Hitting the Wrong Notes

Four games, six points. 

The St. Louis Blues have four more games to go, trailing the Colorado Avalanche for the last playoff berth by six points. In other words, it will take nothing short of a miracle for this organization to qualify for the postseason.

The Blues will look to keep hope alive tonight when they lace ‘em up to take on division rival Columbus Blue Jackets at Scottrade Center. Columbus, having already been eliminated from playoff contention, are playing for pride and for roster spots next season.

Those teams are extremely dangerous this time of year, they can play without abandon or consequence. St. Louis doesn’t have that luxury, one more loss and they are officially eliminated from the second season. None of this would have been necessary though if they were able to play as well at home, where tonight’s contest is being held, as they did on the road.

How can a team that boasts the least amount of regulation losses away from their home barn, in the conference, make like Tiny Tim on Christmas Eve, when it comes to the playoff seedings? Let’s just say home isn’t where the heart is for the boys with the blue notes on their crest.

Before last Saturday’s 2-1 win over the similiarly disappointing Dallas Stars, St. Louie’s favorite ice hockey team had won a grand total of 15 home games this season.

To put that in perspective, the league doormat Edmonton Oilers had more home wins, before Saturday night’s victory. The fact that they even are still in it, with that shameful record on home ice, is actually a really impressive feat. It is what inevitably will seal their collective playoff fate though, remember that whole nothing short of a miracle bit I suggested being the only way these Blues qualify for the playoffs? It’s just a few lines prior, if curious.

It’s too bad they couldn’t play all of their games on away from home this season. Redefining the term road warriors, the St. Louis Blues, the Blues recorded 22 wins away from their “friendly” confines. Only the conference leading San Jose Sharks have more road wins out west. The enormous difference here is that the Sharks also took care of business at HP Pavillion, recording 25 wins thus far.

Too many inconsistent efforts all around.

Not enough scoring? Check

Spotty goaltending? Check

Defense doing their best impression of a leaky faucet? Check

Yes, despite all of their inadequacies, if they were playing in the Eastern Conference, they would be fighting for a fifth seed. The gap between east and west is so severe, it’s almost comparing the Blues home and road records for the 2009-10 NHL season, with the east being the home record and well, you get the idea.

Not all was as sour as it seemed though.

With current players such as Chris Mason, clearly establishing himself as a legitimate No. 1 goalie in this league, although his numbers don’t overwhelm. He doesn’t rank in the top ten for any major goaltender category, but he has provided the most stability on the ice, especially when compared to the offensive and defensive departments. Although he will turn 34 later on this month, Mason’s presence in net will continue to provide a solid base for which this team can hopefully build around.

Another building block, a more prominent one at that, is Erik Johnson. He emerged as a top pairing defenseman this year, despite not playing the majority of last season due to injury. 

The first overall pick in 2006 has taken the long route to NHL stardom, but the combination of the solid season, along with his standout performance in this year’s Olympics for Team USA, has made this hulking blueliner the centerpiece of this franchise. This was to be expected, since in that draft the Blues selected him over the likes of Jonathan Toews, Phil Kessel, Jordan Staal and other current superstars in this league. Although his numbers are modest(9G 28A) the balance to his game will only improve with more experience he gets.

When he gets that experience, he has the ability to dominate as a certain other Blues defenseman did not so long ago. Okay, if you aren’t into playing any guessing games, I am potentially comparing him to Chris Pronger!

Although he might not be a building block for years to come, Paul Kariya has shown that those old legs might have a few more years left in ‘em. After notching his 400th career goal just recently in a road win against the New York Rangers, Kariya has continued to lead the offense down the stretch. Although he’s not scoring with aplomb, the way he did for many years with the Ducks, his game seems to be revitalized, notching four points in his last five games.

That’s the point here though, all of the team’s better players are all having modest seasons. Modest is great when you are dealing with a person’s personality traits, not athlete’s statistics.

Maybe if we were living in a Jerry Seinfeld Bizarro World, where a hockey team is ten times better on the road than they are at home…oh, nevermind.



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