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Vladimir Tarasenko’s numbers are way down this season.
One step forward. One step back. One step forward, two steps back. Two steps forward……
Continue reading “Horses No Go”
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Two games in, Ryan O’Reilly has played as expected, winning faceoffs and assisting goals.
I will admit that, following the Blues’ 5-4 OT loss to the Blackhawks on Saturday, I was alarmed.
And I think many other fans were too. After all, the Blues lost their first two games of the season. Jake Allen surrendered way too many goals. The defense was atrocious. The only forward to have any goals so far is Vladimir Tarasenko. The first thought to cross my mind, and many others, is that these are the typical Blues who don’t do the hard work and hustle necessary to win hockey games.
But after a day to calm down, have some cofffee, and contemplate it further, we need to take comfort in the likely fact that the ship will be righted in due course.
There are 5 factors at play, and their resolution will go hand-in-hand with improved play from the Blues:
- The defensemen have been at less than full strength. Robert Bortuzzo did not play in the first game of the season due to being suspended during the preseason. And Joel Edmundson is recovering from a minor injury. Those 2 are very important pieces to the D-corps, and having both in the lineup will help Pietrangelo and his rearguard play better and consistently.
- There are a lot of new faces on the roster, 7 to be exact. That’s 1/3 of the roster, actually, and it could take time for everyone to play their part and make up the identity of the club. Sure, they’ve had the preseason games to do that, but preseason games are different from regular season games. NHL clubs don’t run out their full squads for any particular preseason game. Like the Blues, the other clubs use the games to play young kids like Thomas and Kyrou, to see if they can contribute during the regular season.
- The leaders will show the way. Alex Pietrangelo has been singled out for poor play, and he is very much aware of that, and that he needs to correct it. And he will. Ryan O’Reilly said that the team is playing to score, not executing the fundamentals and playing protectively through the neutral zone. I believe that the Captain and his alternates will hold the team accountable, especially after Coach Mike Yeo took them to task in his press conference.
- Believe it or not, the Blues have goalie depth on which to lean. Now, Jake Allen is the No. 1, through and through. But, winning is everything, and if Allen’s play does nto improve, provided he’s supported by offense and defense, then Coach Yeo will have no choice but to give Allen extended time off by playing Chad Johnson. Perhaps Doug Armstrong would even consider calling up Ville Husso for a start or two. It’s rare that an NHL club would carry a 3rd goalie, but you know what they say about desperate times….
- The individual Blues have a better track record than this. Ryan O’Reilly is a proven producer. And he’s showing that in just two games, winning faceoffs like crazy and showing his playmaking skill. Pietrangelo, Edmundson, and Parayko are good defenders who know how to protect against goals. Allen is capable of stellar netminding. We will see these elements come together and put wins in the “W” column.
With all these things to consider, it’s simply too early to make any real judgments about this team. Every team in the league will lose games they shouldn’t. Or play bad defense for a time. Or whose goalie will let in softies. Let’s not worry too much and see how the team responds to these first two games. #LGB.
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Robby Fabbri will be motivated to break out in 2017-18 as a top offensive threat.
Defense and goaltending may win championships, but scoring is sexy. For the past few seasons, the Blues haven’t been known as one the league’s most productive offenses. Last season, there were only two players that cracked the 20-goal plateau – Vladimir Tarasenko with 39 (duh), and Patrik Berglund with 23 (whuuuuutt).
The Blues easily could have had five or more. Paul Stastny was well on pace to reach 20+, but his season was interrupted by injury. He ended playing 66 games, and scored 18 goals. Jaden Schwartz was just 1 goal shy of 20, with 78 games played. And now ex-Blue David Perron scored 18 goals.
Injuries are the great unknown of any sports season, but barring anything serious, here are my Top 5 candidates to reach at least 20 goals for the 2017-18 season.
- Vladimir Tarasenko – This one’s a no-brainer. Tarasenko is truly an elite forward now. He has 116 goals over the past three seasons, for an average of just under 39.
- Jaden Schwartz – He has two 20+ seasons in his young career, and he’s improving as an all-around player. He went through a 14-game goal-less stretch last year, which hurt his goal totals. Jaden is expected to rebound, as he has a full year between him and his injury-shortened 2015-16 season.
- Robby Fabbri – There is a lot riding on Robby’s year. Blues management and coaching are fully expecting him to A) be heathy; and B) put up numbers as a 2nd-line forward. He will have more opportunity for ice time, considering the loss of David Perron in the Vegas expansion draft. He’s definitely penciled in to the Top 6 forwards.
- Brayden Schenn – I’m really looking forward to watching Schenn play. I was so thrilled on draft night when I read the news of his acquisition from the Flyers. And for Jori Lehtera – addition by subtraction! Seventeen of Schenn’s 25 goals last year came on the power play, so he will no doubt beef up the punch of special teams. Whether he plays at center or wing, he’ll bring a skill upgrade to the top 2 lines.
- Paul Stastny – I think a majority of fans would consider Stastny to be a partial bust as a free agent signing. His numbers here have fallen well short of what he put up in Colorado. But last year was his most productive, even with injuries. He was on pace for cracking 20, and now playing in a contract year, he’ll be motivated to earn his next contract.
I think we’ll see an offensive improvement in 2017-18. I can’t wait for hockey to start again, and to see what kind of numbers these 5 will put up. But what do you think? Any season always brings its own surprises.
Thanks for reading.