Thanks to a 4-2 loss to Washington, the Blues find themselves in ninth place with just three games left in the season. How did a team this talented find themselves in such a predicament?
Huge losing steak
Dropping seven in a row in February put the Blues from third in the Central Division to eleventh in the West. Being outscored 16-3 by Central Division opponents at the end of the losing streak might have done them in.
The swoon by starting goaltender Jake Allen hasn't helped. Allen went from December 15th to the end of February without winning a start in goal. As a goaltender who was projected to be the starter, especially one who is making $4.35 million a year against the cap, it was a bad sign.
If it was not for the brilliant goaltending of Carter Hutton, the Blues might have been sunk earlier this season.
Over the seven-game losing streak, the Blues scored just 10 goals. The lack of scoring sunk the Blues in February. To their credit, the Blues rebounded, going 8-3-2 in March. However, the damage may have been done. Additionally, the egg the Blues laid against Arizona, the Western Conference's worst team, did not help things.
Losing Jaden Schwartz for 20 games this season had a profound impact on St. Louis. He showed amazing chemistry with one of the newest Blues Brayden Schenn.
Losing Schwartz plummeted the Blues powerplay to one of the worst in the league. The Blues still played good defense but could not score without one of their catalysts. Schwartz was a point-per-game player before his injury, and a shoe in for the Lady Byng or Selke.
Without Schwartz, teams were able to isolate Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn and shut down the primary scoring threats of St. Louis.
Another loss came in the form of veteran defender Jay Boumeester. He once possessed one of the longest ironman streaks in the NHL. He has been the long-time partner of Blues' captain Alex Pietrangelo. Without Boumeester, the Blues had to turn to a myriad of younger defenders who have been exposed against talented teams, especially in their own division.
The Blues have been dealing with a rash of injuries as of late. Sparkplug and fourth-line player Scottie Upshall is out indefinitely with a lacerated kidney. If the Blues make the playoffs, it will be without Upshall.
Another recent score of injuries came in consecutive days. Nikita Soshnikov, acquired from Toronto at the deadline, is out indefinitely with an upper body injury. Carl Gunnarsson, another former Maple Leaf, and a bottom pairing defenseman, tore his ACL and might miss the beginning of training camp next year.
Additionally, one of the biggest injuries the Blues had to deal with was before the season started. Robby Fabbri re-tore his tendon in his knee. Fabbri was one of the men the Blues were going to depend upon, after a promising season last year.
The Blues began the season without Fabbri, Patrik Berglund, and Alexander Steen. However, in those first 31 games, the Blues found themselves with the second-best record in the NHL. It was not the early injuries, but the injuries to Boumeester and Schwartz that did the Blues in.
The Blues have youth on their roster. Contributions from young players like Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson, Ivan Barbashev, and several others have kept the Blues afloat in one of the toughest divisions in the league.
However, it was the age of their older players that may be catching up with St. Louis. Alexander Steen is a year older and does not seem to be the same player that scored 33 goals in the 2013/2014 season.
While Steen has reached the 50-point mark for the fifth time in his career, he has been declining ever since that 33-goal output. Steen currently is making $7 million a year, with $5.75 million going against the cap.
Another 34-year-old on the Blues that might be hitting the end of his career is Boumeester. He counts for $5.4 million against the cap. He has spent all but 35 games on the injured reserve. He is out for the rest of the season, and his future with the Blues and in the NHL is in jeopardy.
With his age catching up with him, injuries have become more prevalent and more severe. He is slated to earn $5.4 million against the cap.
Tough road ahead
The Blues have three games ahead. They find themselves one point behind Colorado and four points behind Los Angeles. Those three games left are all against Central Division teams.
A back-to-back series with their most hated rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, is what is next on the agenda. These games always seem to be close, and Chicago would like nothing more than to play spoiler for St. Louis.
With one of them at the United Center, the Blues must play better than they have in the last two games, a 6-0 loss to Arizona and a 4-2 loss at home to the Capitals.
The final game of the season could be the one to decide everything. The Pepsi Center in Denver will house game number 82 between Colorado and the Blues. Colorado is missing their starting goaltender, Semyon Varlamov, and former number-one draft pick of St. Louis, Erik Johnson.
However, Colorado still has Hart Trophy contender Nathan Mackinnon. The Blues are minus two of their regular defensemen, and the goaltending corps has had their faith shaken when both goaltenders looked shaky against the Western Conference’s worst team in Arizona.
It will come down to the final game of the season, and on the road, the Blues have an uphill battle.