FGD: No More Blues in St. Louis

Kent Wilson
February 15 2013 03:35PM

It has been a long, laborious rebuild in St. Louis over the years. For a long time, they resembled one of those clubs who is always lousy, always picks high, but never seems to get anywhere (*cough* Islanders and Oilers *cough*).

Until a couple years ago. All of sudden, the Blues hit a sort of critical mass of quality players and things started to click. David Backes emerged as a Selke quality center. He's joined by David Perron, Patrik Berglund, Andy McDonald, TJ Oshie, Alex Steen and Alexander Tarasenko up front these days, backed by a blueline featuring quality kids like Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk.

As you can see, there aren't any established superstars on the Blues roster (maybe in the future), but what they do boast is line after line of quality, effective skaters. The Blues can shut you down in waves, as evidenced by their league leading shot against/game average (21.9). The only other team even in spitting distance of the Blues by that measure is the Kings (24.9). No one else allows less than 25 shots per game.

St. Louis has some of the best shot metrics in the league (both this season and last) so don't believe their recent struggles. Like the Flames their primary issue this year has been goaltending (spiked by injuries), but that's unlikely to last. Even if they just settle out to average puck stopping, the Blues will be one of the best in the West.

Calgary's obviously in tough this evening. The Blues will be the best team they've faced this year, so it will be interesting to see how the Flames do shot and scoring chance wise against a true contender.

The Line-up

There will be some changes to the roster despite the win over Dallas. Paul Byron has a broken hand and will be replaced by Roman Horak. The third defense pairing will be turned over completely as well with Anton Babchuk and Derek Smith replacing Butler and Sarich. The latter two guys have looked behind the pace for the last two contests, so their ouster isn't too much of a surprise. Babchuk isn't the fleetest of foot either, but at least he offers something in the offensive zone.

Here's how the lines may settle out based on how Hartley managed things against Dallas.

  • Cervenka - Tanguay - Hudler
  • Cammalleri - Stajan - Stempniak
  • Glencross - Horak - Iginla
  • Comeau - Jones - Jackman

  • Bouwmeester - Giordano
  • Wideman - Brodie
  • Babchuk - Smith

  • Irving

Irving gets another go after a so-so start last game. The kid has made some nice saves in just about every appearance, but the overall performance just isn't quite there. He always allows at least one stoppable puck by him every night and there's segments of the game where he seems to over-commit, lose his net or just look jittery in general. In five games he now has an .895 SV% and he managed precisely one quality start out of four thus far (quality starts = 91.7 SV% in game, or at least 89.8% while allowing 2 or less goals).

Those aren't notable results by any stretch. Of course, four and a bit appearances is a tiny sample. Irving's problem is he doesn't truly have the organization's confidence so he needs to be outstanding more often than not to change some minds. If he has another 3+ goal against outing tonight, you can be sure MacDonald will get the next shot and Irving will likely find his way back to the AHL once Kipper is healthy.

The Opposition

 

  • Perron - Backes - Oshie
  • Mcdonald - Steen - Tarasenko
  • Schwartz - Berglund - Stewart
  • Sobotka - Nichol - Reeves

  • Cole - Pietrangelo
  • Jackman - Shattenkirk
  • Russell - Polak

  • Allen

The big concern up front is the Backes line. They are Hitchcock's PVP unit and they tend to win the shot and chance battle more often than not. The second line is also threatening, if partially because Ken is giving them the Sedin treatment through the early going: Tarasenko, Steen and McDonald would be worrisome as a unit in general, but with zone starts cresting 70% they are getting the high ground almost exclusively.

If the Blues have a true weak spot, it's that third unit. Berglund is a quality middle-tier forward but the other guys aren't. Jaden Schwartz is a former first round pick, but he doesn't quite have his pro legs yet. Chris Stewart is known for being a big guy with a great shot, but he's had terrible underlying numbers since his Colorado days. When he's not running hot, Stewart is a liability which is why he has spent some time in the pressbox under Hitchcock over the last calender year. Of course, they also get  sheltered quite a bit (Kenny buries his first and fourth lines to give his middle rotation as much of a push as possible), so they'll be difficult to take advantage of.

Of course, Jake Allen is also a question mark. The rookie 'tender is in because Jaro Halak is hurt and Brian Elliot has come crashing back down to earth after his high water mark last year. Allen has been a good but not great goalie during a two year stint in the AHL, so there's no reason to expect the 22-year old to suddenly step in a become a stud at this point.

Sum it up

The Blues are legit. There's no Crosby or Malkin types in their line-up, just great coaching and a strong collection of good-to-very-good skaters. The Blues can choke the life out of the opposition's offense, so they will be a very stiff test for a Calgary team that has been pretty decent at getting shots and chances through (if not goals quite yet).

The Flames are in a familiar position: they need to start collecting wins and points sooner rather than later if they hope to be a going concern in the Western Conference playoff race. The slow start means the club is rapidly running out of runway, leaving little room for moral victories if the post-season is the true goal.

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
Former Nations Overlord. Current FN contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 08:16PM
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flames need to find that albert kid from canadian tire fame

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#3 Avalain
February 15 2013, 04:02PM
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"The Blues will be the best team they've faced this year, so it will be interesting to see how the Flames do shot and scoring chance wise against a true contender."

Are they really the best team that the Flames have faced this year? That seems strange because after today the Flames will have played every team in the top 8 except Nashville. Does that mean you feel that the Blues are the best in the West?

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#4 RKD
February 15 2013, 04:03PM
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The return of Anton Babchuk, that's a scary proposition, we don't need another offensive d-man but I guess with eight defencemen Hartley will have Sarich, Butler, Smith and Babs keep rotating the third pair until one or two play poorly consistently, are injured, or traded.

Interesting to see Iggy on the third line, wonder if Hartley will use him the same way he did against Dallas.

A lot of the Blues success was due to John Davidson, the Flames, if they were in the mix will regret not hiring him. JD and Jarko will rebuild the CBJ from basement dwellers into at least a playoff team or better.

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#5 T&A4Flames
February 15 2013, 04:13PM
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I'm liking the look of our lines, 3rd D pairing should be good for some laughs though.

St Lou is just scary looking. Where is D'Agostini? Kent or other, what are his #'s like? Would he be an upgrade over our 3rd or even 2nd line RW position? We are so weak on the right side. Granted, Stemp has been playing very well.

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#6 beloch
February 15 2013, 04:23PM
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Avalain wrote:

"The Blues will be the best team they've faced this year, so it will be interesting to see how the Flames do shot and scoring chance wise against a true contender."

Are they really the best team that the Flames have faced this year? That seems strange because after today the Flames will have played every team in the top 8 except Nashville. Does that mean you feel that the Blues are the best in the West?

It all depends on the metrics you choose. In terms of points per game, they're not that hot. In terms of shots for/shots against, the Blues are #1 in the league. (Calgary is #4 by that metric, so you should probably chase that with an entire freakin' salt-lick.)

Tonight's match could easily boil down to a battle of the back-ups. Entertaining? Possibly very much so. It's got to be better than that stinker against the Av's!

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#7 Parallex
February 15 2013, 04:24PM
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Avalain wrote:

"The Blues will be the best team they've faced this year, so it will be interesting to see how the Flames do shot and scoring chance wise against a true contender."

Are they really the best team that the Flames have faced this year? That seems strange because after today the Flames will have played every team in the top 8 except Nashville. Does that mean you feel that the Blues are the best in the West?

Yeah, I thought that was a strange comment to considering that the Flames have played the Chicago "undefeated in regulation" Blackhawks, Vancouver, and San Jose.

I figure this will be a tight game ala the game against the Wild (hopefully with a better result).

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#8 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 04:33PM
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T&A4Flames wrote:

I'm liking the look of our lines, 3rd D pairing should be good for some laughs though.

St Lou is just scary looking. Where is D'Agostini? Kent or other, what are his #'s like? Would he be an upgrade over our 3rd or even 2nd line RW position? We are so weak on the right side. Granted, Stemp has been playing very well.

dags has been a healthy scratch for most of the year, got it from a very very good sorce, in fact cant get much closer to the player than this says blues wont trade him keepin him for depth.

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#9 FlameinATL
February 15 2013, 04:45PM
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Big game! A big win coming our way...followed by good efforts in Dallas and AZ.

Lots to like.

Go Flames!

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#10 Baalzamon
February 15 2013, 05:04PM
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Avalain wrote:

"The Blues will be the best team they've faced this year, so it will be interesting to see how the Flames do shot and scoring chance wise against a true contender."

Are they really the best team that the Flames have faced this year? That seems strange because after today the Flames will have played every team in the top 8 except Nashville. Does that mean you feel that the Blues are the best in the West?

That's exactly what Kent is saying. I mean, this team is so good that they have Alex Steen getting 70% zone starts. That is ridiculous. I fully expect the Blues to win the cup this year.

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#11 Scary Gary
February 15 2013, 05:28PM
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Another backup.

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#14 Alt
February 15 2013, 06:01PM
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Don,t like Backes,and i guess that,s a compliment to his hard play.Hope Iggy can nuetralize him.

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#15 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 06:02PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Dags has always been pretty mediocre.

pretty good feel good story kid dint make his midget team as a minor midget too small, then a walkon in the ohl, hard working team first attitude.

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#16 ChinookArch
February 15 2013, 06:48PM
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Anyone else notice that the bottom D pairing and the 2 D benchwarmers are all Feaster signings? I really wonder about his ability to properly assess defensive ability.

Poor Derrick Smith. . .

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#17 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 06:50PM
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ChinookArch wrote:

Anyone else notice that the bottom D pairing and the 2 D benchwarmers are all Feaster signings? I really wonder about his ability to properly assess defensive ability.

Poor Derrick Smith. . .

scary group after you fet past the big four. dreadful

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#18 ChinookArch
February 15 2013, 07:06PM
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Can we please have a moratorium on the Warrener Igila manufactued story. Boring!

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#20 Baalzamon
February 15 2013, 07:28PM
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@ChinookArch

Good observation... except for the fact that Sutter brought in Sarich and Babchuk initially, while Smith was brought in as a depth defenseman, and surprised everyone--Feaster included--by making the team out of camp last year.

As for Butler, he was much better last season than this season. At least, theoretically. Maybe Bouwmeester is just that good.

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#21 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 07:32PM
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Brutal, brutal giveaway. Three guys at the blue-line and nobody bails Irving out.

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#24 yomamen
February 15 2013, 07:35PM
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And here we ... oh damn!

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#25 schevvy
February 15 2013, 07:36PM
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Oh goody.

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#26 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 07:37PM
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Wideman very quickly a minus-2.

Hartley bailing his goalie out here. Irving getting NO HELP here.

Here comes Joey Mac.

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#27 schevvy
February 15 2013, 07:37PM
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Joey Mac.

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#28 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 07:38PM
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MacBackup is now in goal.

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#29 yomamen
February 15 2013, 07:38PM
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And thats the definite end of Irving hopes in this organization Iam afraid

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#31 clYDE
February 15 2013, 07:38PM
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Can't see the Flames being able to generate much against this big, fast and well coached team.

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#32 ChinookArch
February 15 2013, 07:38PM
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The last MacDonald on this team was pretty good at hockey.

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#33 ChinookArch
February 15 2013, 07:38PM
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The last MacDonald on this team was pretty good at hockey.

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#34 jeremywilhelm
February 15 2013, 07:38PM
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I wouldn't fault Irving on either. Second goal redirected off a leg. Terrible start.

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#35 yomamen
February 15 2013, 07:39PM
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And the jinx of the year goes to: "If the Blues have a true weak spot, it's that third unit. Berglund is a quality middle-tier forward but the other guys aren't. Jaden Schwartz is a former first round pick, but he doesn't quite have his pro legs yet."

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#36 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 07:39PM
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This just might get ugly tonight...

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#37 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 07:39PM
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a return to reality

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#38 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 07:41PM
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@ChinookArch

That was Craig MacDonald.

Lanny was a McDonald.

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#39 jeremywilhelm
February 15 2013, 07:42PM
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Ps. You guys give up on games far too quickly.

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#40 schevvy
February 15 2013, 07:44PM
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jeremywilhelm wrote:

Ps. You guys give up on games far too quickly.

THE SEASON IS RUINED.

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#41 clYDE
February 15 2013, 07:44PM
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negrilcowboy wrote:

a return to reality

To some of us, this has been the reality foe 3.5 years.

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#42 ChinookArch
February 15 2013, 07:44PM
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@Ryan Pike

Nice I don't even remember Craig.

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#43 clYDE
February 15 2013, 07:45PM
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jeremywilhelm wrote:

Ps. You guys give up on games far too quickly.

3.5 years doesn't seem to have been too quickly to some of us.

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#44 jeremywilhelm
February 15 2013, 07:45PM
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@clYDE

Different team.

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#45 Baalzamon
February 15 2013, 07:46PM
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ugh. Babchuk is terrible. He's a slightly better skater than I remember, but even so.

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#46 clYDE
February 15 2013, 07:48PM
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jeremywilhelm wrote:

Different team.

No, this is still the Flames refusing to make some needed moves.

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#47 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 07:48PM
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On the bright side, Book of Loob and I will be visiting our new sponsor, where I will ridicule him for making such a bad bet...

And then I'll let him pay.

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#48 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 07:49PM
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shoulda sent badchuk to chernobyl and had him drink some water, maybe the nuclear waste would have morohed him into a nhl dman

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#49 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 07:49PM
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Great save.

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#50 schevvy
February 15 2013, 07:50PM
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OH MY GOD

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