ST. LOUIS – It’s early in the 2023-24 NHL season, but like last year, it’s not off to the most promising of starts for the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues will bring a 3-4-1 record into the weekend. They’re within the last quartile for team points (7) and only the San Jose Sharks have scored fewer goals than St. Louis (15) through this point of the season.
In the four games the Blues have earned points, their defense has stepped up big, limiting opponents to just four goals. In the four regulation losses, it’s been a struggle, leading to at least four goals from opponents on each occasion. That includes a 4-1 road loss to a Central Division powerhouse Wednesday in the Colorado Avalanche.
Colorado stormed to a two-goal lead quickly throughout the game, taking advantage of St. Louis turnovers, puck battles, and defensive lapses.
Paul Bissonnette, a former NHL enforcer turned hockey TV analyst, did not hold back on the Blues’ defensive woes during the NHL on TNT intermission report on Wednesday.
“My problem is that angle from the defensemen of the St. Louis Blues,” said Bisonnette after a shot trickled past second-year defenseman Tyler Tucker, eventually leading to Colorado’s first goal.
“I’m being dead serious when I say I think I could’ve dressed for the St. Louis Blues,” he added. “They’ve turned over the puck 100 times this year. I could’ve dressed as a defenseman. … I could’ve poked some pucks and I could’ve cleared some pucks outs. … That was pathetic. That was some pond hockey out there.”
After some laughs and light-hearted debate with former NHL legend Wayne Gretzky and former forward Anson Carter, Bissonnette doubled down on his comments.
“I think I could’ve survived that period, and not looked out of place as far as the St. Louis Blues defense play. If St. Louis [defenseman] want to get offended by that, they should go back and watch that period on how many turnovers they had from the blue line with complete control of the puck.”
Colorado only had six shots in the first period and three takeaways, but made the most of their opportunities and the two early goals proved tough to overcome for a squad deficient in scoring early this season.
Perhaps Bissonnette’s comments are pointing to some concerning trends at large defensively.
According to MoneyPuck.com, St. Louis’ 64 takeaways from an opponent (another phrase essentially meaning turnovers) as of Thursday are second-most in the NHL. Their team Corsi and Fenwick ratings, also measures of puck control and defensive stability, are both around 40% and worse than any other teams besides the Sharks.
The defense, as a unit, is in kind of a weird spot itself dating back to last season. Many veterans, like Torey Krug, Nick Leddy and Marco Scandella, are secured for the long-haul with no-trade clauses and eat up lots of salary. This oftentimes forces the team to make decisions on whether to play them through struggles or offer more opportunities to lesser-paid players like Robert Bortuzzo and younger insurance options like Scott Perunovich.
The Blues play five of their next six contests at home, starting with back-to-back games Friday and Saturday against the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens.