come home here and we beat Calgary, but we were down in the game,” Berube said. “Our home play has not been good enough this year. That’s what I see right now. I see, like I talked about, not playing a gritty enough game. We’ve got to do a better job of it.
“You’re not going to get any easy games right now for sure. Teams are going to check and they’re going to check hard. And again, there’s not a lot of room out there. We’ve got to fight through it and we’ve got to fight through it more. Our fourth line (Alexey Toropchenko, Nikita Alexandrov and Tyler Pitlick), they did a great job again tonight just by working hard and fighting through things and fighting through checks. They got a goal, but they for me, are playing with a lot of energy and emotion and grit and we need more guys that need to do that. They’ve got to find more emotion and they’ve got to find more energy and they’ve got to play with more grit right now. When you’re getting checked like that, you’ve got to fight through it and you’ve got to battle.”
Simply put, that falls on those that are leading. That onus now falls on Brayden Schenn, Justin Faulk, Brandon Saad, Pavel Buchnevich, Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Colton Parayko and Nick Leddy. Those are the guys that have to set the precedent, and as a whole, they’re not, and they haven’t. And that includes O’Reilly, Tarasenko, Krug, Bortuzzo, and those guys that are currently injured.
Enterprise Center, once a house of horrors for the opposition, has turned into a house of get well wishes for the opposition.
I can remember former Blues coach Ken Hitchcock saying how they had to want to make their home building a place the opposition dreaded coming to, a place they feared coming into, a place where they’d feel intimidated.
“Our leaders have got to grab it too, yes,” Berube said. “But everybody individually has got to know the urgency that we need right now here at home, the next game with this homestand, each player’s got to prepare themselves that they’re going to have to battle. We’re going to have to battle.
“It’s not good enough right now. Even our top guys, they’re not good enough right now. They’ve got to be better. That’s D too. It’s not good enough. We are banged up and injured. So, well, that’s part of it. Fight through it. I’m not going to make excuses, and they can’t make excuses.”
Last season, the Blues were 26-10-5 here, which is pretty good. I can remember when they were 30-6-5 in 2011-12 and teams used to hate coming here. I remember when visiting coaches and players talked about they better be prepared to play in this building or the Blues would blow them out of the water.
Those teams would punish you, beat you into submission, force you to wave the white flag before you even broke a sweat.
I can imagine nowadays, teams are salivating to play here.
The Blues haven’t finished under .500 since going 18-19-4 in 2006-07 and have finished below .500 only six times in their franchise history. Unless they start to make this that intimidating place to play again, and I don’t see any reason to think it will change any time soon, this season will be No. 7.
“Good teams will have injuries, and guys will step up and play,” defenseman Nick Leddy said. “I look around this room and I know we can do it.”
You better, Nick, because these points lost on home ice are are and not coming back.
“Every night is important; we’ve got to get points,” said Pitlick, who broke the ice and got the Blues going with a breakaway goal in the first to make it 1-0. “We can’t let anymore get away. We need to get on a roll here and we’ve got to get some wins.”