Apr 27, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) checks St. Louis Blues defenseman Roman Polak (46) during the first period at the Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Blues
Record- 29-17-2 (2nd Place Central Division)
Goals-Chris Stewart (18)
Assists-David Backes (22)
Points-Christ Stewart (36)
Penalty Minutes-Ryan Reaves (78)
Goalie Wins-Brian Elliott-(14)
Goalie Goals Against Average- Brian Elliott (2.07)
Summary- The St. Louis Blues are the Light version of the Vancouver Canucks with lots of regular season success with little post-season stories to live and tell fans about. After winning the Central Division in 2012, they fell to 2nd behind the Chicago Blackhawks and were seeded 4th in the playoffs. Unlike the Canucks who can lose to anyone in the playoffs, the Blues cannot get past Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings in the playoffs. In the last two seasons they have lost 4 straight games against the Kings to exit the chase for the Stanley Cup.
The Blues are built for right now with all their collective eggs in the same basket the NHL team. They are ranked dead last or near the bottom in most experts lists of organizational depth charts. This is the time for the Blues to win, and with the realigned Conferences it could be their best chance with only the Blackhawks as a real threat in the new division.
To get more prospective of the Blues we caught up with Alex Hodschayan of the St. Louis Blues Fansided site Bleedin Blue to answer a 10 pack of questions about the upcoming season.
BU-1. Will Jaroslav Halak rebound?
BB-Halak is said to be in the best shape of his career and he has been working out non-stop since the season ended. Last year was a rough one for him, but it was due to injury not ability. I think that you will see Halak bounce back to a place better than he has been before. If not, he will be the topic of everyone’s trade conversations as the Blues can’t keep carrying a starting goalie that is best under pressure.
BU-2.Is there a potential 3-way goalie controversy on the horizon with the emergence of Jake Allen?
BB-The simple answer is no. Jake Allen was incredible last year, but he is in no way ready to be the starting goalie for the Blues. Allen will start the season in the AHL and if injuries arise he will join the big club. The Blues know that Allen has a lot of skill and could be the next starter for this team, but he has yet to prove that he can be consistent. The Blues arguably played best with him in net, but I believe they pushed themselves to help a younger goalie and became too comfortable with Halak or Elliott in net.
BU-3.How much ice-time does Derek Roy figure to get in the upcoming season, and what roles will he be filling?
BB-If Roy and Chris Stewart have the kind of chemistry that they should have, then I think Roy will be getting a lot of ice time. I see the first line for the Blues being Alex Steen – Derek Roy – Chris Stewart. That would give the Blues a second line of Jaden Schwartz – David Backes – T.J. Oshie and a third line of Magnus Paajarvi – Patrik Berglund – Vladimir Tarasenko. At least that is what I would like to see. I think that Roy needs to be on the top line, but not necessarily playing first line minutes every night. The Blues have a ton of depth and a roster that many would love to have. Picking up a true playmaking center in Roy should give Stewart the support he needs to show this team he is capable of putting up 30 goals.
BU-4. Vladimir Tarasenko had a great rookie season but was left out of Calder voting. What do you expect from him in the coming year?
BB-Tarasenko just wasn’t the same after his concussion and that is all there is to it. He had slowed before the injury and once he came back he was too tired, too scared to play in the NHL. The kid has a ton of talent, but he needed to learn the North American game before we could really see where that talent would take him. He is down about 20 pounds right now, skating faster on the ice, and stronger than ever before. He now has the knowledge of the NHL game and will be much more comfortable traveling given that he has been most of these places before. He has also managed to learn the English language a lot better, so I expect him to have a huge season. The only obstacle could be the fast paced season once again given the Olympic break.
BU-5. You’ve lost four straight games to the L.A. kings in the last two playoffs. Do the kings have your number or are the blues failing to execute?
BB-There is one simple reason the Blues can’t beat the Kings, scoring. The Blues do not have the scoring talent to get past a team as defensively minded as themselves. Stewart can’t score on Quick, and the rest of the team is lackluster at best. With Schwartz and Tarasenko growing as NHL players, the Blues are finally grooming true goal scorers that could change that for the future. The addition of Derek Roy now should help Stewie find his scoring touch in ways that he was not able to before. Hopefully the Blues have fixed the problem of scoring, but they are basically turning to the same group of guys. If there is not a drastic improvement by the Olympic break, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Blues ship out a part of the core of this team like T.J. Oshie to find scoring.
BU-6. Do you expect a different atmosphere in the Scottrade when the Blackhawks come to town now that they are trying to “keep the red out?”
BB-The simple fact is that Chicago is a cheap bus ride away from St. Louis. There will always be Hawks fans in Scottrade and the atmosphere will be about the same for those games. There are always some fans who get out of line and arguments or more are started, but for the most part having Hawks fans in the building gives for a nice back and forth that is mostly friendly. Now with that said, there were a too few many for comfort this past season, so hopefully we see a few less this year.
BU-7. You’re moving to a weaker division this year. How crucial is it that the blues come out first or second at the end of the season?
BB-I don’t think it is crucial. I at least wouldn’t use that word. The Blues are in a major transition and they have to develop. They shipped out a scorer in David Perron to try and make room for the younger guys moving up the depth chart, so there are going to be some growing pains. With the new addition of Roy and the uncertainty in net, the Blues are not necessarily a shoe in for anything at the moment, but will make the playoffs with ease.
BU-8. What kind of an effect if any will the Olympics and Olympic break have on the upcoming season?
BB-I am worried that the Olympic break will be hardest on Tarasenko and Schwartz. These guys aren’t used to playing a full 82 game season and with the Olympics they have to play it at an exaggerated pace. We will see what happens, but the Blues have enough depth to keep everyone’s legs fresh. I am more excited to see what members of the team are able to do on their national teams as the Blues are well represented.
BU-9. Who is the breakout star that hardly anybody know his name right now?
BB-I don’t think the Blues have one for this season, but you should know the name Ty Rattie. He may have been a second round pick, but his skill and scoring ability are second to none. I want the Blues to keep him in the AHL this season so that he can grow a little more before hitting the NHL, but after breaking all kinds of scoring records in the WHL this kid is certain to be a star.
BU-10. Is the Stanley Cup the only acceptable outcome for this season and is this the only expectation?
BB-Let’s be honest, this probably is not the year the Blues win the cup. It takes a lot to hoist the cup at the end of year, especially during an entire season, and I don’t think the Blues have the scoring or goaltending to do it. The Blues need to win the cup, it needs to happen soon, but we have had many teams that should have one and fell short. At the end of the day, the Blues need to make the playoffs this season, get past the first round, and hopefully make a conference final appearance. If they can do that, fans will be happy. Once Alex Pietrangelo has a season or two more, once Shattenkirk has developed another season, and once Tarasenko and Schwartz are used to the NHL, the Blues should be knocking on the door for many years. I believe they can win one soon, but it will take everyone buying into Hitchcock’s system
Thanks again to Alex for taking time out of his schedule for this Q & A session. If you are for some reason looking for some Blues coverage check out Bleedin Blue.
What is your prediction for the Blues this season in our newly realigned Central Division?
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