SAINT PAUL, Minn. — The St. Louis Blues are slumping at the worst
time and their rock-solid playoff hopes have taken a serious hit as
coach Mike Yeo searches for answers.
It’s a scenario that Minnesota Wild fans have seen before, most
notably when Yeo coached there and a second-half swoon happened
seemingly every season.
Heading into Tuesday’s meeting with the Wild, the Blues have lost
six in a row, including being shut out in back-to-back games. That
leaves Yeo, and the rest of the team, desperate for answers as
their playoff chances have dropped to a season low.
“When you’re winning and playing well, you have confidence. When
you’re losing and finding ways to lose, obviously confidence goes
away a little bit,” Yeo said. “We’ve got to focus on the small
picture, what the next game is and not look at the big picture, not
worry about what’s going on with other teams and other scores.”
It’s familiar territory for Yeo, who is in his first full season
behind the Blues’ bench.
Two seasons ago at about this time, things were clipping along for
the Wild before a horrendous swoon in January caused the team to
fire him in February.
Yeo took over the Blues late in the season a year ago and coached
them to an upset of the Wild in round one of the playoffs last
spring. But after looking like a sure-fire playoff team two months
ago, St. Louis has struggled mightily.
The Blues’ lineup got a different look on Monday as well, after
they sent forward Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets at the trade
deadline in exchange for a 2018 first-round pick and the rights to
forward Erik Foley.
St. Louis lost in Nashville on Sunday and heads into another
unfriendly Central Division opponent’s building on Tuesday, so Yeo
is preaching enthusiasm on his bench.
The Blues’ struggles are a photo negative of the Wild’s recent
surge. After sweeping a three-game road trip in the New York City
area, Minnesota returned home and trailed the San Jose Sharks 2-0
in the third period before rallying to a 3-2 overtime win.
Their playoff odds now stand at a season-best 92 percent, according
to one number-crunching site.
Forward Eric Staal was named the league’s first star of the week
after putting up four goals and seven points in Minnesota’s last
four games. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau believes that improving at
this point in the season is just as important as winning.
“As long as we can continue to get better, this is something we’re
doing fine right now,” Boudreau said, recalling a late-season swoon
a year ago. “Come April, we have to pick that up a lot and in March
we have to pick it up a lot. I mean our March wasn’t that good last
Minnesota made a minor trade deadline move, possibly signaling that
defenseman Jonas Brodin will return from injury soon, as it dealt
blue-liner Mike Reilly to the Montreal Canadiens for a fifth-round