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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The ST. LOUIS BLUES SPR by The Colonel

on 1 October 2008

The Blues are one of only seven teams to have not earned a playoff berth in the three seasons since the Lockout. This is a bitter pill for Blues fans to swallow given the fact they only missed the playoffs three total years since their inception leading up to the Lockout. For a myriad of reasons, they have not started strongly against the Playoff Qualifying Curve (the PQC) in any of those seasons. They also have experienced a late season drop in performance which is a steep enough valley that they cannot climb back up out of it and on to the playoffs. Add in a key injury to their budding star defenseman for the entire season, and you have room for pessimism this year.

So throw them under the bus, right? Pick a new team to follow, eh? OGA SAYS THAT KIND OF TALK IS CRAP! Besides love of the game, we say you need to go see this team play.

In the past three seasons, OGA called St. Louis OUT of the playoffs twice by the end of Game 20 (end of NOVEMBER). Last year, however, OGA would have called them on track for securing a playoff berth on 23 NOVEMBER and not OUT until 11 MARCH. So as a bottom line, the Blues have improved since 2005/6 and could, in a Salary Cap world, with an absence of injuries and greater production from the forward corps (Brad Boyes gets a bye here), continue along the path toward improvement.

What did we see last season and what is on the 2008/9 horizon?

The Blues ended the last three years with an average rating of –10.8 below the PQC. “Improved?” you ask. “Last year?” YES we say – against the PQC, they had just as much of a chance of finding themselves in the playoffs by 21 FEBRUARY as not:
  • St. Louis began the season 6 – 4 in their first 10 games which is above the PQC at that point.
  • The Blues continued to maintain this momentum on into early JANUARY when they were +1.5 above the PQC. (This stretch included a record of 3 – 2 against Central Division powerhouse Detroit.)
  • St. Louis began to slip in mid-JANUARY but were still in the hunt for the playoffs until a 1 – 7 – 2 stretch occurred from 22 FEBRUARY to 11 MARCH.
We believe the Blues’ first leap over the boards in Games 1 – 10 potentially sets the tone for the entire season. Blues fans will therefore want to follow OGA’s early analysis of St. Louis play versus the PQC to help manage their expectations toward any possibility of their first return to the playoffs since the Lockout.

(cont)...A measure of the Blues’ performance against the PQC is displayed in the graph below. St. Louis’ best start in the last three years was last year where they played on through NOVEMBER above the PQC. There is much discussion attempting to write the Blues off all because of the season-ending golf injury to defenseman Erik Johnson. With no malicious intent thrown at Johnson, the fact is that the ONLY, single player that can win or lose games for a team is a Goalie. As for checking and scoring enough to conclude a game in your favor, it takes an entire team, and there are more than 20 players whose pride will not count them out before the first puck drop of the season.
The Blues’ first 10 games of the season are played 10 OCTOBER – 1 NOVEMBER. Our analysis indicates that in that time frame, St. Louis earns an average PQC rating of 4.5 which is just under The Curve. It is close enough to the PQC, however, that a repeat of this average is not unrecoverable and should therefore not be a sign of concern for Blues fans. They have won two-of-three home openers and lost all three road openers over the last three seasons.

Some additional, critical statistics to keep in mind for the month of OCTOBER are:
  • From 28 OCTOBER – 10 NOVEMBER (bleeding over into the Game 11 – 20 period), the Blues lose 89.5% of games played.
  • On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays the Blues lose a combined average of 66.4%. (This encompasses 60.6% of all games played since the Lockout.)
  • And the Blues play an average of two ‘Bonus Hockey’ games in OCTOBER, producing an average losing percentage of 66.1%.
All of this talk of losing statistics might once again fan the ‘Throw-Them-Under-The-Bus’ flames. But at OGA, we LOVE Hockey and strongly encourage you to drive on down to 1401 Clark Avenue and see the Blues for two reasons: the home crowd can make a difference in pumping the team up and over that otherwise visible slump at season’s end; and see Brad Boyes get 50 goals this season, watch the resurgence of Paul Kariya and Chris Mason, and (potentially) observe T.J. Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo show off the future of the Blues.

During this stretch of play, OGA will carefully review team play against the trends and forward your St. Louis BluesGame 10 Report to season subscribers by 2pm CST on 2 NOVEMBER and make it available for order from the On Goal Analysis web site by 2pm CST on 3 NOVEMBER. (See a sample G10R here…)

Will St. Louis begin the 2008/9 season like they played it last year? Come the end of FEBRUARY, can they fight through the brick wall that has forced their late season skid the past three seasons and maintain The Curve? OGA will be there with you to make the call.

More to follow. Until tomorrow and the Tampa Bay Lightning Season Preview Report (SPR), this is The Colonel signing off…


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