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Like they always say, defense wins championships. The St. Louis Blues looked like garbage for most of 2018. And one of our top defenseman, Jay Bouwmeester, looked more like Jay Slouwmeester, amirite?
But seriously, the dude was terrible. Let’s take a look at some stats:
That’s a juicy total of seven points in 33 games. Minus-10 rating. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was our $5-million-a-year defensive stalwart! Just watching him skate around, looking lost and looking very slow, it’s no surprise the numbers were what they were.
Taking a closer look, though, it was clear he just wasn’t fully recovered from major hip surgery in 2018. At his age, recovery from that type of thing is unpredictable, and from what we saw in 2018, it looked like he was done.
But alas! New years bring new beginnings. Bouwmeester seems fully recovered, and his play, especially against elite forwards, has improved dramatically. Along with his rebirth, the Blues have found new life, at times even looking like Cup favorites. Talk of extending Bouwmeester was laughable earlier this season, but now he’s staking a claim for sticking around a while longer. Let’s take a peek at 2019 J-Bouw:
Okay, so the points aren’t exactly piling up. Bouwmeester has only eight points so far in 38 games in 2019, but notice the ice time gradually increasing. J-Bouw has been healthier, playing more and more good hockey, and the Blues are winning. He’s doing things that don’t necessarily show up in the box score, but he helps keep the box scores on the other side empty. Golden Boy Connor McDavid came to town last week, bringing an 8-game multi-point streak with him. He left with zero. Nikita Kucherov rolled into the Lou four days later, having one of the best seasons in recent memory. He also left with zero points. Side note: the Blues are one of only three teams to beat the Bolts twice this season, and both times Kucherov has gone pointless.
There is still a good chunk of season left, but at this point it would take a monumental collapse for the Notes not to make the playoffs. The offense is clicking again with all the heavy-hitters back on the top lines. If defense really does win championships, then I love the Blues’ chances.
In the final year of his contract, all of this begs the question: should the Blues extend Bouwmeester? I’ll leave that discussion for a later time. Right now, I’ll just enjoy the ride. Keep it up, old man.
UPDATE: The Blues just completed a 4-0 homestand by beating the Golden Knights 3-1. Bouwmeester had a beautiful, beautiful assist on O’Reilly’s 27th of the season. He was +1 with two blocked shots in 22:05 TOI.