Meet The Rivals: St. Louis Blues

Travis Hrubeniuk
September 21 2013 01:49AM

 

Finally, after two long and rather ridiculous seasons that saw the Winnipeg Jets based out of the Southeast, the league has undergone re-alignment and have the team in a realistic division: The Central. All week I will provide a preview of the Jets new Divisional Rivals, giving you with a brief review of last years’ stats, each team's potential opening day lineup, strengths and weaknesses, and a few major storylines (both Jet and non-Jet related). Today we review the unbelievably deep St. Louis Blues.

The St. Louis Blues

Scheduled Meetings

  • October 18th – Winnipeg
  • October 29th – St. Louis
  • December 10th – Winnipeg
  • February 8th – St. Louis
  • March 17th – St. Louis

2012-13 Review

 

Blues

Jets

Record (Point %)

29-17-2 (.625) – 4th in West

24-21-3 (.531) – 9th in East

Home/Away

15-8-1

14-9-1

13-10-1

11-11-2

Goals/Game

2.58 – 17th

2.62 – 16th

Goals Against/Game

2.38 – 8th

2.94 – 25th

Power play %

19.5% - 12th

13.8% - 30th

Pentalty Kill %

84.7% - 7th

79.7% - 24th

Fenwick Close %

53.91%

49.71%

5v5 Corsi For %

52.2%

49.5%

PDO

994

995

Opening Day Projected Lineup

Steen - Backes - Oshie
Schwartz - Roy - Stewart
Paajarvi – Berglund – Tarasenko
Reaves – Lapierre – Sobotka
 
Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
Jackman – Shattenkirk
Leopold – Polak
Whitney?
 
Halak/Elliot
Halak/Elliot
 
Additions: Roy, Paajarvi, LaPierre, Bolduc*, Aucoin*, Whitney**
Subtractions: Perron, Russel
*Put on Waivers
**Invited to Camp

Strengths and Weaknesses

You know you’re a good team when your “weakness” is something you finished among the middle of the league in:

Goal Scoring

Noticing a trend here? “Goal scoring” has been an apparent weakness for the majority of the teams in this division, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Teams in the Central will be tough to play against, and hard to score against, and the Blues are a perfect example of this. There may not be any stand out “superstars” on this team, but guys like David Backes, Vladimir Tarasenko and Chris Stewart can put the puck in the net. The style of play and generally strong goaltending in the Central will likely limit the number of goals the Blues score this year, but they do have the talent to improve on that stat.  It can be surprisingly easy to forget that Andy McDonald recently retired as they have scoring through three lines.

Strengths…where do I begin?

Team Defense

The Blues are a tough, strong, aggressive, defensively focused team. They control the puck well, and were among the league leaders in goals against per game and the penalty kill. Players like Bouwmeester, Jackman, Shattenkirk, and the extremely underrated Pietrangelo make up the top four of what is an excellent defensive group. David Backes, T.J. Oshie, and Patrik Berglund make up a few of the Blues strong defensive forwards. The defensive first mindset of coach Ken Hitchcock has been fully bought into and played to near perfection. Nothing comes easy against this team. 

Solid Goaltending

Admittedly, Jaroslav Halak (career .917 Sv%) and Brian Elliot (career .909 Sv%) had their struggles last year. The two of them do benefit greatly from the team that is playing in front of them, but both are capable goaltenders and will be in a healthy competition for the Blues' net all year. They also have the young Jake Allen developing in the AHL should things go sour again this year.

Team Depth

Projecting the lines for this Blues team was by far the hardest of any team in this series. This team has three spectacular lines that you could list anywhere from 1-3 on most teams in the NHL. Heck, when two of the players you bring in to try to improve end up being placed on waivers, you know things are going well. They also have forwards Ty Rattie and Dmitri Jaskin just chomping at the bit to crack this extremely talented lineup. It extends into the defensive group with camp invitee Ray Whitney, and first year professionals Joel Edmundson and Jani Hakanpaa pushing for top 6 playing time. I’ve already mentioned the battle going on in the blue paint as well. The depth in this lineup is going to lead to great internal competition. The fear of getting sent up to the press box and never getting the chance to come back down is very real for this team, and that should push each player to give his best effort every single night.

Storylines Entering the Season

How Will the Goaltending Situation Play Out?

I would give Jaroslav Halak the edge going into the season to start in net for the Blues. That being said, if Brian Elliot can get back to his 2011-12 form, things will be very interesting in goal. Both guys are going to try putting last season behind them, with hopes that a regular training camp (and remaining injury free) will allow them more success. I have goaltending as a strength for the Blues this year, but there is a chance it could become a weakness. If this team wants to take that next step and make a deep playoff run, they need their goalies to play to their full potential. Anything else could lead to trouble.

Will They Take the Next Step?

I picked the Blues to win the Cup last year, and was quite stunned at their first round dismissal. The time is now for the Blues to take control of not only this Division, but also the league as a whole. This core group of players has been together for a few years now, and they need to show that they are capable of making that big push. It’s getting to a “Conference Finals/Stanley Cup-or bust” situation in St. Louis. Should they fall short, the team could enter into a bit of a “panic” mode and make a drastic move. The disappointment of the past two seasons must have this team hungry for more, and I expect them to not only win this Division, but also be the Western Conference’s Stanley Cup Final representatives. Sorry Vancouver.

Conclusion

This is one hell of a team. Easily the greatest challenge facing the Chicago Blackhawks for the Division Title this year, and will be a real pain in the ass for the Jets. With four strong lines they will battle and grind teams down to nothing, and may be another team that the goal-loving fans hate to watch.

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I write things, you read them. Then tend to yell at me for them. It's okay though, I'm from Winnipeg. I can take it. If you actually do like what I write, give me a twitter follow here (@thrubeniuk): https://twitter.com/thrubeniuk
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#1 Kevin McCartney
September 24 2013, 03:30AM
Trash it!
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These guys are my pick for President's Trophy, despite playing in a tough division. Crazy depth.

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