After a 9-1-2 start the St. Louis Blues were due to lose again; there was really no way that the Blues would just continue to truck through the NHL and end the season with one regulation loss. The losing was expected. The way the Blues lost? Well, that is a bit of a concern.
Wednesday in Columbus the Blues were destroyed by the Blue Jackets. It was an embarrassment of epic proportions. Columbus lit the lamp eight times—I'm surprised they didn't run out of ammo for the cannon. The Jackets won 8-1 and it wasn't even that close. The Blues were downright terrible.
The hot start caught a lot of people's attention. The national media took notice—the Blues were atop many NHL power rankings, including ESPN's. Those who watched the team closely, however, were pleased with the good start but aware that the team had walked a fine line to get there. The Blues were playing with fire—not scoring goals, playing with a depleted defensive corps, and relying heavily on Jaroslav Halak—and were bound to get burnt. The Blue Jackets didn't burn the Blues, they napalmed the Note. It was a shellacking.
Blues fans understandably are in a bit of a shock. Is that team, the losing team, the real Blues? Was that start a fluke? Can the Blues win again?
As bad as the loss was, it was just one loss. The Blues lost two points; that's it. Well, unless you count T.J. Oshie breaking his ankle as a loss (which I do). It was a bad loss, but the Blues aren't doomed—not by a long shot.
The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between. Fully healthy, the Blues are every bit as legit as they appeared in the first 12 games. The players are fast, young and talented. The forwards aren't star-heavy, but balanced. The defense is young and exciting. This is a good—not great—team capable of making the playoffs and winning at least one round. Capable of is not the same as actually doing it, but the Blues have the ability to get there.
The problem is, the Blues aren't healthy. The first line is now missing its wings—David Perron is day-to-day with a concussion and Oshie has a bad wheel and will be out months, not weeks. The defense is missing Carlo Colaiacovo (who may return), Barret Jackman for at least two more weeks and Roman Polak for at least another month. Those are five super-important players on the shelf.
Sure the Blues have guys like Ian Cole, Nikita Nikitin and Tyson Strachan ready to step in on the blue line, but it's not the same. Last year, Jackman and Polak were two of the top defenders in the league. To be without their services for a month is a huge blow.
With the injuries the Blues could very well tumble down the standings. The only thing that could save them is if guys step up. The time is now for the Blues' top forwards. Brad Boyes, David Backes and Andy McDonald have done just about nothing all year long. That has to stop. For the time being, that will probably be the top line for the Blues, and the trio needs to start scoring—like, yesterday. Boyes is a talented offensive player, and I refuse to believe his back-to-back 30-goal seasons were the fluke. The clock is ticking, though and he needs to start scoring.
If the under-performing forwards (and that's really all of them, except for Jay McClement, B.J. Crombeen and Matt D'Agostini) step up their games, the Blues can avoid falling too far in the standings. The early season run was built on 2-0 and 2-1 wins. With a less talented defense, the Blues need to start scoring more and pull out some 3-2, 4-3 wins. The talent is there, it just needs to start producing.
Last night's loss wasn't the end of the world. It was a wake up call for the Blues. If the Blues answer it, the Note will be fine. If not, injuries will consume the Blues and we'll all start paying attention to the draft.