The Blues: Scoring Down the Stretch, Day Off for Mason?

Mar 20, 2009 at 4:13 pm
Well, at least Tkachuk's wrist isn't broken

Sadly, that's really the only positive you can take out of last night's Blues game; they got shut out by Roberto Luongo (for whom I have an irrational hatred, for some odd reason), and I'm afraid it looks as if the Blues may be running out of steam. 

It's been one hell of a ride, obviously, this 2009 portion of the Blues' season. Since the calendar turned over, the Blues are 18-10-6. This, after a disastrous December in '08, when they went 4-10-1 and officially dug themselves the hole they've been trying to climb out of ever since. 

For the most part, the Blues have done a pretty extraordinary job of just that, working their way back over .500 and right into the thick of the playoff picture. That alone is a damned impressive achievement, to come from so far down to be right back in contention. At the very least, it seems to point the way toward brighter days for the organization in the coming years. 

click to enlarge The Blues: Scoring Down the Stretch, Day Off for Mason?
But this last week, a few cracks have started to appear. They've lost three out of their last four games, failing to gain ground in a stretch which featured games against the very teams the Blues are trying to run down. (You like that I threw in the title of the blog there?)

What's worse, what had been a remarkable cohesive unit for the first two and a half months of the season now looks a little out of sorts. Coach Andy Murray refused to allow David Perron or Patrik Berglund to take shots in the shootout loss to Edmonton after feeling they performed poorly in regulation, which is frankly bullshit, I'm sorry to say.

I like Murray, I think he's done a great job overall, but the time to be teaching guys lessons is past. The Blues need every last point they can get their hands on right now. You've got to give your best puck handlers a chance to take it to the house. He didn't do that. 

What's worse, a team that was beginning to look like a constant scoring threat has seemingly lost its teeth. Even when they were going strong, the Blues weren't often scoring five or six goals a game, but there was always the feeling that they could. There's a lot of youth, a lot of speed, and a lot of puck acumen on this squad, and it was beginning to gel into a team that could put the puck in the net at a moment's notice. Now, the team seems again to be struggling to finish. They get the opportunities, they're even taking the shots, but the results just aren't there. 

And have I talked enough about the goaltending this year? I'm sure I have, so I won't belabor the point any further. Suffice it to say, Chris Mason has done yeoman's duties, and the Blues have ridden him awfully hard. He's still performing well at the moment, but I worry that this current stretch is starting to wear him down. Mason is already in uncharted territory; he's been carrying this team on his back for quite some time. Even after another very solid performance last night against Vancouver, I think it would behoove the Blues to let Bishop get the start tonight, and give Mason a blow. Mason's performance through the first two periods was exemplary, as it has been, but those two goals he let in, just minutes apart, in the third period worry me. Neither one was a soft goal, by any means, but the fact that he was beaten in quick succession like that isn't a good sign, in my ever so humble opinion. I wonder if he isn't just a little bit up against it. 

Any chance the Blues have at remaining in this thing is predicated on the goalie play continuing at an extremely high level. An extra night off for Mason right now could go a long way toward keeping him from completely hitting the wall. 

In any case, this hockey season has been a tremendous one, from the preseason low of losing Erik Johnson for the year to the hot start to the Curse of the Cougar to the great run the Blues have made here in '09. However it ends, I'll be grateful for this season. However, that does not mean that I won't be disappointed if this home stretch fails to end with a playoff berth. 

Just a little further, boys. Get it back together.