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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#52 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 07:51PM
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WTH was that??? It's definitely going to be one of those nights now.

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#53 thymebalm
February 15 2013, 07:51PM
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We can still get back in this game... but THOSE have to go in the net.

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#54 exsanguinator
February 15 2013, 07:51PM
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how the eff did that even happen?

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#56 Baalzamon
February 15 2013, 07:52PM
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Babchuk has more icetime so far tonight than T.J. Brodie. That should literally never happen, ever.

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#57 schevvy
February 15 2013, 07:52PM
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Hey wasn't Jake Allen the goalie that choked for Canada vs the States in the Gold Medal game

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#58 thymebalm
February 15 2013, 07:52PM
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Seeing the replay, that save was INSANE

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#59 schevvy
February 15 2013, 07:54PM
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Rout

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#60 thymebalm
February 15 2013, 07:54PM
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Put Irving back in.

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#61 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 07:54PM
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The Flames are running out of goalies to pull. They just cannot play a 200-foot game tonight whatsoever.

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#62 schevvy
February 15 2013, 07:54PM
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@Kent Wilson

Damnit Kent

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#63 exsanguinator
February 15 2013, 07:55PM
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I'm gonna lose it faster than the flames are right now if this continues.

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#65 Baalzamon
February 15 2013, 07:55PM
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for the record, that's why I like Steen so much.

How is Stewart a +3?

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#66 schevvy
February 15 2013, 07:56PM
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Wideman a -3. I blame Kent.

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#67 jeremywilhelm
February 15 2013, 07:56PM
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Bad luck happens. Just keep working.

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#68 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 07:57PM
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schevvy wrote:

Hey wasn't Jake Allen the goalie that choked for Canada vs the States in the Gold Medal game

thought allen played well wasnt it visentin chokin in back to back years?

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#69 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 07:58PM
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flames gotta keep their feet movin

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#70 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 07:59PM
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Somehow this is ALL Babchuk's fault.

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#72 Baalzamon
February 15 2013, 07:59PM
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@negrilcowboy

Allen wasn't very good at all, but he was the de facto starter, so Canada repeatedly went with him (sound familiar?). He (finally) lost the starting job to Martin Jones in the gold medal game.

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#73 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:01PM
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Time to start drinking, gang...

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#74 exsanguinator
February 15 2013, 08:02PM
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yup. that's how this game is going. probably only be 2-0 if irving wasn't who we thought he was tonight.

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#76 yomamen
February 15 2013, 08:03PM
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...Stop, in the name of love, before you brake my heart...

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#77 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:05PM
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Tonight's Post-Game will be brought to you by... whiskey.

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#78 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 08:05PM
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pull the goalie go with six skaters

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#79 Baalzamon
February 15 2013, 08:06PM
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Stajan has probably been the only good Flame tonight. That is exactly as depressing as it sounds.

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#81 Baalzamon
February 15 2013, 08:07PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Chances were 6-3 Blues.

I have 600 - 1

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#82 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 08:08PM
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painful first period

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#83 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:08PM
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Irving allowed 2 goals on 4 shots. MacBackup allowed 2 goals on 8 shots.

Flames were out-shot 12-8.

Wideman, Cervenka, Hudler and Tanguay are each minus-3.

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#84 schevvy
February 15 2013, 08:08PM
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The 4 goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, right? Right.

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#85 jeremywilhelm
February 15 2013, 08:09PM
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The Blues have given up a tonne of goals. Flames can come back. Chip chip chip away.

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#86 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 08:09PM
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If this massacre gets any worse, they're gonna move Valentine's Day to the 15th.

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#87 negrilcowboy
February 15 2013, 08:10PM
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anybody see the captain.

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#89 exsanguinator
February 15 2013, 08:11PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

Irving allowed 2 goals on 4 shots. MacBackup allowed 2 goals on 8 shots.

Flames were out-shot 12-8.

Wideman, Cervenka, Hudler and Tanguay are each minus-3.

I was just about to say the same thing.

I don't even know what to say about this one.

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#90 schevvy
February 15 2013, 08:12PM
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@jeremywilhelm

When JW is the positive one, you know things have gone bad.

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#91 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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#93 yomamen
February 15 2013, 08:19PM
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Look what I find. This will cheer you up

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD2cSPghNkE

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#94 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:20PM
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RYAN CULKIN has a goal and an assist, including the potential game-winner. Quebec leads Baie-Comeau 4-1.

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#95 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:20PM
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@Kent Wilson

Yes. Yes they can. Apparently he was great tonight but the Heat still lost.

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#96 schevvy
February 15 2013, 08:20PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

...they can still recall Taylor, right?

Is Hasek still available?

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#99 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 08:24PM
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@Kent Wilson

Yes.

At the very least you should steal his fashion sense. #SharpDressedMan

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#100 schevvy
February 15 2013, 08:24PM
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@Kent Wilson

Yep. That's a load of brown bananas

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