Before this season started the St. Louis Blues had your typical pre-season presser with Chief and Doug Armstrong on expectations for the season, updates on the roster, and how their golf went in the off season. During said presser, Armstrong had a quote below that caught the attention of some people.
Now, for a lot of people, your GM saying they’re hoping for third place seems pretty negative, and not exactly something to get hyped up about. Army’s point here is simply being aware of the fact that a) the Central Division is loaded with good teams up top and b) so is the Pacific Division with Vegas, Edmonton (I feel they’ll eventually turn it around with Connor McDavid and Draisaitl leading them), Vancouver, and Seattle.
Personally I prefer this brutal honesty much more than the baseball team in town who’s GM tells fans they have World Series aspirations when my 5 month old puppy could see they had glaring roster issues, but that’s a conversation for another website. I also personally thought this goal may be lofty because, unfortunately for the Blues, the Central Division is full of elite teams,
However the Central Division being a bloodbath may turn out to be a positive note for the Blues. It’s looking like the pre-season prediction of Dallas or Colorado being the clear big dog in the division will come to be true, but the next two playoff spots seem to be completely up in the air. Dallas currently leads the division so far, however the next 4 teams are all basically 1 point apart.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a pretty gloomy article after the Blues started 3-4-1, but here we are 14 games in sitting at 8-5-1. That puts the Blues just 1 game out of 2nd in the Central division and 4 points out of first place.
Now some may say that 14 games in is far too early to be discussing a failed season, or in this case a playoff push. To those people I offer you this stat: ~80% of the teams in a playoff position on Thanksgiving make the playoffs.
And although we currently are one point out of a playoff spot, the 60-minute domination of Colorado and Tampa gave me hope for multiple reasons. In those games we saw
-The powerplay went 2/4 against the Avs (with Scotty Perunovich leading PP1, who’d have thought?!)
-We somehow also got two shorthanded goals
-and Jordan Binnington put on an absolute clinic of saves that had the Avs’ forwards looking to the sky and then he turned around and posted a shutout against the Lightning.
Oh, and after last night’s romping of Tampa the Blues outscored them and the Avs 13-2 the last two games. That is 120 minutes of dominance against not just good teams, but cup contending teams.
Here’s another nugget for you-the last time the Blues beat Colorado by more than 3 goals, it was February 9th, 2018. Over 4 calendar years ago. The past two seasons, even when the Blues managed to beat Colorado, it seemed more like they survived. Last night was the first time in a long time where we saw the Blues not only beat the Avs, but dominate them. This play on the powerplay to set up Buchnevich last night was hockey art.
The Blues have never been a team that relies on super stars such as the Avalanche or Maple Leafs. They’ve always found success when they have four deep lines that all can score and have no issue finishing checks.
Well, right now we have our top lines featuring Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich scoring, and teams most certainly can’t sleep on our 4th line of Blais–Neighbours–Toropchenko when they’re scoring goals like this consistently.
Partner this play with a Wild team that’s one Kaprizov injury away from the bottom of the division, a rebuilding Preds team, and Chicago/Arizona still being Chicago/Arizona (god I love this era of the Blackhawks being abysmal), there is hope for this Blues team.
The biggest question mark for this team is obviously going to be defense. On that note, the Blues are 3-1 when Scott Perunovich plays.
Is he carrying the team in those games? No, but he looks comfortable on the powerplay, he’s making elite stretch passes to forwards from behind his own net, and he’s quarterbacking the powerplay just as good (if not better) than the guy we’re paying $7 million a year.
Is he the answer to all of our defensive woes? No, but it’s time to stop pigeon-holing him by only playing him a few games every 3 weeks. You partner letting Perunovich finally reach his potential with a potential defensive acquisition at the deadline, and this team could do some damage.
Please don’t make me eat my words Blues.