Well here we are in mid-April, Blues fans. We made it. Who would’ve thought that the Blues would be up 2-1 in a series against the Jets right now three months ago (other than the brain geniuses here at Blues Buzz).
Hello fellow Blues fans. What a ride this season has been. First let me introduce myself. My name is Jared and I am a Blues fan just like you...
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?
Some of us have been waiting our whole lives to see it. Imagine: a Blues win at the Enterprise Center and their captain, Alex Pietrangelo, hoists Lord Stanley’s Cup. After 52 years of pain for Blues fans, will this year be the year? After seeing the Blues go from worst in the league to one of the hottest teams in the NHL this season, what more could be said about their journey? I’d like to take an in depth look at what the Blues have lying ahead of them come April. Most of us agree that the current playoff system is flawed. We must play out of our division to get to the Western Conference Finals instead of a true seeding system. If we we were in a true seeding system, we would currently be matched against the Winnipeg Jets. Personally, I’d much rather play the Predators in the first round instead of the Jets. This is one of the first years that the playoff system has actually worked in the Blues favor because of the newly found strength in the Pacific.
If you woke up today from a year-long coma and immediately checked the NHL standings (don’t pretend you wouldn’t), you might notice something… off. While the East seems well on track for the usual mid-90s point total for the final playoff spot (Montreal currently holds the second wild card spot with a respectable 85 points, one up on Columbus), the West is limping along with an embarrassingly low 78 point cutoff. It is increasingly likely that a Western Conference team will make the playoffs with less than 90 points. That hasn’t happened since the 2015-16 season, when Minnesota limped into the playoffs with just 87 points, setting the shootout-era record for lowest point total to make the dance. A few others have been almost as bad. A decade ago, both Montreal and Philly got in with just 88 points. The Islanders got in with a measly 83 in 2002-03, but by the time you go that far back, ties were still a thing.
Now THOSE are the Blues I’ve gotten used to watching lately. St. Louis has been in funk since the beginning of March, losing five of their last seven games... most recently to the despicably bad Ottawa Senators.
Look, as somebody who interviewed Allen for three years, I'm qualified to talk about the Blues' current goalie situation. The Snake isn't our starter, and that's OK...
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the two best players on the team are the ones that are doing a bulk of the work in winning games. The extent to which Ryan O’Reilly and Vlad Tarasenko are elevating the Blues is sort of extreme though. (warning: I’m gonna be throwing some charts at you, so get ready).
On January 3rd the St. Louis Blues were dead last in the NHL with a record of 15-17-4. Their goal differential was an abysmal -23 and their hopes at sneaking into a playoff spot looked as bleak as it gets. But here we are only 42 days later and St. Louis has leapfrogged eight teams, jumped in the top wildcard spot, and sit only two points behind Dallas for third in the Central. Here’s how they did it:
As the bye-week moves along, let’s look at some grades for the first half of the season. I’ve only included players that have had some sort of consistent playing time this season, which means no Kyrou, MacEachern, Binnington, etc.
It’s no secret Ryan O’Reilly has been the team’s MVP through the first half of the season. The 27 year-old all-star leads the team in goals (18), assists (32), and points (50). But just how impressive and impactful has he been?
We all expected the Blues to come into this season and be Cup contenders. So far, they haven’t even come close to what our summer expectations were. They sit in 12th place in the Western Conference.
It’s well documented that Jake Allen is having himself an even more Jake Allen-y year than usual. He’s never really been a true number 1 for the Blues, but it’s undeniable that he’s been serviceable most of the time, albeit letting in weak goals along the way, until this year. This year, despite sprinkling in solid games here and there, he’s been brutal in goal and his stats show it. Would the Blues be in playoff contention with a different goaltender? No, the offense has been atrocious, the defense has been shaky, and the coaching staff doesn’t seem to be addressing the problem areas effectively. That being said, Jake Allen has cost the team wins consistently in 2018-19, which has not happened before. So, why?
Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That’s exactly what the Blues have done with Jake Allen. His inconsistency and deflating goals against have been a problem in the past - and this season it hasn’t been any different.
In what may seem like like a desperate attempt to hold onto any remaining relevance I've earned over the past few years writing Blues articles, I think I've got some different views... Idk. I've learned a lot.
Vladimir Tarasenko, superstar of the Blues, has 10 goals and 21 points through the team’s first 32 games, good for second in points and third in goals among St. Louis skaters. His production is down from recent years, as he’s on pace for only about 54 points and 25 goals, which would be his first season in the last five without reaching the 30 goal plateau. Only 10 of these points have come at 5v5, making Vladdy’s production even more grim. Trading Tarasenko would be a huge mistake. Here's why.
Vladimir Tarasenko has proven he's an elite scorer in the NHL, but with the team's recent struggles, it might be time to explore trading the former 40-goal scorer. Here's why.
Tyler Bozak wanted to sign a long-term deal this offseason. Doug Armstrong is knowingly overpaying him at a shorter term. Here's what you should expect from him.
Two years ago I wrote an article about whether Vladimir Tarasenko was on track to becoming one of the greatest Blues in history or not. To be honest, it’s still pretty early to give a definitive answer to this question, but it’s the perfect time to review his progression.
Every Blues fan has their own take on Jake Allen. Newly-signed backup Chad Johnson has a solid backup resume (including more consistent success in large roles than ex-Blue Carter Hutton). However, neither of these netminders elevate the team to the level that the forward core and top defensemen are ready to reach. Which leads me to this: the case for Ville Husso to start at least 25 games in 2018-19.
I've never felt this confident in a team that I've never seen play. Apparently Doug Armstrong has been studying wizardry in his free time because the moves he made this off-season were nothing short of wicked.
Frustration can be a great fuel for motivation. Last season's exciting start gave Blues fans high expectations, but a combination of inconsistent play and lack of heart seemed to erase whatever momentum the team began.
Blues hockey has been over for a couple months and I still can’t get over Brayden Schenn’s season. Even if he didn’t lead the team in points (which he did), at least the Blues weren’t paying Jori Lehtera $4.7 million to be outscored by Scottie Upshall and Kyle Brodziak.
Predicting how the St. Louis Blues will play is undoubtedly one of the hardest tasks. Throughout the season we've seen slumps and streaks followed by streaks then slumps. The Blues are 9-1-1 this month with a current winning streak of six games. With six games remaining in the season, here are Peter Hempstead's (@petehempstead) game-by-game predictions followed by a few general predictions.
Hockey is back. Early injuries began to scrape optimism from fans, but the Blues are off to a great start. Here are Blues Buzz’s season predictions