Jake Allen and the Blues' struggles are a photo negative of the Wild's recent surge.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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 the first round 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 Monday as well. They sent center Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets at the trade deadline in exchange for a 2018 first-round pick and either the rights to forward Erik Foley or a 2020 fourth-round pick.
St. Louis lost in Nashville on Sunday and heads into another unfriendly Central Division opponent’s building 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 year.”
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 draft pick.