Blues see mixed results at season’s quarter point, power play among NHL’s worst

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ST. LOUIS – If the NHL playoffs started today, the St. Louis Blues would hold the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. That said, the notes are only one-quarter through the season, and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster.

The Blues will bring an 11-9-1 record into their final November contest Thursday. The path to this point has been a bit inconsistent: No losing streaks past two games, but no winning streaks past three games.

After a rare playoff miss last season, there have been some encouraging signs the Blues could be close to finding a groove and proving last year was a fluke. Blowout wins against recent Stanley Cup champions in the Colorado Avalanche (8-2) and Tampa Bay Lightning (5-0) show what the Blues are capable of in top form.

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The goaltending tandem of Jordan Binnington and Joel Hofer, minus a few starts, has stood tall, combining for a .946 save percentage and 1.63 goals against average in victories. “Incredible,” “excellent,” and “unbelievable” are some of the terms that teammates have used in interviews to describe Binnington and Hofer this year.

Robert Thomas, is cruising behind a point-per-game pace (22 points: 21 games), also making big strides defensively and in team leadership. “Obviously, I need to shoot the puck more, but my linemates have put me in great spots, and I’ve been able to find the back of the net lately,” Thomas told Bally Sports Midwest on Nov. 9.

Despite various signs of success, there is one glaring problem that could make or break this season’s Blues team. The power play.

The Blues have only scored six powerplay goals through the quarter point of their season, tied for second-fewest in the league. Take away the big game against the Avalanche, plus two Thanksgiving weekend contests, the Blues are 2-for-54 on the man advantage this season.

That’s not an easy problem to overcome. For instance, in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Blues went 0-for-4 on the power play. On one of those opportunities, they had extra skater for four minutes in the third period on a double minor and only managed one shot on goal. Some shot attempts hit the crossbar, and many others were blocked.

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Head coach Craig Berube said after Sunday’s win over Chicago that the power play is improving, but adds that situations like Tuesday come down to the Blues needing something extra.

“They had good energy,” said Berube on Minnesota in Tuesday’s loss. “We’re lacking a little bit. We got to find some energy.”

Beyond the power play, one important factor for the Blues going forward will be their performance against subpar teams. St. Louis is one of a few teams to lose to the NHL-worst San Jose Sharks (5-15-2) and fell Tuesday to Minnesota just one day after they made a coaching change amid a 5-10-4 start. Such points could prove critical to Wild Card prospects as the season moves along.

As of Wednesday, NHL analysts on, and give the Blues anywhere from a 10-62% chance of making the playoffs in 2024.

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