Today is the day we have been waiting for Blues fans. Our beloved hockey team finally returns to the ice after their bye week.
The St. Louis Blues finally return to the ice to play an actual game today, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Who knew that six days could seem so long.
Perhaps it seemed even longer with the bitter taste from the Washington defeat where the team had a lead and blew it and then did the same thing against Florida. But, deep breathes, let’s leave all that in the past.
This feels like a chance for a fresh start for all of us. Even though it was only a week ago that the Blues last played, it feels like forever.
This almost has the excitement of the beginning of a season. Clearly not to that level, but it is almost a chance to start anew for the Blues.
Tonight, they take on the Maple Leafs. There are some that are too young to remember, but these teams used to be division rivals. Personally, I still hate Nick Kypreos for ruining the Blues chances for a Cup when he ran into and injured Grant Fuhr’s knee.
Of late, it has been anything but a rivalry. The Blues are 7-2-0 against Toronto since the lockout. The two losses both came two seasons ago in 2015-16.
The Blues already took down the Leafs back in November, when the Note was flying. That one ended in a 6-4 victory for St. Louis.
It seems unlikely the Blues can win another shootout like that. They need to tighten their belt defensively and get some good goaltending.
Know thy Enemy
Things will also be different since the game is in Toronto. The Leafs are 13-7-1 on home ice this season.
Toronto has been a mixed bag in their last few games. They are 4-4-2 in their last ten games and lost to Ottawa by a final of 4-3 in their last game.
They will be well rested though as they are coming off their bye week as well. They only had one fewer day of rest having played January 10 and the Blues last took the ice Jan 9.
The Maple Leafs currently sit on 53 points, which puts them third in the Atlantic Division. Auston Matthews continues to lead the team in scoring with 19 goals and 33 points despite missing around 10 games.
I hesitate to mention it for fear of a jinx, but the Blues are the only team left in the NHL that have kept Matthews off the score sheet.
The team website listed the projected lineup for today’s game:
Ivan Barbashev – Paul Stastny – Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin – Brayden Schenn – Alexander Steen
Vladimir Sobotka – Patrik Berglund – Tage Thompson
Magnus Paajarvi – Kyle Brodziak – Chris Thorburn
Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
Vince Dunn – Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson – Robert Bortuzzo
The article on the website mainly talked about the goaltending issue. There is no controversy, but the Blues are going with the hotter hand.
There was no discussion as to why Scottie Upshall is not in the lineup, so your guess is as good as mine. Schenn seems to be wasted on that line, but hopefully that’s a wrong assumption.
Another tidbit surrounding the Blues is that Jaden Schwartz began skating. He is still likely a week away from returning, at the earliest, but it’s definitely a positive step – no pun intended.
Where To Watch
Fox Sports Midwest
Fox Sports Go, NHL.tv (subscriber fee)
KMOX, KMOX.com, Blues app
Tonight’s game is a little earlier, due to being in Toronto. The puck will drop just a little after 6 pm Central Time.
This is the first of two Canadian road trip games before the Blues return home for four games to finish out January.
St. Louis really needs a win tonight to get the winning feeling back and get on the right track. A loss would not end their season, by any means, but it would not start off the second half of the season very well.
I’m usually terrible at predictions, so do not take this to your bookie. However, I have a good feeling about this game.
Blues win 4-3.