As the clock hits noon quick on a Sunday after daylight savings time pretty much wiped out the morning hours, let’s take a look at some fresh topics with the St. Louis Blues. Some of these topics may develop into feature length articles while others will remain tidbits. For now, I divulge them in their current form. A stream of consciousness begins now.
Opening Statement-The Blues won their 4th in a row on Saturday, beating a feisty Colorado Avalanche team on the road 2-1. Ryan Miller stopped 26 shots to win his fourth game as a Blue. The Blues are one point behind the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference and are closing very well as the final month of season spins into motion. The team is 43-14-6 with 19 games to go and lead Chicago by 4 points in the Central Division. Here are a few things worth mentioning.
- When the Blues acquired Ryan Miller, fans knew they were getting a goaltender who could carry a team throughout an entire season with his hockey skills alone. They acquired someone the team could lean on when needed. Miller dominated games behind a porous Buffalo defense and was in line to handle the duties behind the Blues stout defense with ease. While Miller’s physical attributes made the deal happen, his effect on the team is a mental one as well. He gives the entire team and organization a psychological boost. When he steps on the ice and and gets between the pipes, the team knows their back is covered if their defense breaks down. The coaches know that they can stage risky offensive endeavors and have their ends covered if the other team switches momentum back to defensive zone. The ownership and upper management knows they gave the team the best chance to succeed. Miller on this team was a great fit because he was the one thing missing from this team. A game changing goaltender. Whether it was a fair assessment or not, Jaro Halak didn’t make many teammates or coaches feel comfortable when he was in net. His success hinged on one glorious playoff performance. Miller brings a career of excellence to the team and his presence on the ice gives the team an immediate boost before a shot is defended. He is 4-0 with 6 goals allowed. His impact has been felt instantly.
- Nice to see Patrik Berglund show up and do his part. A big bodied winger who played the role of a zombie before the Olympics, Berglund performed well in Sochi and brought that renewed spirit back to the team. He has scored 4 times since the team returned to action and he is becoming a weapon again. He has 12 goals and 16 assists on the season, which isn’t too bad if he can finish strong. The Blues don’t ask Bergie to chase the Hart Trophy, but scoring 20 goals and having a pulse are nice. He is a big bodied Swede with an ability to shoot and get involved when he shows the hunger. That comes in doses and streaky periods of play. There are stretches when the guy seems to be on auto pilot. If he played for the Columbus Blue Jackets, that would be fine. He plays for a Stanley Cup contending team. Nice to see him plugged in.
- The Blues kept Brian Elliot after the trading deadline, which means Jake Allen stays in Chicago for the time being. I really wanted to see the team trade Elliot and bring up Allen to back up Miller, but they played the veteran card and kept their depth stacked. Doug Armstrong knows the future lies in Allen’s hands, but wasn’t quick to unload his workhouse backup in Elliot just yet. Nicely played Armie.
- This deserves an individual article this week, but I really like the Blues versatility. They have four guys with 19 or more goals and 5 players with 40 points or more. T.J. Oshie, along with his brilliance in splitting defenders and beating goalies in shootouts, has 34 assists. This is really a coming out season for the kid and longtime fan favorite. Oshie is playing on the top line with David Backes(21 goals, 24 assists) and Alexander Steen. He heads the power play and penalty killer line while balancing a fine head of hair and Sochi glory. At one time, I wanted to see the kid traded. He has convinced me he belongs here.
- Thank you David Backes. The captain sinks goals, has a decent ability to carry the puck, deflect it into nets and is a genuine good hockey player. He is a terrific captain. He isn’t afraid to bash skulls, drop the gloves and shout at every player on the ice. He is the equivalent of Chris Carpenter on skates. I have loved the guy since he put on the Blue Note jersey and during his years with the club, has grown into a statue brand of talent. A person fans and teammates can look up to.
- Alexander Steen, in only 52 games, has 29 goals. He also owns 8 game winning tallies. I wondered if this streak of scoring will keep up when the Blues gave him a new contract this past winter and I am beginning to think he will. I won’t say 40 goals lies ahead for every season from the Swede but I think he can produce 30 a few more times. He isn’t afraid to shoot the puck, has a very accurate shot and doesn’t unleash it all the time. Steen is selective. He also happens to be a hard nosed player who isn’t afraid to get dirty. He will be a fine player for years to come.
- Ex Blues News. Jaro Halak made his first start for the Washington Capitals on Saturday night and played very well. He stopped 31 of 33 shots, made some great saves and kept the Caps in the game until they could net 3 goals and win it. The team appears to be handing him the reins for the season and that is good and ironic for the former Blues goalie. Halak was pressured here to be the god of goaltending since his 4 year deal put him in the Lou. He had a great playoff series in 2010 and sort of rode that into his new life with the Blues. That turned into disappointment when he couldn’t stay healthy and gave up soft goals in important games. Halak put up great stats here but couldn’t rise above the expectations placed upon him when he entered Scottrade. In a matter of a week, he changed teams twice and now stands as the potential #1 guy in Washington. This is a team with playoff aspirations and a serious scoring attack. It’s ironic because Halak made his name when he stopped the Caps in that playoff series a few years ago. Now he stands as their last line of defense. Good for him. I hope he does very well…until he faces the Blues.
That’s it. Come back tomorrow for a bullet round focused on the Cardinals. I will follow that one up with a few hits on the St. Louis Rams and their upcoming draft and free agency hunt. I am keeping you updated on new events in St. Louis sports in a variety of ways. Please comment below with any thoughts or feedback.