FGD: No More Blues in St. Louis

Kent Wilson
February 15 2013 03:35PM

It has been a long, laborious rebuild in St. Louis over the years. For a long time, they resembled one of those clubs who is always lousy, always picks high, but never seems to get anywhere (*cough* Islanders and Oilers *cough*).

Until a couple years ago. All of sudden, the Blues hit a sort of critical mass of quality players and things started to click. David Backes emerged as a Selke quality center. He's joined by David Perron, Patrik Berglund, Andy McDonald, TJ Oshie, Alex Steen and Alexander Tarasenko up front these days, backed by a blueline featuring quality kids like Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk.

As you can see, there aren't any established superstars on the Blues roster (maybe in the future), but what they do boast is line after line of quality, effective skaters. The Blues can shut you down in waves, as evidenced by their league leading shot against/game average (21.9). The only other team even in spitting distance of the Blues by that measure is the Kings (24.9). No one else allows less than 25 shots per game.

St. Louis has some of the best shot metrics in the league (both this season and last) so don't believe their recent struggles. Like the Flames their primary issue this year has been goaltending (spiked by injuries), but that's unlikely to last. Even if they just settle out to average puck stopping, the Blues will be one of the best in the West.

Calgary's obviously in tough this evening. The Blues will be the best team they've faced this year, so it will be interesting to see how the Flames do shot and scoring chance wise against a true contender.

The Line-up

There will be some changes to the roster despite the win over Dallas. Paul Byron has a broken hand and will be replaced by Roman Horak. The third defense pairing will be turned over completely as well with Anton Babchuk and Derek Smith replacing Butler and Sarich. The latter two guys have looked behind the pace for the last two contests, so their ouster isn't too much of a surprise. Babchuk isn't the fleetest of foot either, but at least he offers something in the offensive zone.

Here's how the lines may settle out based on how Hartley managed things against Dallas.

  • Cervenka - Tanguay - Hudler
  • Cammalleri - Stajan - Stempniak
  • Glencross - Horak - Iginla
  • Comeau - Jones - Jackman

  • Bouwmeester - Giordano
  • Wideman - Brodie
  • Babchuk - Smith

  • Irving

Irving gets another go after a so-so start last game. The kid has made some nice saves in just about every appearance, but the overall performance just isn't quite there. He always allows at least one stoppable puck by him every night and there's segments of the game where he seems to over-commit, lose his net or just look jittery in general. In five games he now has an .895 SV% and he managed precisely one quality start out of four thus far (quality starts = 91.7 SV% in game, or at least 89.8% while allowing 2 or less goals).

Those aren't notable results by any stretch. Of course, four and a bit appearances is a tiny sample. Irving's problem is he doesn't truly have the organization's confidence so he needs to be outstanding more often than not to change some minds. If he has another 3+ goal against outing tonight, you can be sure MacDonald will get the next shot and Irving will likely find his way back to the AHL once Kipper is healthy.

The Opposition

 

  • Perron - Backes - Oshie
  • Mcdonald - Steen - Tarasenko
  • Schwartz - Berglund - Stewart
  • Sobotka - Nichol - Reeves

  • Cole - Pietrangelo
  • Jackman - Shattenkirk
  • Russell - Polak

  • Allen

The big concern up front is the Backes line. They are Hitchcock's PVP unit and they tend to win the shot and chance battle more often than not. The second line is also threatening, if partially because Ken is giving them the Sedin treatment through the early going: Tarasenko, Steen and McDonald would be worrisome as a unit in general, but with zone starts cresting 70% they are getting the high ground almost exclusively.

If the Blues have a true weak spot, it's that third unit. Berglund is a quality middle-tier forward but the other guys aren't. Jaden Schwartz is a former first round pick, but he doesn't quite have his pro legs yet. Chris Stewart is known for being a big guy with a great shot, but he's had terrible underlying numbers since his Colorado days. When he's not running hot, Stewart is a liability which is why he has spent some time in the pressbox under Hitchcock over the last calender year. Of course, they also get  sheltered quite a bit (Kenny buries his first and fourth lines to give his middle rotation as much of a push as possible), so they'll be difficult to take advantage of.

Of course, Jake Allen is also a question mark. The rookie 'tender is in because Jaro Halak is hurt and Brian Elliot has come crashing back down to earth after his high water mark last year. Allen has been a good but not great goalie during a two year stint in the AHL, so there's no reason to expect the 22-year old to suddenly step in a become a stud at this point.

Sum it up

The Blues are legit. There's no Crosby or Malkin types in their line-up, just great coaching and a strong collection of good-to-very-good skaters. The Blues can choke the life out of the opposition's offense, so they will be a very stiff test for a Calgary team that has been pretty decent at getting shots and chances through (if not goals quite yet).

The Flames are in a familiar position: they need to start collecting wins and points sooner rather than later if they hope to be a going concern in the Western Conference playoff race. The slow start means the club is rapidly running out of runway, leaving little room for moral victories if the post-season is the true goal.

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Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#101 yomamen
February 15 2013, 08:24PM
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@Kent Wilson

Oh, sorry. Not this one. This one

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlBiLNN1NhQ

My bad :o)

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#102 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:27PM
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Flames cannot clear it.

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#103 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 08:28PM
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quick somebody get to rona and pickup a sheet of plywood

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#104 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:28PM
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One of the worst several-minute stretches of hockey I've seen in awhile.

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#106 schevvy
February 15 2013, 08:29PM
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Man the Flames are ready to comeback I can feel it!

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#108 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 08:30PM
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What did Francis say Kent?

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#109 ClYDE
February 15 2013, 08:30PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

One of the worst several-minute stretches of hockey I've seen in awhile.

Get ready for much more of this as the year goes on, especially against elite teams. Just wait till we go on the road!

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#110 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:30PM
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"Blues Travelers?"
"And That's Why The Call It The Blues?"
"Singing the Blues?"

"Blue Balled?"

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#111 Baalzamon
February 15 2013, 08:31PM
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@Ryan Pike

It's only going to get worse if Babchuk keeps getting so much icetime. Can't Hartley tell he's terrible?

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#112 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 08:32PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

"Blues Travelers?"
"And That's Why The Call It The Blues?"
"Singing the Blues?"

"Blue Balled?"

Are you giving me suggestions for the post game?

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#113 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 08:32PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

"Blues Travelers?"
"And That's Why The Call It The Blues?"
"Singing the Blues?"

"Blue Balled?"

blue bayou or in the flames case blew by you.

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#115 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:33PM
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Hard-hitting analysis: Harvey the Hound escorts four women down to their seats.
Simmer: "Harvey's having fun."
Kerr: "Harvey's ALWAYS having fun."

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#117 schevvy
February 15 2013, 08:34PM
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@Vintage Flame

I've got one:

Wasted away again in Margaritaville.

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#119 yomamen
February 15 2013, 08:34PM
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Take it positive. At least no Barbara Streisand song so far.

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#120 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 08:34PM
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@Kent Wilson

Oh okay.. Cool

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#121 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:35PM
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Tied 1-1 between Boston College and second-place Merrimack late in the third. Headed to overtime, most likely.

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#122 schevvy
February 15 2013, 08:35PM
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PP! HERE WE GO!!

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#124 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 08:36PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

He said this was probably the end of Irving era in Calgary.

Ohhh for sure Francis stole that

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#125 jeremywilhelm
February 15 2013, 08:37PM
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Irving, 4 ok games, nothing. One bad game, career over!!!

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#126 jeremywilhelm
February 15 2013, 08:37PM
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They weren't even stinkers of goals.

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#127 clYDE
February 15 2013, 08:40PM
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Francis also said the Flames are not big enough or tough enough.

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#128 yomamen
February 15 2013, 08:41PM
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@Kent Wilson

More like at-least-the-glass-is-not-broken view

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#130 clYDE
February 15 2013, 08:42PM
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This big deficit may be a blessing as the Blues have toned down the physical play. I'm worried if they were hitting the Flames they may hurt some of them.

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#131 Mcculb
February 15 2013, 08:42PM
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@Kent Wilson

Kent you said it before Eric did. I think Eric is stealing from you!

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#133 jeremywilhelm
February 15 2013, 08:46PM
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@Kent Wilson

The org has no confidence in anyone not named Kiprusoff. He's a faulty crutch.

(Ps I don't think Irving is the future, he isn't a starter. Maybe a career backup at best)

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#134 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 08:47PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

To be fair to Francis, it strikes me as fairly obvious observation. So he could have come to it independently.

You give him WAAAAY too much credit.

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#135 prendrefeu
February 15 2013, 08:47PM
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So, is there any hope for an epic 3rd frame comeback?

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#136 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 08:48PM
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That's right Charlie. All the Flames problems would be solved with "Pucks and bodies to the net."

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#137 Baalzamon
February 15 2013, 08:49PM
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@prendrefeu

Not if Babchuk continues to play more than Brodie.

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#139 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:51PM
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Barbra Streisand!

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#140 schevvy
February 15 2013, 08:51PM
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WE GOT ONE

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#141 jeremywilhelm
February 15 2013, 08:53PM
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Ps I'm so positive because I'm 3 quadruple vodka orange juices deep.

(Don't judge me. It's the only thing in the house)

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#142 jeremywilhelm
February 15 2013, 08:53PM
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@Kent Wilson

He's not good. But who know. Maybe he'd catch fire. He is probably less busy in net than Irv.

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#143 jeremywilhelm
February 15 2013, 08:54PM
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Wow. Pure dive. Brutal. The refs this year are remarkably terrible.

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#144 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:55PM
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Signs of life!

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#146 jeremywilhelm
February 15 2013, 09:03PM
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@Kent Wilson

Quiet you!

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#147 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 09:06PM
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I love how positive drunk JW is !!

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#148 Scary Gary
February 15 2013, 09:06PM
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5-2 blues is what I thought going in, maybe 5-3 with the backup but it might be worse...

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#149 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 09:07PM
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Flames were...better in the second half of the second. But 30 minutes of bad (and terribly un-lucky) hockey is hard to come back from.

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