St. Louis Blues Looking For Second Half Resurgence

St. Louis Blues Look For Second Half Resurgence

By Brett Wiseman

February 1, 2019

When St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong gave his exit press conference after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs by a single game, he made mention that he would do “whatever it took” the following summer to bring the city and fans the Cup he felt they so rightfully deserved. He’s right, they do. For a city in its 53rd year of existence without a single Stanley Cup, the Blues have one of the most passionate and loyal fanbases in the NHL.

Armstrong pulled off a blockbuster trade this past summer with the Buffalo Sabers to acquire Center Ryan O’Reilly, and also bringing in wingers David Perron and Patrick Maroon, and Center Tyler Bozak in free agency. While Carter Hutton departed for Buffalo in free agency, Armstrong took their backup Goaltender, Chad Johnson via the same method. With these additions and the core nucleus of Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen, Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz, it seemed the Blues were as primed as they’ve ever been for a run at the Stanley Cup.

The first half of the season, however, fell woefully below the high expectations set by the summer moves. The Blues weren’t just treading water through the first two months of the season, they were drowning. The core players expected to perform better with a strengthened supporting cast were not doing so. In fact, they were abysmal. Every aspect of the team was, and head coach Mike Yeo was ultimately the fall guy for a core group not living up to its potential. Yeo was fired after a 7-9-3 start to the season, the final straw being a 2-0 loss on home ice to the league’s worst team, the Los Angeles Kings. The only bright spot early on was the newly acquired center Ryan O’Reilly, who recorded a team-best 23 points in the 19 games before Craig Berube took over as interim head coach. Since then, the team has showed flashes of brilliance, and signs of the same old, same old, treading water near the .500 mark during Berube’s tenure.

Despite the sluggish first half, the Blues somehow sit a mere three points out of the second wild card spot in the crowded Western Conference, and only six points out of third in the stacked Central Division. That’s astounding, considering the team has sat in the cellar of the overall league standings for much of the first half.

O’Reilly sits as the team leader in points as they return from their extended All-Star break Saturday in Columbus, tallying 18 goals and 32 assists in the team’s first 49 games. David Perron, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Brayden Schenn have all put up impressive numbers themselves, but must step up if the Blues can find a second half resurgence. O’Reilly was the team’s lone representative at All-Star Weekend in San Jose, and during his media availability he all but guaranteed the Blues would make the playoffs. He assured the media and the fans, that he had full confidence that the Blues would sneak into a playoff spot. It’s clear: O’Reilly is the true leader in the Blues locker room.

If the Blues are to get the second half resurgence and sneak into a playoff spot, as O’Reilly has exhibited full confidence they can do, they’re going to need stronger Goaltending from Jake Allen. The rise of AHL call-up Jordan Binnington has elevated Allen’s play of late, but Allen must improve his 3.04 Goals Against Average and .897 Save Percentage if the Blues want to sneak into the playoffs.

It may not have seemed possible a couple months ago, but the Blues are right in the thick of things in both the wild card race and the central division. They’ll need a strong second half from key players in all aspects if they want to sneak into a playoff spot and make a run at the cup St. Louis has so long deserved.

PHOTO: Billy Hurst/AP Photo