The road to the top of the NHL is long and rocky. The teams in the Central Division are also feeling this at the moment. For the teams from the division of the reigning Stanley Cup winners, it is evident that the lack of consistency makes it difficult to jump to the top positions. Only two of the eight teams have had seven or more wins from the past ten games, five of the teams have five or fewer wins, and with the Arizona Coyotes and the Chicago Blackhawks there are two groups that have only won once in ten games .
The two counterexamples collided Thursday when the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues dueled. While Winnipeg is developing positively, the Blues are munching on some homegrown problems.
It seems like the Jets have found their consistency. After three wins in a row, the Canadians are at the top of the division and also rank first in the conference in terms of average points. In the direct divisional duel against the Blues, the Jets were able to secure a 5-2 win and underlined their development. From the past ten matches they collected seven successes and only had to admit defeat three times.
Video: WPG@STL: Scheifele and Dubois in interaction
“The last few games have been the best he’s played,” said Jets coach Rick Bowness Pierre-Luc Dubois into focus, which has played a decisive role in the consistency of the past few games. “His line has been outstanding for us. It’s the best I’ve seen from him so far and we’ll keep pushing him because he can be a dominant center in this league.” Dubois extended his points streak to seven games (5 goals, 7 assists) with two goals and one assist.
The Blues reacted much more negatively to the seventh defeat in the past ten matches. The team slipped to sixth in the division and coach Craig Berube vented his anger: “If nobody comes to the hall and is ready to put in a real effort, to move their legs, to do things right and to be detail-oriented and attentive, Then we’re not going anywhere. That’s the bottom line. As a coaching team, we prepare them. We tell them what to do against this team. The players have to go out as a team and that’s not happening at the moment.”
At the end of his angry speech, Berube put his finger even more clearly in the wound. “We’re not doing enough and we’re not consistent enough. That’s how you lose in this league. It’s not just one or two players, it’s a lot. If the players don’t come to the hall and think about the team and put them first , then we won’t get any further and I don’t see it at the moment. Our attitude is not good at the moment.”
The Blues are a real roller coaster team and they are underlining that particularly clearly in the current phase. Seven defeats have accumulated from the past nine games. The 2:5 was the 15th defeat after the regular playing time in 27 completed appearances this season. Since the start of the 2022/23 season, the Blues have been struggling with a lack of reliability. A botched 3-8-0 start to the season was followed by a seven-game winning streak. It seemed like St. Louis caught itself only to fall back down a hole.
The main reason for the inconsistent performances of the Blues is to be found in their own zone. Only two other teams have conceded more goals than St. Louis (105). A significant deterioration compared to last season, when they were able to provide one of the top ten defenses. On Thursday they conceded five or more goals for the eleventh time of the season. This happened to them only 13 times in the past year.
Josh Leivo has goals in two straight games!!! #stlblues pic.twitter.com/KMIyy1mbcC
– St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) December 9, 2022
In the 2018/19 season, which resembled a sporting miracle, the Blues managed to turn things around after finding themselves second to last at the turn of the year. They climbed the table, qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and eventually won the title. But even if the way to the final round places is not as far as it was in the fairytale season, a similar course seems very unlikely.
In order to be able to turn things around anyway, the players need to realize that the current effort is not at the level that is needed for success in the league. “We were a couple of goals down at the start of the third period but then we did things well. They were lucky with their fourth goal. It definitely took our breath away but we stuck with it and kept giving it our all.” Ryan O’Reilly rather the positive in the foreground.
Berube recently saw some improvements on the away trip to New York and hoped that these would also consolidate. On Thursday he then had to experience another downward passage on the roller coaster.