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.

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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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#151 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 09:17PM
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Jones/Jackman/Comeau have 5 offensive zone starts and 0 defensive.
Stajan/Stempniak/Cammalleri have 2 of each. (And one more offensive zone start for Stajan/Stempniak/Glencross late in the second).
Iginla/Glencross/Horak have 1 of each.
Cervenka/Hudler/Tanguay have 1 offensive zone start.

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#153 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 09:19PM
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Iginla/Cervenka/Glencross together to start the third.

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#154 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 09:21PM
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Nice passing and zone-entry and, what do ya know, the Flames have made it 4-2.

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#155 schevvy
February 15 2013, 09:21PM
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HERE WE GO!

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#157 FlameinATL
February 15 2013, 09:24PM
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This game is not over...keep it up Flames.

I have yet to see a game this year...have to follow online. But this game is not over.

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#158 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 09:24PM
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Nice shot, but MacDonald NEEDS to have that.

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#159 schevvy
February 15 2013, 09:25PM
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It was fun while it lasted

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#160 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 09:26PM
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Hopefully this game is enough to show Hartley that Babchuk should never play again..

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#162 FlameinATL
February 15 2013, 09:29PM
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Now? Maybe it is.

But still time and still looking for a good effort in Dallas.

St. Louis is tough...no shame in getting kicked by the Blues.

Like Grant said to Sherman at Shiloh after being told by they had endured the Devil's own day..."Lick 'em tomorrow though."

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#163 yomamen
February 15 2013, 09:30PM
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@Vintage Flame

Babchuk is awarded with an assist on GlenX goal :o(

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#164 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 09:32PM
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Scoreface's 100th career goal :)

#SilverLining

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#165 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 09:33PM
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If the Flames connect on HALF of their wide-open nets, it's a tied hockey game.

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#166 schevvy
February 15 2013, 09:37PM
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Why is Comeau with Hudler and Tanguay? Honestly

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#168 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 09:43PM
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schevvy wrote:

Why is Comeau with Hudler and Tanguay? Honestly

The better question is of course, Why is Comeau on the ice, or on this team??

Good God when is Sven back???

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#169 schevvy
February 15 2013, 09:44PM
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@Vintage Flame

Can they test for deer antler spray yet? Cause Sven needs to recover...and fast!

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#171 Ryan Pike
February 15 2013, 09:47PM
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Any picks for Firestarter/Red Warrior tonight?

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#173 schevvy
February 15 2013, 09:49PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

Any picks for Firestarter/Red Warrior tonight?

obviously Barbra Streisand

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#175 schevvy
February 15 2013, 09:56PM
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@Kent Wilson

Flames are a long way from St. Louis's level.

But, in fairness, I thought it was going to end a lot worse after it got to 4-0. Kudos to them for at least not giving up.

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#176 beloch
February 15 2013, 09:56PM
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Well, now we know what life without Kipper is like for the Flames. It *sucks*.

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#177 Vintage Flame
February 15 2013, 09:58PM
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So uhhhh.. Barry Brust is next in line right?

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#178 schevvy
February 15 2013, 10:04PM
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beloch wrote:

Well, now we know what life without Kipper is like for the Flames. It *sucks*.

2-2-1 without Kipper

2-3-2 with Kipper

If you mean life without elite Kipper though...yeah

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#179 clYDE
February 15 2013, 10:07PM
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schevvy wrote:

2-2-1 without Kipper

2-3-2 with Kipper

If you mean life without elite Kipper though...yeah

This is just what life is as a Flames fan.

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#180 beloch
February 15 2013, 10:10PM
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@schevvy

Heck, life without barely *adequate* Kipper sucks. At this point, I'd settle for a goalie that can break 0.900 and has an ounce of legitimate upside for the future. Maybe that will be Irving someday, but it sure wasn't today. Send him to the farm, immediately. Bring Taylor or Brust up and see if they can fill the gap.

Let's face it. Whatever Irving is going through mentally right now, there's a reason he was third string in Abbotsford. Expecting him to magically transform into a NHL starter when he can't hack it in the AHL was just a tad insane.

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#181 Jano
February 15 2013, 10:22PM
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Wouldn't have mattered if it was Irving, Taylor, Brust, Ramo, Kipper or anyone else, those first 2 goals were going in. And with uncle Fester coming out declaring how the scouts had pegged MacDonald as someone to trade for, that says more about how bad our scouts may be than anything else. Dude couldn't cut it in TO. Nuff said.

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#182 Franko J
February 15 2013, 10:36PM
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Once again, the Flames prove how much further this team must go before they are even considered a playoff team. If anything, tonight's game just proved that the player personnel on this team is just not good enough to play with real contenders.

Last season I remember Feaster mentioning where this team would be without Kipper. Well Feaster is experiencing that firsthand now.

While on a positive note, at this rate as the choice for the # 1 pick in the 2013 draft could be for the fourth consecutive year staying with a team from Alberta.

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#183 RKD
February 15 2013, 11:13PM
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The Flames are 4-5-3 now and they are going to lose those games in hand in a matter of time. If the cutoff is 56 points the Flames would need to go 22-13-1 or pretty much over .600 hockey the rest of the way.

Doesn't matter how many pieces are changed, the additions of Hudler, Cervenka, and Wideman, the uptempo style and new coach have not yielded significantly better results. Even when Kipper comes back it might not much difference.

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#184 Derzie
February 15 2013, 11:21PM
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Let's face facts. The Flames are a last place team with no real future. Our coverage is mainly provided by Sportsnet who is, let's be honest, 2nd rate at best. Kerr? Simmer? Francis? The panel? Compare all this to the TorontoSportsNetwork and CBC and we are getting a raw deal. Mike Richards or Andrew Walker? Tough to be a Calgary fan right now. Let's hope we draft well, trade for more draft picks and grow a crop of players and build on the good moves that have been made recently and set our sights on 2016.

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