So far this St. Louis Blues campaign has featured some extreme highs and extreme lows. But so far, we have an awful lot to be thankful for compared to this time last year.
Like I said in this piece here, 80% of the teams in a playoff spot on Thanksgiving end up making the playoffs come spring. Well, it’s November 24th, and our guys hold the top wild card spot in the Western Conference (and only 4 points back of a division lead).
So how did we get here, and why do I think this season won’t turn into a downward spiral after Thanksgiving like last year?
- We have a fourth line again. The Blues are not your Tampa Bay Lightning or Toronto Maple Leads throwing out a top line of $10 million+ AAV players. When the Blues are good, it’s because we’re throwing out four dangerous lines against the opponent. The last couple of years it seemed like we lacked that depth, and when your pair that with a top line that doesn’t feature a Nate Mackinnon or Auston Matthews, you’re going to be in trouble. This year the fourth line is a weapon for Berube, a line that he’s trusted to start some games off to get the guys going. It’s starting to become sort of a revolving door in terms of who’s on the fourth line, but that’s mainly because guys like Toropchenko and Neighbours have played so well with both pacing 18 or more goals for this season. But no matter who we seem to put on that fourth line be it Sammy Blais, Torpy, or Sunny, it seems they’re just out their hitting the crap out of the other team while also generating some scoring.
- Jordan Binnington is so back. Binner had a rough go against Arizona prior to Thanksgiving, however, excluding that game, this is the first season since his legendary 2019 campaign that Binnington is putting Vezina level numbers up. Before his off game the other night he was posting a save % over .920 for the first time since 2019, and was top 5 in the league for goals saved above expected. Not only is he putting up high level numbers (that would be better if our defense didn’t have a few rotten egg games under their belt this season), he’s also still making his trademark ludicrous saves like this one.
If the Blues want to surprise everyone and do some damage in spring, we’re going to need prime Binner.
3. Robert Thomas is actually shooting the puck. I already wrote about this here, but after years of Blues fans being on the verge of throwing their TV through their window from Thomas passing up on a wide open slot shot, the kid is ripping the puck to the net. And it’s going in quite consistently. Through 18 games Thomas is leading the team in goals, assists (water is also wet), and points. I will gladly take a point-per-game/30+ goal season for $8mil a year.
4. Health. One thing that hasn’t been discussed much this season for the Blues is we’ve been blessed to not get bitten by the injury bug this year. Last year it seemed like once a week we were losing Tarasenko, ROR, Buchy, etc for significant time which can feel like a kick below the belt for a team after awhile.
Would it be amazing if the Blues were like the Boston Bruins with a 14-3-1 record through 18 games looking like a surefire contender? Yes, but we can’t get greedy. We have a lot to be thankful for as Blues fans after that dumpster fire of a campaign in 2022-2023.