The St. Louis Blues will embark on a new campaign in just a couple of weeks. They are considered, by most, to be one of the top teams in the league. This is mostly because of the club’s strong defensive play from last season that surely will carry over to this year, because of the lack of roster moves. Still, St. Louis has a chance to become an even stronger team. Improving on their 1.89 goals allowed per game from last year will be tough (if we were playing a full season, I would say impossible), but offensively there is still room to grow. The Blues scored 2.51 goals per contest last year, which ranked 21st in the league. Which players can we expect to step up this season?
Stewart is coming off of a disappointing 2011-2012 season in which he only scored 30 points (15G, 15A) in 79 games. When Stewart first came to St. Louis, in a trade that brought him and d-man Kevin Shattenkirk from Colorado, he tallied 23 points (15G, 8A) in just 26 contests with the Blue Note. During the off-season, #25 signed a one-year deal with the Blues. This is Stewart’s time to show his worth. What Stewart are we going to see in 2013? Game 3 of last year’s Western Conference semi-finals could very well be our best way to predict how the 25-year-old will perform this year. Stewart scored twice in that contest and showed more urgency then he had all year long. With his current one-year “show-me” deal, urgency shouldn’t be a problem this season, since he will be playing for a contract.
Prediction: 41 points (22G, 19A) I believe Stewart will quickly come out of the gates and contribute consistently, not quite at the point-per-game rate however.
McDonald has only once played in a full season for the Blues since joining them in 2007. Injuries have been a recurring problem for the now 35-year-old St. Louis center. When McDonald is actually playing, he is the Blues’ best forward. Last season in 25 games, the Ontario native obtained 22 points (10G, 12A). He was also St. Louis’s top scorer in last year’s playoffs with 10 points (5G, 5A) in 9 contests. He was one of the more vocal Blues during the lockout, and being a veteran, he should be ready to play. The main question is whether he will get injured or not.
Prediction: 45 points (18G, 27A) I will be honest, I’m being optimistic here. I believe in the hockey gods giving breaks though (I bet Mario Lemieux did to), and McDonald certainly deserves one. McDonald still has the ability to produce at a point-per-game pace, as he proved at the end of last season.
David Backes gets most of the attention for being an elite two-way forward, but Steen is up there as well. The 28-year-old has always been defensively responsible, and the past few seasons he has started to put up solid offensive numbers. In 2010-2011 he had 51 points (20G, 31A), and the year before that he scored 24 goals and was a +6 on a Blues team that gave up its fair share of goals. Last season, Steen suffered a concussion, which shortened his season to just 43 games. Steen still managed to get 28 points (15G,13A), but more impressively had a +/- rating at + 24. Steen hasn’t had recurring injuries in the past, so hopefully he can play in the majority of the team’s games this campaign.
Prediction: 36 points (18G, 18A) Steen should be a fairly consistent offensive force, but he doesn’t quite have the offensive talent that McDonald and Stewart possess. Still, Steen has been one of the most consistent Blues over the past three season, and that can’t be forgotten.
Inconsistency has haunted Berglund so far in his career. The former first-round pick scored 47 points in his rookie year, before tallying just 26 in a disappointing sophomore season. Last season saw Berglund obtain 38 points (19 G, 19A). The Sweden native also scored 7 points (3G, 4A) in the playoffs last year. If Berglund can get off to a good start this season, it could be smooth sailing ahead. If he has another unproductive year, people may question how much potential Berglund really has.
Prediction: 34 points (14G, 20A) This is the year that a 34 point season isn’t too bad. Berglund has the talent, but can he find a way to get more points?
As for the other big guys, there is no reason to expect Backes, Oshie, and Perron will not continue to succeed and get better. They are truly the heart of this offense and have proven so consistently over the past few seasons.
The offensive roster looks pretty similar to last year’s. The main difference is the addition of new comer Vladimir Tarasenko. For our player profile on Tarasenko go here: Tarasenko Profile I won’t go into any predictions on this one, but I will say Tarasenko has loads of potential, and I won’t be surprised if he succeeds right off the bat.
Last season the eighth seeded, Los Angeles Kings went on to capture the Stanley Cup. They were the only team that made the postseason that had not scored at least 200 regular season goals (They scored 2.29 GPG), yet in the playoffs the Kings were able to score 2.85 goals per contest, which was third in the playoffs (Pittsburgh and Philadelphia each averaged more than 3 goals per game after their memorable first round series against one another). The point is, anything can happen.
Look for a step forward this season from the offense. Believe it or not, this team is just beginning to blossom.