The NHL schedule is 82 video games lengthy, nevertheless it produces mini seasons inside that template, peaks and valleys throughout which groups can appear like juggernauts or laughing shares. That’s what makes the 2021-22 St. Louis Blues so fascinating.
Remember the floundering March 2022 Blues? They opened the month with 4 straight defeats and went 5-6-3. In 5-on-5 play for March, they had been outscored 30-27, outshot 329-320 and outchanced 358-314. Goaltenders Ville Husso and Jordan Binnington delivered the league’s 27th-best staff save share for the month.
In April? They’ve grow to be the St. Louis Gods. Since shedding in extra time April 1, they’ve rattled off 9 straight victories. In 5-on-5 play over that span, they’ve outscored their opponents 37-24. Their purpose totals in 9 April video games: 5, six, 5, 4, 4, six, 4, six, six, eight. Simply unbelievable. Around commerce deadline day in late March, they appeared like a staff poised to limp into the playoffs and get shoved apart by an actual contender. Now, the piping-hot Blues look as dominant as any staff within the league. Their profitable streak consists of victories over the Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild (twice), Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators.
The Blues now personal the NHL’s eighth-best factors share at .671. They’ve ascended to the second-tier Stanley Cup contender group with consists of the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, the Wild and the playing-possum Tampa Bay Lightning. But is it time to graduate the Blues into tier 1 alongside season-long powerhouses within the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers?
The reply isn’t so easy. The Blues are having their approach with the NHL in April based on the standings and the scoreboards, however the numbers beneath the hood counsel they’re not as dominant as they seem on the floor.
This staff clearly has a ton going for it. The Blues now personal the NHL’s No. 2 energy play and No. 6 penalty kill. They possess unbelievable scoring depth, armed with seven 20-goal scorers and probably ending with 9 if Robert Thomas and Ryan O’Reilly get two and three extra targets, respectively. Eleven Blues have at the least 40 factors, and eight have 50 or extra factors. Stanley Cup-caliber groups nowadays roll three respectable scoring traces, and the Blues completely qualify there. Vladimir Tarasenko, his shoulder lastly feeling proper, has loved an enormous bounce again season. Thomas has emerged as a very dominant playmaker, rating second within the NHL solely to Johnny Gaudreau in main assists per 60 minutes. Pavel Buchnevich seemingly has the Rangers wishing for a do-over on final offseason’s commerce. After stumbling in March, Husso is 6-0-1 with a .924 SV% in April.
So will we thus anoint the Blues an apex predator within the Western Conference? Hold on. A giant contributor to their large sizzling streak this month is, effectively, luck. In 5-on-5 play this April, they’ve scored on a league-best 15.55 p.c of their photographs. They truly sit simply 14th in anticipated targets per 60. On the defensive aspect, with Husso and Binnington rebounding, they personal the league’s 10th-best save share this month. That’s masked the actual fact they’ve the second-worst anticipated targets towards per 60. You learn that proper.
During the Blues’ unbelievable 9-0-1 April, their opponents maintain a 514-400 edge in shot makes an attempt. They’ve been outshot 299-238 and outchanced 260-233. They’ve been outshot in six of their 9 wins throughout the streak and out-chanced in 5.
Blues NHL ranks at 5-on-5 throughout their 9-0-1 April:
|thirty second||twenty sixth||25th||twenty ninth||14th||twenty sixth||14th||thirtieth|
They’ve performed among the worst defensive hockey within the NHL this month and have graded out as common to beneath common in likelihood technology. The largest contributing components to their sizzling run: their ranks in these two 5-on-5 stats:
The Blues have a lot going for them. Their ahead group is as deep as any within the NHL. They’re additionally exhibiting firsthand that above-average goaltending could make a very good staff nice. But they’re additionally exhibiting some alarming tendencies beneath the hood. If their puck luck evaporates or their goalies droop, they may go chilly, reasonably than sizzling, on the worst potential time.
Contender? Sure. Elite contender? Not but. Not till they clear up their 5-on-5 defensive play.