Zach Sanford has played well since being recalled from San Antonio
Blues fans all over sighed in relief as the team won, impressively, in Toronto on Saturday night.
The worst start to a season in decades has fans and the coaching staff concerned. An early record (before the Toronto game) of 1-3-2 is not reflective of the team on paper, at least. And it’s not what everyone expected, given the heightened expectations after an offseason full of change and optimism.
The team’s problems are well documented at this point. Defensive breakdowns, inconsistent energy levels, and blatant missed coverage are among the most prominent. But that all was put to bed, at least for one game. The great win in Toronto revealed four things to us:
- The Blues are capable of playing a solid, thorough game. They blocked more shots, won more faceoffs, put more shots on goal, and ultimately, outscored their opponent. They won despite the Leafs having a greater team CF% (Corsi For percentage, measuring on-ice events for or against).
- Jay Bouwmeester should not play top or even middle pairing minutes anymore. Well past his prime at 35, and slow, he has become a liability when logging lots of ice time. In the loss versus the Canadiens, Max Domi got past everyone to give the Habs an early 1-0 lead. He couldn’t get back to defend against him, and even gave up skating all-out before the play was over. The younger defensemen are capable and have earned more ice time, and as St. Louis Game Time speculates, it’s his last season with the Blues.
- Zach Sanford can play in the NHL. While he missed pretty much all of training camp due to bereavement leave, he played well in San Antonio, with 2 goals in 4 games. He earned a call-up to replace Chris Thorburn, and it paid off with his 1st NHL goal of the season against Toronto. He has a quick, accurate shot.
- The Blues have enough depth that they don’t need Kyrou and Thomas around for the entire season. Robert Thomas is coming to the end of the 9-game period that the team has to decide whether to keep him all year or send him to juniors. With Sanford, Thorburn, and Soshnikov all viable 4th-line forwards, unless Thomas is head-and-shoulders better than those 3, he should be sent to juniors to continue his development.
So not only was it a win at the right time. The victory over Toronto developed storylines from early in the season that should aid Mike Yeo in massaging his club into a consistent winner. The defense should play well if A) everyone is healthy and B) the right players play the most minutes. Having Sanford healthy, and Fabbri on the way, means that the Blues don’t need Robert Thomas to stick around. And, perhaps most importantly, this win can only help the Blues get some of that swagger that Brayden Schenn referenced recently. Winning produces swagger.