I always enjoy scrolling through Twitter and seeing keyboard warriors try to nitpick every little problem in the Blues organization.
We should be grateful. I mean look guys and gals—our Boys in Blue have lost a couple close games in the recent week or so... but think about it. The most beloved ray of sunshine Oskar Sundqvist just recovered from his torn ACL. Brayden Schenn, a pure workhorse, just recovered from an upper body issue and is back in the lineup.
We’ve seen every team in the league suffer from players being added to Covid-19 protocol. The handsome devil Torey Krug survived this dreaded protocol after testing positive. Ville Husso also got locked up in the COVID cage after delivering a fantastic shutout performance against the Kings on October 25th. Our new, 3 time Stanley Cup champion, Brandon Saad, started heating up and was stopped dead in his tracks due to the virus. The Finnish giant Niko Mikkola just returned after telling the virus enough is enough. Even Ryan O’Reilly, The Factor, The Captain, The Man Rocket himself, was hit with COVID. Early season setbacks always bring up negative mindsets, but let’s take a deeper dive into the situation.
The Blues had to battle through adversity with early season injuries and illnesses. Salary cap, line changes, time on ice, etc... They were all issues that the Blues had to address. Chief Berube always preaches identity, but what was our identity going to be?
Now just wait a minute.
Relax, everyone, relax… We are going to be just fine. I promise. With our usual contributors facing setbacks, our young talent is beginning to show. We already know the spectacular season that Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas are having — both leading the team in points. I used Justin Faulk as a punching bag in his first year with the Blues after an underwhelming start — especially after being on the first pairing for a “Bunch of Jerks” in Carolina. But he has shined extremely bright for us. Consistently holding down the back end.
The Russian trio of Ivan Barbashev, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Pavel Buchnevich continue to stuff the stat sheet. These players are definitely gelling well, but the focal point of this is our stunning depth up and down the lineup. We needed to fill in the holes made by these injuries and illnesses.
Starting at the goal line, Jordan Binnington has been Jordan Binnington this season. He has been sick between the pipes—even with the defensive struggles. Joel Hofer made his NHL debut on November 5th against the San Jose “hand passing” Sharks. He stood tall in net and helped the Blues win while becoming the youngest goalie in franchise history to win in his NHL debut. Not only did he set that record, he grabbed an apple (assist). He is only the 5th goalie in NHL history to record an assist and win in his NHL debut. What an amazing contribution to a team that was starting to lose their gumption. November 18th, Ville made his return and dominated. The quiet Fin stopped 26 of 27 shots and earned his 2nd win on the year. He’s 2-0 with a .984 save percentage and a 0.50 GAA. He’s only had 2 starts, but Husso looks red hot at the start of the season.
Moving forward to the blue line. A whirlwind of changes have happened. Krugger, Mikkola, and now Robert “Ya Know” Bortuzzo have taken time for recovery. Another test to our depth rises from the ashes. More young talent needs to step up and find their game quickly. This has been no problem for Calle Rosen and Scott “Scotty P” Perunovich. In Calle’s NHL debut, he was stable on the back end. I could tell he needed to shake off some nervous jitters, but he contributed. In 2 games against Nashville and Winnipeg, Rosen produced 2 assists. A solid filler for the Blues who was, honestly, under-appreciated in those 2 games.
Torey Krug returned soon after Rosen started, and he quickly grasped the game as if he never left. Krug snapped home a beautiful 4 on 4 goal in his first game back against Arizona too. Our power play received a nice boost because of Krugger. I think Torey is under-appreciated, too. He is often compared to Pietrangelo, but the man makes a huge difference. With him returning, Rosen took his talents back to the AHL, but Perunovich was finally given his chance with the Blues. A highly anticipated debut for Blues fans was no less than great. Scotty P logged over 18 minutes and looked like a natural out there. His composure and vision is similar to Krug’s in my opinion. He has an amazing passing ability that feeds his forwards in stride. Overall, Perunovich has 1 assist in 4 games. He is also paired up with Mr. Moustache himself (Faulker) so we see him quite a lot which is a good sign for his future and our defense’s future.
Last, but not least, Mikkola made his return against Vegas. Honestly, I can’t believe this guy isn’t in the lineup every night. Parayko’s size, speed, and scoring ability, but let’s make it Finnish. Oh by the way, he does finish. Mikkola sniped a nice 2-on-1 wrister past Lehner to give the Blues a comfortable 5-2 lead on November 22nd. What a return by our usual suspects and amazing contributions from our youngsters too!
Finally, the forward production. With top line forwards out, our fightin’ bunch had to be thrown into high priority situations. Dakota Joshua, James “The Real Deal” Neal, and our comrade Klim Kostin were given quality minutes on the ice. It was no surprise that Joshua was given another shot in The Show. A big bodied grinder with a tenacious mentality really makes Chief happy. Dakota plays into those dirty areas, feasts on the forecheck, and takes advantage of open ice. I look to see him fight for some minutes again this season. The Real Deal is known as a specialist. Unfortunately, he does not have the same impact from a few years ago. Luckily, the Blues only need him for the forecheck, backcheck, paycheck play style. It’s always a plus to have a veteran (someone like Tyler Bozak) who is still able to bring momentum back to our side and even tuck in a goal or two. Kostin has been a little quiet since being placed back on the 4th line, but he still shows talent and physicality on the ice. I think Chief loves him just for his hitting ability and puck control. I hope he is able to have more chances this season with his other Russian teammates.
Our most anticipated return was definitely Oskar Sundqvist. Everyone understands how important Sunny is to this organization. He is the perfect locker room guy. His company is enjoyed by other players and our connectivity on the ice has already shifted positively. He’s just a pure workhorse. Since his return, Oskar has 1 assist in 4 games. His apple came from a slick move against a San Jose defense and an even slicker pass to Saader who buried it. I missed Sunny. We all missed him. Now it’s back to business for our Blues.
I was just talking with my father about the impact these returning players have given us, and noticed that Krug, Mikkola, Sunny, and even Hofer all earned a point in their first game back. If not the first game, it was the second game for the others. What an incredible statistic. Everyone wants to be a contributor and it’s great to see we’re still hunting for the top spot in the central after a rocky stretch. Remember, if you’re looking to be a keyboard warrior, take a moment to admire our comebacks so far this season.
Copyright © 2015