The Blues seem more than a little shaky as they head into the playoffs Thursday, April 17, against the rival Chicago Blackhawks.
The St. Louis Blues were certainly not expecting to end their season on a six-game losing streak.
The Blues have been scored on 22 times and have only scored five goals in their final six games. That’s an average of losing around 4-1 every game.
The first game to start the losing streak came on March 19, a 4-0 trouncing against the Chicago Blackhawks, the same team they face Thursday, April 17, in their first playoff game.
It’s the first time in head coach Ken Hitchcock’s 17-year career that he has lost six games in a row.
“Yes, that’s going to be a challenge, but that’s why I’m the coach,” Hitchcock said in an article on kmov.com. “That’s my job. It’s a challenge. But one of the best things is time away, and the second best thing is to understand this is a single opponent, Chicago.”
On Sunday the Blues played with a lineup far from the regular. David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Barret Jackman, Brenden Morrow, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Sobotka were all injured.
Everyone except Morrow, Tarasenko and Berglund are expected to be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs.
Oshie took a hard hit from Mike Rupp on open ice in the second period of the game against the Dallas Stars on April 11.
Oshie left with a bloody face and did not return to the game, and Rupp received a match penalty for an illegal check. Rupp was suspended four games for the illegal hit.
It’s not just the Blues offense that has slowed dramatically, but their goaltender Ryan Miller has not been doing as well as he should be in front of the net.
Originally the Blues thought Miller might be the key to help the franchise win its first Stanley Cup, but Miller has not filled the shoes as well as expected.
Miller has given up 22 goals in the past six games and his average goals scored on is 2.63, 29th in the league according to blues.nhl.com stats.
“It’s been a tough stretch as far as goals against,” Miller said to ESPN. “But I feel like I’m in a pretty good place honestly. People can take that and chop it up and laugh about it, but I feel pretty good.”
The Blues lost to the Stars on April 11, 3-0, allowing Dallas to clinch its first NHL playoff berth since 2008.
On April 3, the Blues had a three-point edge for the top spot in the Western Conference and led the Central Division by seven points.
The fifth loss in the losing streak came April 11 against the Stars, which gave the Colorado Avalanche the Central Division title.
The Blues still had a shot to grab the Central Division title on Sunday, but their loss to the Detroit Red Wings gave Colorado the division title.
The team has tried to focus less on the series of losses at the end of the season, and instead on taking some time to re-boot and prepare for last year’s Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, on Thursday. The game is being broadcast at 7 p.m. local time on NBCSN.
“Obviously the little streak at the end isn’t the way we wanted it to end,” defenseman Jay Bouwmeester told ESPN. “But I think the Blues need just a couple of days, get away, forget about hockey for a little bit and then come back refreshed. Regardless of the last couple of weeks, we still put ourselves in a pretty good position. We’ve got home-ice and I think that’s the way we have to approach it.”
Even though the Blues had a terrible ending to their season, they still were able to come out with some positives for the franchise.
This season the Blues set the franchise record with 52 victories in the regular season.
“You look at the big picture … the big picture is we set a record,” Hitchcock told ESPN. “This break will do us really a lot of good. We can get re-energized, refocused and come back and get ready to play.”
The Blackhawks have their main core of offense, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews, coming back from the injured list for the upcoming game on Thursday.
Chicago also has the highest scoring offense in the NHL, so that leaves the Blues’ hands full.
It doesn’t help that the Blackhawks were the team to start the Blues’ losing streak. Hopefully it will give St. Louis a sense of revenge to beat Chicago as the Blues have lost only seven games at home this season.