St. Louis Blues Struggle in Back-to-Back Games, Hindering Playoff Push

Tim Fitzgerald@TimmyFitz76Contributor IFebruary 9, 2010

DETROIT - DECEMBER 9:  Brad Boyes #22 of the St. Louis Blues skates during the game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on December 9, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Playing back-to-back games is as much a part of the NHL as the Zamboni machine.  They're inevitable with an 82-game season and multi-purpose arenas. 

About 25 percent of the NHL's road games are the second half of a back-to-back.  This season there is an increase due to the Olympic break.

The Blues will play 17 sets of back-to-back games this season, compared to 14 in 2008-09 and 12 in 2007-08.  The Blues have played 11 of those sets as of Feb 9.  They will play the second game of a back-to-back tonight at home against Detroit.

The Blues are 25-25-9 overall after last night's ugly loss in Denver.  In the first game of a back-to-back, the Blues are 8-3-2.  In the second game they are 3-7-2. 

One of those three wins was in Sweden against the Detroit Red Wings.  That was the second game of the season when Detroit was still working in new parts.     

The other two wins were against the Edmonton Oilers, the worst team in the league and a "soft touch" at any point on anyone's schedule.  One of those wins against the Oilers was a 7-2 blowout against rookie fill-in goalie Devan Dubnyk.

On average, NHL teams win the second game just under 40 percent of the time.  But teams in the playoff hunt find a way to win more of them than they lose.

For example, the division leading Chicago Blackhawks will play 19 sets of back-to-back games before the season ends.  So far they are 10-1-2 in the second game of a back-to-back. 

The Red Wings are ninth in the Western conference and will have 13 sets of back-to-back games this season.  So far they are 5-3-1 in the second game.

It's hard to pinpoint why the Blues struggle to win games on consecutive nights.  Playing back-to-back games requires a good goaltending tandem, and the Blues certainly have that.  The problem seems to be an amplification of their flaws on normal rest.

Their inability to close out games has led to coughed up leads.  Many of the Blues' young players are still adapting to back-to-back games and the length of a grueling NHL season.  Collegiate, junior, and European hockey leagues play half as many games.

The Blues' offensive woes this season would certainly be amplified by the physical fatigue of playing games on consecutive nights. The mental fatigue could amplify the hesitation and uncertainty they often display. 

They've been turnover prone as well, losing focus at the worst times.

The Blues have six more sets of back-to-back games left this season.  If they want to have any shot at the playoffs, they will have focus and conquer their fatigue to buck this trend.