Everything Else

I’m not even gonna give it a name. You know what we’re doing here.

2018-2019

FUCK YOU

Goalies: So the question isn’t whether you believe in love after love…well, I mean it kind of is. If you believe “love” is Jordan Binnington being able to repeat what he did over the final 32 games last year. And really, his regular season was a huge January and February, as he was rather ordinary in March and April, By then it of course didn’t matter. And he was good enough in the playoffs without being spectacular, as a .914 is not spectacular. In his first full season in the NHL, you can probably expect something like Matt Murray has gone through, which is very up and down and overall probably just ok.

If it’s anything worse, somehow Jay Gallon is still here. Perhaps this is what he was always meant for, with no pressure as a backup. He can probably fill this role well. It would be hilarious and a market correction if both Binnington and Allen both stained the sheets (in the bad way), but most likely the Blues are looking at no worse than solid if not song-worthy goaltending. FUCK YOU.

Defense: What really fucking sucks is that Justin Faulk, whom the Hawks should have been after for two goddamn years, is a major upgrade on Joel Edmundson, who was a rock-headed fuckstick that was over-worshipped by the inhabitants of the IQ desert down there. Now that they’ve let Alex Pietrangelo off the hook, the Blues have yet another puck mover, to go along with another season of growth from Vinnie Dunn Bag O’ Donuts Ovah Here! I’m still sure Colton Parayko is a disaster waiting to happen, except I’m still waiting. Jabe O’Meester and Robert Bortuzzo for sure are something that needed to be cleared with vinegar and baking soda, but it was enough once. If O’Meester is a healthy scratch a fair portion of the time, they’ll sadly be fine. FUCK YOU.

Forwards: Boy it must really piss the Predators off that the Blues stole their act of having only one genuine top line forward (Tarasenko) and a bunch of tweeners after that and went somewhere the Predators never have and never will. Sure, Ryan O’Reilly did a fine impression of a genuine #1 center in the playoffs, and took home the Conn Smythe as a demonstration of that. But we know what he is. But with him, Brayden Schenn, Tyler Bozak, and if Robert Thomas sees any time in the middle, they basically have three or four guys who slot between 1-2 or 2-3, so it’s just about the same thing. This corps is actually short on fuckwits and dipshits, which you would think would be illegal in West East St. Louis. But it’s young, and it’s fast. Thomas gets another year, as does Sammy “TO BLAIS, WHICH WE ALL KNOW MEANS TO BLUFF, SO YOU WERE PLAYING CARDS…”. Fabbri Robby or Robbri Fabbi or whatever is back before something else goes snap. Jordan Kyrou is going to get a full look after a pretty impressive half-season in the AHL last year and a cameo at the top level. Other than maybe Zach Sanford, the Blues are going to boast speed on all four lines. What the fuck kind of world is it when the Blues are sporting a lineup chockfull of speed both at forward and the blue line and the Hawks make the same sound as your car stuck in the mud/snow? FUCK YOU.

Prediction: With Winnipeg looking an absolute train wreck-in-waiting, the Predators possibly slipping back or at least going stale, there is no reason the Blues don’t win the division. Maybe Colorado is ready to take that big of a leap, but we’re talking about a leap of 15-20 points, which is asking a lot. Especially out of a team that has an iffy blue line, as the Avalanche kind of do. Yeah, the Blues might not have a lot of top end scoring. But they might have a wealth of second-tier scoring to make up for it. They might not have any top-pairing d-men, depending on what your opinion of Pietrangelo is. But they might have four or five 1B or second pairing guys to make up for it. The only hope is the goaltending completely drops out, but under Craig Berube their metrics were so good they can mitigate the goaltending to a point if they have to.

FUCK YOU

Everything Else

vs.

SCHEDULE

Game 1 in San Jose, Saturday 7pm

Game 2 in San Jose, Monday 8pm

Game 3 in St. Louis, Wednesday 7pm

Game 4 in St. Louis, Friday 7pm

 

We’ve been here before. It was only three years ago. The Sharks roster is pretty much the same, though Erik Karlsson is a big change and younger players on that team have matured into stars now. The Blues roster is much different from that one. So I guess there’s no point in talking about it. Whoops. But past iterations of the Blues always matter. Because they’re the Blues. Hopefully we get the same ending. Will we?

Goalies: It would seem callous to say the shine has come off Jordan Binnington just a tad when he gave up all of two goals over seven periods-plus in the last two games against the Stars. But the Stars were terrified to cross their blue line until overtime of Game 7, so he wasn’t asked to do all that much. In Games 2-4, where Binnington saw more than 30 shots in regulation, he gave up 10 goals. So really, the expectation here is if the Blues expect Binnington to win this series by himself, he’s not going to. But he’s not going to lose it by himself either. Still, this is not a Jets team actively quitting or a Stars team that’s afraid of its own shadow offensively. He’s going to see more than 30 shots in regulation pretty much every game, or so you’d think. We’re in un-chartable territory for him. He’s going to be asked to do more, let’s say.

There was a handsome and charming blogger who predicted that Martin Jones would be this year’s Braden Holtby, and cast aside a woeful regular season to come good in the playoffs. I wish I could remember who that was. Since the start of Game 6 against the Knights, Jones has been at .921, and that includes a couple heaves against the Avs. He hasn’t been the problem all of San Jose was praying to Yahweh to fix. He’s still capable of a clanger, but while the Blues have done it through a collection, they don’t have any force like MacKinnon or Rantanen or even some of the Knights. And they’re more conservative. The Blues have only managed more than 35 shots in regulation twice in any game yet this spring.

It wouldn’t have seemed like it before the playoffs started, but this is a pretty even matchup now.

Defense: We have our blindspots here. The Bruins depth, Freddie Andersen in general, the supreme being that is Teuvo. And another thing you’ll never get us to believe is that the Blues’ defense isn’t complete shit. It’s slow and dumb and not all that skilled. And yet it was enough to repel the Jets, whatever their focus level, which should be one of the bigger arsenals in the league. It barely survived the one-line attack of the Stars, but it survived. Pietrangelo has carried the play, whether paired with Vinnie Bag Of Donuts Dunn or Carl Gunnarsson or whoever. And the rest were able to remain competent against the Stars. But I don’t buy it. When the Jets bothered, Mark Scheifele tore Colton Parayko and Joel “This Tastes Funny” Edmundson to shreds, they just didn’t try all that hard to get matchups. The Sharks are rolling with three lines scoring at the moment and I find it hard to believe that Parayko and Edmundson and Gunnarsson are going to be able to hide for a whole series. Call me crazy.

This should be a big advantage for the Sharks, but it hasn’t played that way. Brent Burns has been exposed as a complete jabbering nincompoop in his own zone this playoff run, and Erik Karlsson (however healthy he is) hasn’t been much better. The metrics suggest both are getting kind of domed. Marc-Edouard Vlasic has been marvelous, but his coach keeps saddling him with Brenden Dillon who is an onion in the sun for two weeks. Joakim Ryan is good and can’t seem to find the ice, except in Game 7 overtime against Vegas which sends all kinds of mixed messages. The Sharks haven’t had any time to rest to heal up Karlsson, and Burns is Burns, so this is at-best a white-knuckle ride that breaks even for them.

Forwards: I’ll do my best to fight my biases and say the Blues are getting help across the board. I even noticed Robert Thomas for once in Game 7, even after all Blues fans kept assuring me he’s the second coming of Muhammad I’m Hard Bruce Lee instead of another word for Nick Schmaltz. Tarasenko was pretty much irrelevant against Dallas, but with the more open space San Jose will provide he probably will show up at various points. Jaden Schwartz is on a heater before something falls off of him again. Ryan O’Reilly hasn’t really been all that good in these playoffs either. You can count on continue playoff production from David Perron and Tyler Bozak if you want, I’ll just be over here pissing on my shoes.

The Sharks have the greater star power, but they’ve also been getting the same depth of scoring. Logan Couture went supernova from Game 7 in the first round on, and provides the kind of scoring-from-nothing that the Blues don’t have if Tarasenko can’t be bothered. Hertl has been just as good, and Meier, Labanc, Nyquist have all pitched in. Pavelski is back, though if he in fact knows where he is is another question entirely. Thornton’s line has been getting punched in the groin possession-wise, but they’ve managed to produce to balance that out. You just worry about the collective age here, though more at the back.

Prediction: If there was ever something about the Blues that made you thought this was the team to punch through, now is probably the time. Here’s the other thing about the Blues: they’re the Blues. There’s nowhere I can point to and say they’re definitely better than the Sharks right now. What they do have going for them is they’re younger, so the lack of rest for either probably affects them less. But still, while the San Jose power play hasn’t caught fire yet other than that one time, you know they’re going to get plenty of chances with this collection of unbathed nitwits and fuckwads running around. Parayko, Edmundson, and Perron are probably good for one killer penalty each this series. I don’t really believe much in Pete DeBoer, and he needs to stop pairing Karlsson and Burns together except late in the 3rd when the Sharks are behind. So maybe the Blues have an edge there? You’ll have to go a long way to convince me that Craig Berube is General Cornwallace during a game, though. And if Karlsson or Burns or both can actually start turning things up the ice, those are weapons the Blues just don’t have.

You can’t run from your nature. Sharks in six. 

Everything Else

vs.

SCHEDULE

Game 1 in St. Louis – Tonight, 8:30

Game 2 in St. Louis – Saturday, 2pm

Game 3 in Dallas – Monday, 7pm

Game 4 in Dallas – Wednesday, 8:30

I said it on the podcast, but I’ll say it again. If you have literally anything else to do, do not watch this series. The Stars are boring as fuck, and on purpose because it’s how they hang, and the Blues don’t have the speed the Predators do and that series was its own energy vampire. I’ll be shocked if any team gets to four goals in any game this series. Cue the 5-4 series opener tonight, of course. Let’s do this together.

Goalies: Perhaps the biggest reason this is going to be a tough watch. Ben Bishop threw a .945 at the Preds and sent them home, including a couple 40+ save outings. He’s a Vezina finalist for multiple times for a reason, and carries a career .930 in the playoffs. He also has the added spice of being from West East St. Louis, and playing against a team that gave up on him long ago (I watched Viktor Stalberg light him up in a Presidents’ Day matinee live in St. Louis, once, and believe me everyone hated him there).

On the other side, Jordan Binnington wasn’t that great against the Jets. It was enough, but a .908 probably isn’t going to get it done against the complete opposite of Winnipeg, a team that’s only interested in playing defense. He was kind of all over the map, with three really good games, two bad ones, and a meh one that didn’t matter because the Jets had already quit. He’s unlikely to see a ton of shots here because that’s just not what the Stars do, but there will come a game or two where he’s probably going to have to make a lot of saves and rob the likes of Benn and Seguin on big chances. Let’s call us skeptical still that he’s ready to do that. Edge here for the Stars.

Defense: On the sheets, the Stars are better off here. Somehow a child shall lead them, as it was Miro Heiskanen that led them in ice-time against the Predators. Klingberg and Lindell were actually marvelous against Nashville’s top line, and that’s at least equivalent to O’Reilly-Schenn-Tarasenko. No matter how many draws ROR wins and the broadcast won’t shut up about. Still, Roman Polak is here and playing significant minutes and when that happens calamity is never too far under the surface. Same goes for Ben Lovejoy. Still, with Heiskanen and Klingberg, that’s two better puck-movers than anything the Jets could boast, including the very disinterested and bloated Dustin Byfuglien.

We’ll never buy into the Blues blue line. Alex Pietrangelo is overrated. Colton Parayko was turned into sawdust and vomit by Mark Scheifele. Jabe O’Meester is a zombie that isn’t particularly interested in eating brains. Vinnie Dunn might be something one day, but not yet. Still, they turned back a deeper crop of forwards than the Stars can dream of. The task will be awfully different here, as the Stars are going to dare them to carry or pass their way through a barbed-wire filled neutral zone, and there’s no one on the Blues who can do that. And if they force it and turn the puck over more, that’s what the Stars are feeding on right now.

Forwards: Same drill as with a lot of teams now. The Stars are one line. It’s a hell of a line, but that’s it. There were flickers of light of a second line between Hobbit Zuccarello, Roope Hintz, and Jason Dickinson, and if that can continue they’re on to something. But the top line has to score and it has to score a lot. Good thing the Blues don’t really have a shutdown pairing.

The Blues will tell you they have depth. And they do if Jaden Schwartz builds off his series-clinching hat-trick. We’ve already talked about the top line, they seem to believe pretty heavily in Oskar Sundqvist (whatever), and they have foot soldiers like Maroon and Thomas and Perron who might chip in a big goal or two. Overall, the Blues do have a deeper set here. They just don’t have the top.

Prediction: Again, this will be cruel and unusual. But the Blues simply are not built to bust through a trap consistently. And even if they do, it’s a much better goalie waiting playing better. And the Stars have just more of a top end. Because of how awful this will be to watch, you know it’s going the route. Which screams a Bishop shutout on the road.

Stars in 7. 

Everything Else

 vs.

RECORDS: Blues 43-28-8   Hawks 34-33-12

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN

GROSS: St. Louis Gametime

It’s finally over, people. The Hawks desperate, somewhat sad though fun, and always futile lunge/leap/hail mary for the playoffs is now over. Death came a callin’ last night when the Avs won, and now it’s time for this season to journey to the other side. Peachy keen.

There will be plenty of time for the autopsy, for the criticism, for the investigation. For now, I guess we just stare and be somewhat surprised that it’s only the last three games that will be totally meaningless. Because there was a time when it sure looked like the last three months would be. Then again, that’s a criticism of just how bad the West was this year, because in a normal year the Hawks would have never sniffed a playoff spot, much less held one for about 45 minutes. For now, let’s just say that it was all in front of the Hawks, they had it in their own grasp, and they weren’t able to close their fingers around the easiest playoff spot to grab in a decade or more. Someone should pay. No one will.

Which makes for a distinct contrast to the team they face tonight. The Blues sat with the Hawks as the wooden-spooners of the entire league right after January 1st. They were last in the entire NHL. Since then they’ve ripped of a 27-9-4 to this point, which has them within one win of being tied with both the Jets and Preds. Think about that my beautiful babies. In three months, the Blues went from last in the league to being in with a shout of winning this damn division. That’s how mediocre the division has been, but that’s also how much they’ve turned things around.

A huge part of it is Jordan Binnington, whom the Blues handed the job in January in a true “what-fucking-ever” gesture after Jake Allen for the 18th straight year watched the role dribble under his arm and into the net. Binnington has gone .928 since, including a .936 in January and a .945 in February. He’s mostly responsible for this revival. Who knows if it’s real, but if Binnington doesn’t wake up anytime soon, and considering the state of the West, there’s really no telling how far this could go. There’s something to make your avocado toast come back up, huh?

But it isn’t all just Binnington. Interim coach (for now) Craig Berube has gotten the Blues back to their Hitchcock-levels of shot and chance-suppression, while not sacrificing offense totally to do so. Ryan O’Reilly, whom the Blues got for a fucking song the Hawks probably could have easily matched if they weren’t so busy thinking Anisimov and Schmaltz were fine down the middle, has freaked off for 38 points in 41 games in 2019, And he’s brought the give-a-shit of Vladimir Tarasenko from the red to the black, which is no small task as Tank seemed dead set on playing and bitching his way out of town.

Jaden Schwartz and David Perron finally finding some healthy has helped as well, and Brayden Schenn being able to move to ROR’s wing is another boost.

At the back, Berube finally figured out, which Hitch and Mike Yeo couldn’t, that Colton Parayko nor Alex OrangeJello are puck-movers, and moved Vinnie Dunn Bag O’ Donuts up to the top pairing to be that guy. He responded with nine points in March alone, and keeps Colton Burpo and Jabe O’Meester away from spots where they can do harm to themselves or society. When Dunn is out there the Blues can actually get up and go, which is a real change.

It’s not totally fair to compare the Blues to the Hawks. The Blues were built to compete this year in the summer, where the Hawks were built to take up space. But the Blues did identify a weakness, center, and didn’t just half-ass in trying to patch it up. They brought in O’Reilly and Bozak, who’s been fine. They saw a coach who wasn’t working and the team wasn’t listening to and finally canned him, but the new coach actually was able to implement some changes for the better. None of that has happened here, and it truly is a cold and scornful world where it feels like the Blues have more of an idea of what they’re doing than the Hawks do. But it’s hard to see it otherwise right now.

As for the Hawks, it’s time to just see it out. Corey Crawford will get a rest tonight, and it honestly wouldn’t be a surprise to see him sit the rest of the year. There’s really nothing to be gained from him playing, and now that the Hawks have finally got him healthy and at least in the area of being Crow again, what’s the point of chancing it? Dennis Gilbert has been called up to get a look-see, mostly to reward him for a good season in Rockford. And hey, he’ll keep you from having to watch Gustav Forsling tonight.

The only things that matter now happen at the draft and July 1st. Until then, we’re just killing time.

Game #80 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We went months without have to talk to @StLouisGametime. We were happy. We were optimistic. Food tasted good. There was dancing and revelry and mirth. And now it’s all ruined. Go ahead, it’s too late, everything’s ruined…

Quite the renaissance for the Blues lately. Tell us why it’s more than just an unforeseeable heater from Jordan Binnington?
First of all, I’m writing this a few minutes after the Hawks gave the Jets breakaway practice in overtime keeping the Jets two points ahead of the Blues with three games for each left on the schedule. Why not just pull the goddamn goalie? Corey Crawford deserved better. Dicks. Wait, you want me to answer the question? Of course Binnington is on a hot streak. One that started in early February. It’s now April. Dicks. He’s beaten the Lightning twice, a team trying to break NHL records for wins and points in a season. Quite a hot streak. Look, these Blues were horrible. They were tied with the Senators for last in the league in points on Jan. 3. Their comeback to second in the division is nearly unprecedented. There are some reasons. They play better in front of Binnington and not with clenched buttholes in front of Jake Allen. The defensemen have been scoring goals and actually playing defense. The Blues are almost as good at shot suppression as when Hithcock was the head coach. Ryan O’Reilly continues to push this team every night. I’ll get to Tarasenko in a second, but they’re getting some depth scoring. Robert Thomas is going to be a pain in the ass for Hawks fans for years to come. He’s 19. The Blues have made this climb as a team and not just because of a hot goaltender.
What do we make of Tarasenko? He got his second coach fired earlier this season, is coming in for a pretty low 65 points, and there was buzz earlier in the year the Blues might check out the market for him. Yet he’s been much better under Berube. 
Oh, I guarantee they were checking the market on Tarasenko. Aggressively. The Blues sent out season ticket renewals early. Really early, in January. They moved it up before the trade deadline because they were going to move at least one fan favorite if not more. Tarasenko was on every rumor twitter account. Schenn’s name popped up. Toronto started circling Pietrangelo like hungry buzzards. Some shit was going to hit the fan because this core of players was imploding. They had the excuse that the All-Star game is coming to town next season, so there was that carrot to dangle ticket holders. But they were deathly afraid to ask for renewals after unloading some popular players. And then they started winning and crisis was averted. With Tarasenko specifically, his shoulder surgery in the offseason took more out of him than I think he ever admitted. And Tarasenko can apparently be a little mercurial. Shit, sorry for the big word, Hawks fans. He can be accused of being moody. When his game is off, he overpasses. When he should should more to break a slump, he shoots less. Combine that with a slight downturn from Schenn and Jaden Schwartz not being able to hit the broadside of Nebraska for much of the season, the offense was a mess. During the 11-game winning streak, P.K. Subban woke 91 up. There was a play on a Saturday afternoon game where Subban was trying to get physical behind the play. Tarasenko basically said fuck off and then next shift scored a goal. He got animated. He got fired up. He got tired of the bullshit. The next afternoon in Nashville, he scored a hat trick, the third being the OT game-winner. He’s been a different player since. Craig Berube didn’t have anything to do with it. I will say this about Chief, he earned a contract at the beginning of that winning streak. He got a raise making the playoffs. He could get a bigger one depending on how long the Blues’ season lasts.
Have they finally let Vinnie Dunn Bag Of Donuts off the leash?
Saturday night he was on the ice in overtime. He split two Devils players, drove hard to the net, poked it in and went flying as the goal lamp lit with three seconds to play. He was so far ahead of his teammates, he stood by himself for a couple seconds with his arms wide waiting for some guys to come hug him. But here’s the thing with Dunn. He can make electrifying plays. He can skate with the puck. He has a nice shot that could become a good shot. He’s got the vision. But goddammit, the guy still takes dumb risks. Against Toronto, again during the epic and shocking streak, the Blues had a 2-0 lead at the end of the first. As time expired, Dunn made a dumbass play with the puck that could have gone the other way for a goal as time expired. There was video of Berube waiting by the bench door for Dunn to come off the ice and he fucking unloaded on him. But to Berube’s credit, Dunn hasn’t been scratched for some time. He’s getting primo minutes. He’s got to find that knife’s edge of being daring and aggressive vs. stupid and risky. When he figures that out, look the fuck out.
Whether it’s the Preds or Jets, will the cantankerous Blues fanbase be happy with a one and done or does the second half have you lot hungry for more?
I’m fucking torn on this one. Like I said, they were tied with Ottawa in January. The Blues got booed nearly every game at home. They got blown out by the Flames. By the Canucks. By the Coyotes. It was a weird time to be alive. There’s a fake Jay Bouwmeester twitter account that in December declared if the Blues made the playoffs, he’d get Bouwmeester tattooed on his ass. The Blues actually called him out on it. What I’m trying to say is no one thought they’d be in this situation. It wasn’t realistic. It was like saying the Hawks would make the playoffs back in January and they actually did it. No fucking way, right? Same with the Blues. Same. So, it’s kind of like they’re playing with house money. Not supposed to be here, just happy to be here, won’t be here for long. On the other hand, think of it this way. If you fell into a coma right before the season started and you woke up today with the Blues battling for one of the top three spots in the division, you wouldn’t be surprised at all. You’d think it was a helluva season. Should fan expectations be based on October through much of January or what the expectations were going into the season? Maybe the team we thought they built was actually the team we thought they built. Maybe they needed some extra time playing together. Who the fuck knows. Here’s what I do know: the Blues are going to be a tough out. Colorado threw everything they had at St. Louis to stay in the playoff hunt. And the Blues responded. Sure, they gave up the game-tying goal with under a minute to play, but they were dangerous in overtime and they won the shootout. The Avs brought a high level of intensity and the Blues matched it. That’s a great sign to me. In New York last Friday, the Rangers played a boring game and the Blues played just as uninspired. They’ve answered the bell against the best teams in the league the last two months. There’s nothing to say the Blues won’t answer the bell when the playoffs start.
The last time Hawks fans saw the Blues up close and personal, they were garbage. They weren’t playing together. The goaltending was a mess. Mike Yeo was a dolt. They were bad, bad, bad. Please, Hawks fans. Make a shit ton of noise Wednesday night. Ratchet up the intensity in the building. Get the blood flowing in this rivalry and the Blues will show you the team they’ve become. Have fun golfing, and talk to you next season!

 

Game #80 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

It’s the first win of the Jeremy Colliton era! And the end of a wretched losing streak! And why did it happen? Because Corey Crawford is god. To the bullets:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

–The first period was just plain old uneventful. Crawford had a big stop on Vladimir Tarasenko (more on him later), and David Kampf and Brandon Manning fell over one another in the defensive zone in a very accurate Three Stooges impression, but it’s the Blues and they weren’t able to capitalize. Aside from that, it wasn’t a poorly played period by any means, just not a flashy one.

–The second wasn’t much better, but the Hawks got their one and only goal and on the power play no less. It was actually more luck than skill, as Jay Bouwmeester kicked it in while Jay Gallon was flopping around. But whatever, we’ll take it. And honestly Allen wasn’t that bad tonight, it’s just that Crawford was better.

–And he had to be—the Hawks gave up 28 shots on goal and only managed 19 of their own. Same old story. In fact the Hawks got domed in possession tonight and were only above water in the first period. They had a 39.4 CF% and 33.3 CF% in the second and third, respectively. Going by the eye test alone tonight, the defense actually didn’t look that bad, that’s the fucked up thing. Yes, Manning and Forsling as a pairing was rather terrifying to watch, but for the most part the defense at least attempted to get themselves in front of their net. After leaving O’Hare-runway-sized gaps in front of Crawford for most of last week’s games, this is a relief. And yet, they still gave up nearly 30 shots. Baby steps, but there is still work to do.

–I’m not entirely sold on Colliton’s lines, but I also think it’s too early to start bitching about them (yet). The top line of Schmaltz-Toews-Kane is passing the aforementioned eye test. Anisimov is still too damn slow and couldn’t keep up with the again-resurgent Brandon Saad, so that’s annoying. I’m not quite sure what the DeBrincat-Kampf-Kahun line is going to end up being. They were just north of 50% in possession, which was better than the top line, and all together had five shots on the night. So yes? This is good? I have difficulty trusting Kampf to make good decisions or execute competently, I’m worried that Top Cat is wasting his time, and I’m suspecting that Kahun was basking in reflected glory from being on a line with Jonathan Toews. All of these assumptions could turn out to be wrong, so again, no judgement…yet….

–Tarasenko had an interesting evening, sacrificing a tooth (wholesale, like a cartoon with it popping out of his mouth onto the ice), and he foiled the Hawks trying to get a damn empty net goal. Twice. This had to have been a painful game for him, in both the physical and mental sense.

If the drought was going to be broken, it makes sense that it came against the lowly Blues. The fact that we had to eke out the win with a fluky own-goal by dumbass Bouwmeester and Crawford had to stand on his head against these bottom-feeders to keep the Hawks in the game is a little worrisome. But hey, it’s a win! And if we can beat these fucksticks, then we can do the same against the equally terrible Kings on Friday. There’s nothing to worry about, right?

 

Everything Else

Yes, that’s probably an insult to Denmark to compare it to St. Louis. We hope the Danes forgive us. We love Christian Eriksen. Does that help?

Alex Pietrangelo is something of a yearly post for us. While the Blues have touted and used him as a #1 d-man for a good few years now, we aren’t the only ones who have gone to lengths to show that he’s just not. Is he a good d-man? Yes, unquestionably. If he were a #2 or #3 on a team, that team would almost certainly be really good. At least on the blue line it would be.

But as we’ve pointed out, probably far too much for anyone who still pretends to be of use to society. Pietrangelo just doesn’t push the play that much against the toughest competition. We started when he somehow conned his way onto Team Canada in ’14 (with Bouwmeester! And he played ahead of Subban! Assuredly not because Subban is black!) He’s not prime Keith. He’s not Doughty. He’s not Karlsson. He’s not even Kris Letang. Pietrangelo’s metrics are fine. They’re usually right in line with the team’s, though the Blues’ numbers were always skewed by Ken Hitchock’s ultra-defensive system that didn’t give up much but sure didn’t create much either.

The only time in the past six season that Pietrangelo has exceeded his team’s possession rate by anything significant is this year, where he’s +2.3. That’s going really well for the Blues too, who are still staring up at the Hawks.

Pietrangelo is a good skater, but not great, and can get beat by the faster forwards in the league. And he can get caught with the puck, too. That seems to be a problem this year, where the Blues can’t get out of their zone if there was a carbon monoxide leak. Or maybe there is and that’s the problem. Hard to tell, given the way the whole city smells. Yes, we know carbon monoxide doesn’t smell, just fucking go with us you heathen!

But let’s shelve that discussion for another time. Hockey loves its intangibles. No sport loves to mention what goes on “in the room” more. There is some mystical quality to where the players get dressed, and that has kept some truly woeful hockey players in a job for longer than you’d believe because it was thought they added to this. “The Room” in hockey is somehow weirder than the one with Tommy Wiseau, and maybe it’ll be the subject of its own “Disaster Artist” one day (probably starring David Backes), As if you couldn’t just pack a dressing room full of really good players who win all the time and they wouldn’t just figure it out when they’re not on the ice to get along. We present the 2015 Chicago Blackhawks as evidence.

And it can’t be any clearer that there is something amiss with the Blues both on and off the ice. We can pinpoint the problems on it. The ones off it are a little tougher.

The Blues are about to turf their second coach in less than three seasons. A loss tonight could be the final straw in the case against Mike Yeo. So it’s fair to ask how many coaches the Blues are going to cycle through before they conclude that it’s the group of players who are in someway unreachable.

Pietrangelo is the captain. Along with Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen, that’s pretty much the leadership group in St. Louis, as they’ve been around the longest. While Tarasenko’s performances have never dropped, he clearly had a hand in throwing Hitchcock overboard (quite the feat). But if Pietrangelo is wearing the “C”, the questions have to stop with him.

While the Blues were indisputably stupid under the stewardship of David Backes, you couldn’t accuse them of floating and giving up and trying to undermine their coach. Their effort was in all the wrong directions and tactics, but it was there. This will be the second time they’ve downed tools under Pietrangelo. This becomes a theme at some point soon.

Compare that to the local side, where everyone knew that Joel Quenneville was minutes away from the axe from training camp. And yet you never got the impression the Hawks had quit on him. The front office did last year, but the players didn’t, at least for the most part.

Maybe the silly arrangement of having Yeo right there to succeed Hitchcock jaded the players. They could have soured on Yeo before he even took the job, knowing all the time he was going to take the job. Maybe someone completely new juices everything (though the rumors have it that it’ll just be Craig Berube sliding over from assistant, which is how we got here in the first place). Perhaps the Blues want a completely new voice.

Methinks the players are the thing….

 

Game #19 Preview Suite

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Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

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Brad Lee runs a gameday program, like we used to but then we either grew up or lost the light in our eyes, called St. Louis Gametime. It’s like ours if all the people who wrote ours huffed paint for lunch. Follow him on Twitter @GTBradLee.

So when are the Blues hiring Quenneville? Or can you not go down that road again?
Blues fans decided five seconds after hearing he had been fired that he was a perfect match for the Blues. Granted, it’s a wet dream at this point. Coach Connor McDavid can’t teach the Oilers how to play defense or put kid gloves on dealing with Jake Allen. Both sound like pains in the ass. The dealbreaker might be how much power the Stache wants. GM Doug Armstrong is in the first year of his new contract. A new coach would get no power. Period. And make no mistake, the Blues are one bad loss away from a coaching change…before Craig Berube is promoted from associate coach. Of course I prefer the future HoFer.
The Blues are generating barely any chances at even-strength. Why?
Because the Blues struggle to get the puck out of their own end. Because the Blues defense makes shitty exit passes out of the zone. Because the Blues dump the puck in way too much. Because only one forward line wants to play well at a time. Because Ryan O’Reilly can only do so much. Because the hockey gods hate us. Because it’s a .500 team and that’s how .500 teams play.
If it’s not firing the coach, what’s the big shakeup that clearly is coming? Or is there not one coming?
Yeo is a dead man walking. The Blues went 4-3-0 on a seven-game homestand that just ended. At one point they won three of four and Yeo actually said on the television that it didn’t feel like they had won that often. On Tuesday after practice, Yeo tried to tell the media that Jay Bouwmeester is working his way back to previous playing levels. It’s a lie. Potential shakeups: Yeo gone. Bouwmeester on long term IR. Jake Allen sent packing. Possible captaincy change. Probably only two of those are likely.
The Blues and Hawks fighting it out to stay out of the basement of the division. Honestly, doesn’t this feel like where we belong?
As the late Dennis Green would say, they are who we thought they were. And we let them off the hook. On paper, the Blues are supposed to be better than this. They aren’t. Too many core guys look exactly how they did when they got Hitchcock fired. Pushing the boss overboard has gotten easy. Common. Accepted. And it sucks. Is Yeo a good coach? Hell no. He lost the room early. Ultimately that’s his fault. But the reality is he had a partial season, a full season and this one so far. And the players couldn’t figure out a way to play hard for him in that short timespan. That’s rotten. The roots of the core of this team might be rotten. And I don’t know how they fix it without a blowtorch. As for the Hawks, long-term contracts are fun. It spreads the misery out over several years. Most expensive Blues players aren’t signed past 2020.

 

Game #19 Preview Suite

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Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Believe us, we’re even more sick of them than you are. But with Hawks-Blues games being crammed into the first month, we have to put up with @StLouisGametime together. Just close your eyes and think of a happier place, and soon it will be over. 

 

When’s Mike Yeo getting fired? Is it tomorrow? It’s tomorrow, isn’t it?

Here’s a fun story. When Andy Murray took over for Mike Kitchen as head coach of the Blues, his first game behind the bench was against the Hawks. When Murray got replaced by Davis Payne, his first game was against the Hawks. When Payne was cut loose, Ken Hitchcock’s first game was against the Hawks. You remember Joel Quenneville used to be the Blues head coach, right? His last game with the Blues was a Hawks game. And here we are, Mike Yeo, embattled Blues head coach, piloting a quickly sinking ship and it’s a Hawks game. Too bad Craig Berube, the associate coach who has experience stepping in mid-season, wasn’t hired yesterday. So Yeo could follow in Q’s footsteps and make tonight his last game. When they beat Toronto a week ago, Yeo said after the game he didn’t know why his team played better. After Thursday’s blowout loss, he said something to the effect of the Blues focused a lot on the end goal for the Blues and not the process of becoming a team. That’s some mumbo jumbo bullshit that frankly sounds like an indictment of his own coaching. He’s tried to be nice. He’s tried to be mean. Nothing works. Maybe this is telling: when the axe finally falls and a new guy is in charge, Alexander Steen and Alex Pietrangelo will still be Blues. Petro was a young guy just coming in, but Steen was established when he came to St. Louis. The next guy will be their fifth head coaches in St. Louis (Murray, Payne, Hitchcock, Yeo, Berube). If Berube is only the interim and they name another permanent head coach, that would be six. These are two of the leaders of the team. Maybe they shouldn’t be.

When’s Jake Allen getting fired? Is it tomorrow? It’s tomorrow, isn’t it?

Jake Allen has to fucking love Mike Yeo. He probably offers him a discreet over the pants HJ on the team plane as a thank you. Because hardly anyone is talking about Jake Allen in St. Louis right now. In eight games this season, his goals-against average is 3.93. He’s pushed his career GAA to 2.53. If he tries hard enough (doesn’t try enough?), he could double his career average this season. Only one more goal a game. And I think he can do it. He’s stopped only 87.6 percent of the shots he’s seen this season. Those numbers would get most goaltenders put on waivers and then not claimed. Of course Allen is in the second year of a four-year deal paying him more than $4 million a year. It’s not Brent Seabrook bad, but even Cam Ward wonders how Allen got that contract. But like I said, no one is even mentioning Allen as an anchor pulling the Blues to the bottom of the ocean. So no, he’s not getting fired tomorrow. Even if he deserves it. He’s problem 1B on a list as long as my arm. And I have long arms.

Why is Vince Dunn terrible this year? Is he getting fired?

Vince Dunn is not terrible. You see, Brad Shaw was an assistant coach here forever. All those coaches I mentioned above, he outlasted almost all of him. He was in charge of the defensemen. Now he’s in Columbus. And Mike Van Ryn is the assistant in charge of the defensemen. I’m sure he has a system. If you named it, the moniker might be Chase The Other Team Around Like A Puppy Chases His Tail And Never Get The Puck Like The Puppy Never Gets His Goddamn Tail. Van Ryn has Jay Bouwmeester go from a healthy scratch for the first time in his career to basically leading the defensemen in minutes the next game to third-pairing to practicing yesterday back on the top pairing. When Yeo gets fired, if he doesn’t pack up Van Ryn with him, there may be a riot. And if there’s anything we know how to do in St. Louis, it’s riot.

Your Schmaltz is as big as ours….

Jordan Schmaltz is a find third-pairing defenseman. He’s not too fast or tough. He’s ok. He’s fine. Don’t get me started on the mistakes the other defensemen are making on a nightly basis. I haven’t screamed his name at the TV or at the game yet. That’s a positive sign. He was a first-round pick, but was one of the slowest in his draft class to sniff the NHL. He’s fine. Honest.

When are you getting fired? Is it tomorrow? It’s tomorrow, isn’t it?

This is my seventh season running the Game Time paper. Before that, I wrote for the previous editor/publisher, Gallagher, for seven seasons — six on the front page. So this is my 14th season writing for GT. Our prospect guy is the only one who has written longer. During that time, the Blues have won four playoff series. All those coaches up above, I’ve written extensively about all of them from Kitchen on. I’m still here and all those guys are gone or will be gone soon. I’m the cockroach of St. Louis underground hockey writers. It’s going to take more than one shitty season to get rid of me. And if this wasn’t a well-disguised cry for help, I don’t know what is.

 

Game #11 Preview Suite

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I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

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Chris Gift usually dances for nickels on the side of I-55, after a successful career as cod piece cleaner for various hair-metal bands in the 80’s. He also contributes to St. Louis Gametime. Or he used to We’re not sure and we’re definitely sure we don’t care. He’s at Twitter @ChrisGift.

Signing Tyler Bozak and trading for Ryan O’Reilly. What got up Doug Armstrong’s ass?

We’ve learned to have disdain for ownership groups, regardless of sport. Look at your group of owners in Chicago without the last name of Ricketts. Reinsdorf, Wirtz (ok, Rocky is much better than Bill was), McCaskey, and whoever owns the Fire probably aren’t the most popular folks in town, and with the ton of cash that each team makes, the amount of frugality that owners have is shocking at times.

Blues Chairman Tom Stillman isn’t like that. Since he took over for Dave Checketts in 2012, Stillman has been in on, or attempted to be as active as possible in making the team Cup contenders. His first acquisition was rolling the dice on pending UFA Jay Bouwmeester from Calgary and getting him to sign a deal before he hit the open market. Tthen there was acquiring Ryan Miller from Buffalo, and also getting Paul Stastny from Enos Kroenke’s Denver  Avlanches  – speaking of disdain for ownership groups.  The key sticking point of the O’Reilly deal was the $7.5 million roster bonus ROR was due on July 1st. To paraphrase Armstrong, he called Stillman, said he needed $7.5 million and before Armstrong could even get to the first word of the next sentence explaining it was for ROR, Stillman told him “no problem.” Stillman has deep pockets, and his minority  owners have deeper pockets.

Last year’s pfffft of a season, and the undefeated Father Time approaching on some of the core may have been the kick in the ass that did it for Armstrong and ownership. What really got us was the decision to finally cut bait with Patrik Berglund. More accurately, I think the surprise is that Army found a way for a team to take two God awful contracts (Vlad Sobotka’s contract blew as well as Berglund’s) and get more in return than the bag of pucks that we all anticipated.

Slowly but surely the team’s core has both aged and turned over. Berglund, TJ Oshie, David  Backes, Jerry Halak and Brian Elliott are all gone. Bouwmeester is 35. Alexander Steen is 34. Even some of the “younger” player are starting to get a tad longer in the tooth. Alex Pietrangelo is 28 already. Jaden Schwartz and Vlad Tarasenko are 26. There’s a window for winning with this team, not gaping because of the strength of Winnipeg and Nashville, but there’s definitely a window.

The O’Reilly rumors flew around all season last year, but not just in St. Louis. When the draft came and went, and there was no movement on the ROR front, we thought it was on life support at best. When Bozak and David Perron signed on July 1, and the sun set that night, we thought that was it. Then the “holy shit,” moment happened to see ROR coming to St. Louis. It went from a  plain “holy shit” comment to being capitalized, underscored, boldfaced and whatever the fuck else you do to show exhilaration and joy and when the news of Buffalo’s return on the trade included taking Berglund and Sobotka. It had to be a total Andy Dufresne celebrating freedom in raw sewage and a thunderstorm by escaping Shawshank for Armstrong. Tage Thompson is an above average prospect that needs to mature mentally and physically and eat a TON of wings from the Anchor Bar. The Blues were touting Thompson, Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, and Klim Kostin as the organization’s four best prospects. To acquire talent, two shitty contracts and two draft picks wasn’t going to do it. One of the four had to go. Thompson was the only one with NHL experience. With first round pick Dominik Bokk, and Erick Foley (acquired for Stastny) being added to the prospect reservoir, it was adios Tage.

 

Why is Jake Allen still here and still starting?

Wait, you don’t call him Jay Gallon anymore?

If this was the olden days, and twitter was limited to 140 characters, the answer would be something like “Carter Hutton was too expensive. Ville Husso isn’t ready yet. Jordan Binnington isn’t good enough to play in the NHL, and warts and all, Jake isn’t awful.”

Allen has his flashes of total consciousness, but there are also times when he looks absolutely lost. Ken Hitchcock damn near ruined him with his mental games a few years ago and Marty Brodeur worked with him to get his shit straight.  Both of those guys are gone now, so Hitch can’t fuck him up any more and Brodeur can’t pull the insta-fix anymore (something tells me that in the goaltending brotherhood, that an off the record text message or tip from MB30 is never going to happen).

Counting OTLs as losses, he was 27-28 with a 2.75 GAA last year. Mike Yeo  had to go to the bullpen far too often. Granted the relief was damn good in Hutton,  and Chad Johnson is nowhere the backup that Hutton was. There will be nights this year when it is 10 minutes in and the team is down 3-0, and it’ll be Jake’s game, like it or not.

The Blues look a little short on the wings as far as scoring. Tell us why we’re wrong. Only about this and not life, please.

Writing this prior to the season opener against Winnipeg, all is wonderful. Tarasenko is going to score 40 by Christmas. Pat Maroon will put up video game numbers and be the toughest power forward  player this town has seen since Brendan Shanahan.

To use coach speak, the sum is probably greater than the whole of the parts. Bozak, Perron and ROR will make the power play better (it finished 29th a year ago).Having ROR, Brayden Schenn and Bozak in the middle on the top three lines is a scoring luxury. Plus, the fourth line isn’t going to be the typical  knuckle dragging Neanderthal,  an AHL player playing over his head,  and a Kyle Brodziak type grinder. Think youth and speed on the fourth line this year. The fourth line is scheduled to be  Ivan Barbashev, Thomas, and  Sammy Blais, to start the year. Two players coming off pretty serious injuries  hope to crack the top 12 at some point this season if healthy. Acquired from Washington for Kevin Shattenkirk,  shoulder surgery kept Zach Sanford  out of everything but the first shift of the first day of training camp in the fall of 2017. And don’t forget  Robby Fabbri who managed have two ACL surgeries since just after the Winter Classic in 2017. Fabbri’s knees seem to be fine this camp, but he’s having a hard time with nagging injuries like hips and backs from getting back into hockey shape. Arrmstrong has mentioned November for Fabbri.  Both Sanford and Fabbri can play, and play really well if healthy. If healthy. If healthy .

There’s scuttlebutt that at some point this season, Steen may move to the fourth line if one of the aforementioned youngins’ makes strides to capture top-nine minutes. Steen on the PP, PK and fourth line may be just about right for this point of his career.

This is clearly a go-for-it year for the Blues. Can they really overcome the Preds or Jets?

Funny way of asking for a prediction. The offseason has been very optimistic around these parts, but the reality is that there was a ton of work to do before being able to be on par with the Preds or Jets. Have they done it? I’m not sure, but I’d like to think so. Seeing ROR for a season instead of twice a year will be nice, but he was a good player on a shitty team. Can he be a great player on a good team? Can Allen give a solid season without drama or injury or having will Yeo have to try  to make the best out of a few weeks of Chad Johnson?

The defense is awfully thin. Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson and Robert Bortuzzo are all solid. How much does Bouwmeester have left? Can Vince Dunn have as good of a sophomore season as his freshman year? Is Carl Gunnarson going to be healthy enough to not be a liability out there, or can Jordan Schmaltz mature into a top-six D this year. Chris Butler looked overmatched out there last season, and the team is damn near capped out, so making a big acquisition to help the defense will take some salary cap magic to work.

Worst case scenario, I can’t  see the Blues finishing in anything lower than third in the division. Even if they play great and finish second, they’ll still have to go through both the Jets and  Nashville to make it to the Conference Final. That’ll require a hell of a lot of good play and good fortune to beat both  of those teams in the playoffs.

My guess is they have a hell of a first round series that they might win. That series will probably tax them to the point that there’s nothing left against the other divisional heavyweight and they bow out in the second round.

Now with all that piss and vinegar of a prediction,  this edition of the Blues  has the most talent since the ’16 team that beat Chicago and Dallas before losing to San Jose in five games.. As unpredictable as hockey in general, and this league in particular can be, I don’t think  a Conference Final run or a Western Conference title is out of the question.

 

Game #2 Preview Suite

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Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups And How Teams Were Built