Position: 5th place (Eastern Conference), 34-20-10 (78 points, +8 differential)
Home Record: 18-8-7
Last 10: 5-5-0
Last Meeting: Blues 1 – Capitals 4 (December 1, 2010)
This evening’s game is a trip to America’s capital to face the appropriately, albeit boring, named Washington Capitals. We haven’t played an away game at the Verizon Center since December 18th, 2008, so it’ll be the first time in Chinatown for a few of our boys.
Our last time against the Capitals led to a 4-1 smashing at Scottrade after the two separate one goal losses in the home-and-home to the Stars and the 7-5 goalsplosion in the United Center against the Blackhawks. For the Caps there may have been a bit of a revenge factor involved, with Halak being between the pipes that night. If your memory has faded, Halak, then with the Canadiens, stymied the Capitals en route to a 4-3 series win that was a massive upset with the Canadiens an 8 seed and the Capitals number 1.
The last game saw Varlamov put in an impressive performance, saving 37 shots and helping the Caps build momentum that we saw on HBO’s 24/7. This game had it all: a Boyes missed open net shot, Varlamov standing on his head, Ovechkin running people over, Steen scoring a goal, then another third period meltdown.
Since an embarrassing 6-0 loss to the Rangers (you thought I was going to say Flames, didn’t you?), the Caps have taken two straight against the Islanders in a home-and-home. They’ve built up a little head of steam coming into tonight’s home game against the Note and a loss tonight wouldn’t shock me.
I don’t know how much the Blues have in the tank after going to Western Canada, flying home, then flying out again to the East Coast. This team is banged up, written off, playing away from home with a rugged stretch of games on the horizon (away to NYI, home to CBJ, away to CBJ, then home to the Canadiens and Red Wings all by the 12th), and I just don’t know how much spirit is left. It’s no knock on the Blues; they are professional athletes, but they’re still humans. After five straight gut punching losses after that 9-3 shellacking of the Ducks on February 19, morale can’t be starward. This is the Blues, though. This inconsistent season could see the Blues tear off on a five game winning streak, netting us 10 points and putting us back in playoff contention with 13 games remaining after the March 12th Red Wings game. You just don’t know with this team.
Recent Connection: Tough guy forward DJ King, who was recently waived by the Caps to make room for the addition of Marco Sturm. New boy Dennis Wideman was also a Blue until we sent him packing to Boston in the 2006-2007 season.
Television: In St. Louis on Fox Sports Midwest and the mighty KMOX. In DC on CSN-DC.
I really don’t want to revisit this game. I just don’t. Second straight shutout, worst home loss of the season, and that sinking feeling setting in. Mental mistakes, line change errors, getting skinned on the penalty kill… pick your poison. I just can’t see how it’s productive to pick apart this game.
However it’s hard for me to believe that having Brad Boyes, Brad Winchester, Erik Johnson, or Jay McClement could get this team more than the 65 points they’re currently sitting on. Fans clamoring for the head of Doug Armstrong have clearly been drinking from Larry Pleau’s kool-aid, who while being the GM for our greatest highs (1999-2000 President’s Trophy) was also at the helm for our lowest lows (not making the playoffs and being dead-last in 2005-2006). Perhaps the game passed him by or the extreme complexities of the salary cap era were too much for him, with his successes coming before the lock-out season. This team was one built by Pleau and it’s Armstrong’s now. Complaining about it, griping about trading away an overpaid Boyes, weeping over the trade of EJ? There’s no reason to cry. Armstrong knows what he’s doing. Let’s give the man more than one season to mold something that has come apart for a decade.
Pre-game for the Caps game coming tomorrow. Sorry this is short. Just can’t find the words for last night.
Our national nightmare (plural if you’re in Canada!) is finally over.
The National Hockey League’s trading deadline has come and passed with players trading area codes left and right. Teams had to make the decision whether to make a push for the playoffs (see Anaheim) or to resign themselves to watching from home (see Edmonton, Florida, and Ottawa).
Where did the Blue Note fall in this wicked game of building for now or building for later (or, Edmonton’s case, much, much later?)
Sadly, the Boys in Blue conceded that this was a season too far and were sellers in the trading market. With little more than a mathematical chance at making the playoffs, the front office staff opted to give up the ghost and prepare for the 2011-2012 season.
So what did JD and Armstrong do, exactly? Let’s go back in time to a few weeks ago…
Fancy seeing you here
Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay for the rights to Kevin Beukeboom and a 2011 3rd round pick
This was the first deal put into motion. Many fans were happy to see the backside of Brewer, a lingering reminder of the initial post-lockout dismantling of the Blues that saw Chris Pronger head to Edmonton for Brewer, Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch. Brewer wasn’t a bad player and well liked in the locker room (well enough to be captain) but the emergence of Alex Pietrangelo made him expendable, especially with the looming shadow of unrestricted free agency on the horizon.
Erik Johnson, Jay McClement, and a conditional 2011 or 2012 first round draft pick for Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk, and a conditional 2011 or 2012 second round draft pick.
This was the first indication that Armstrong meant business. EJ was a number 1 overall draft pick and at the ripe age of 22, a bright future is ahead of him. That question of ‘how soon is now’ drifted into the thoughts of many fans, with a perceived drop off in EJ’s play this season (along with the fresh memory of the EJ/Calgary gaffe in the previous post) and lack of offensive development making it appear Johnson had his development stunted and in need of new scenery. In none of our wildest dreams/nightmares did we anticipate the trigger being pulled sending our Olympian to a conference rival. Especially as a package with Silent Jay. Once the initial shock of, “Christ, we lost EJ” wore off, I realized we picked up a fantastic power forward and a promising young defender. We added Stewart’s power and scoring touch, which more than makes up for the loss of McClement’s penalty killing and face-off prowess. Shatty’s addition is welcome because he brings more of an offensive presence to him than EJ possessed. If it’s possible to win a trade, ask Avs fans. Because we did.
Brad Boyes to Buffalo for a 2011 second round draft pick
And this is when we all got the basic idea that the Blues were capitulating on the season. That tough, tough 1-0 loss just last night to the Calgary Flames (sorry, no recap; focusing on this instead) seems to have been the final straw that caused management to become sellers instead of buyers. Fans who had unequivocally bought in to the 2010/11 team were quick to point out that Boyes was tied for third on the team in points with 41. However, on $4.5m a year, you’d expect him to perhaps more points on par with players making in the same range. The Canucks’ Ryan Kesler is sitting on 57. The Bruins’ Milan Lucic is on 46. I understand every player has a different skill set and Boyes is more of a playmaker than a scorer, but the return just isn’t there. You expect more than 12 goals and 29 assists for the money. It would have been nice to get more than a second rounder, but killing off Boyes’ $4m for next year is a plus. I wish Boyes well and perhaps he’ll regain that scoring touch from 2007-2008 that warranted the contract he received.
Brad Winchester to Anaheim for slightly used cups… er, a 2012 third round draft pick
The last piece of business for the trade window. Perhaps it should have come as no surprise that Winnie was moved; his expiring contract and unrestricted free agency were an equation that left the Blues wanting to get something instead of nothing. Winnie was a nice physical player on the checking line who was having a good season, netting 9 goals and racking up an impressive 86 penalty minutes. He was there for the fourth line, he wasn’t a massive scoring threat, but a nice big body in front of the net to agitate opposing goalies and maybe deflect a puck or two. I liked Winnie and his vacant eyed smile, but unfortunately business is business. It became crystal clear at this point it was that time of year when the St. Louis Blues temporarily morph into the St. Louis Rivermen, with a call-up handed to bruiser Ryan Reaves.
Blues are rebuilding. Again. Just like last time. However, with TJ Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Matt D’Agostini, Ryan Reaves, Roman Polak, Nikita Nikitin, Tyson Strachan, Ben Bishop, and numerous Rivermen becoming restricted free agents and Janssen, Porter, and multiple Rivermen becoming unrestricted free agents all at the same time, it becomes a game. Who do you resign? Who do you pick up in free agency (and there will be many quality free agents?) Whatever image JD and Armstrong have in mind for molding this club will become clear in the summer. Right now, we’re all on the outside looking in, not just our team and the playoffs.
First real post here at BMR, thanks for being patient.
The Blues have another big game tonight, this time within the confines of the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. Another day, another must win game situation for the Note. It’s getting tiring, yeah?
Position: 8th, 31-23-9, 71 pts
Last 10: 5-2-3
Last Meeting: Calgary 4 – Blues 1 (Jan 26, 2011)
The Blues take that bus ride down the AB-2 to find themselves in a home-space-and-home with the Flames. Friday’s 5-0 drubbing of the hapless Oilers increased the buzz and expectations on the franchise and tonight’s game allows the Note to gain some crucial ground in the playoff race. Two points tonight puts us within striking distance of the final playoff spot.
This game will not be easy. The Flames are coming off a shoot-out home loss two nights ago to the Sharks and are surely feeling hard-done by it. It’s a massive pile-up in the standings with 10 points separating 4th through 13th in the West, with every passing game points becoming increasingly more valuable. The Flames will come out raring to go, wanting to create some breathing room between themselves, Chicago, Nashville, Anaheim, Columbus, and the Blues.
Last time out against the Flames we were taken behind the shed right before the All-Star Break. Phillip McRae scored his first goal as consolation for what was a dismal affair. I don’t want to remind everybody that it was the game when EJ made a huge gaff and allowed the Flames to open up the scoring. But I am. Roll tape.
I’m really not sure what to expect tonight knowing how bad the Oilers are and how bad of a gauge of the club one game is. I’d like to think we were able to work out some kinks and get some of the chemistry gelling. I like Stewart on the line with Bergie and Oshie, pushing Steen down to the third line to increase scoring opportunities on that line. I’m not a Boyes fan (few and far between these days) and can’t necessarily say I like him being on the first line with McDonald and Backes, nor do I really like D’Ags on the fourth, but somebody has to bring a scoring touch on a line with Cam.
Final words? Can’t drop any points tonight. Can. Not. Especially to a team you’re fighting for a playoff spot against. We’re all walking on eggshells, avoiding talking about the looming reality of another season without making the playoffs, here at the Blue Moon camp. We will, naturally, know a lot more tomorrow about the playoff picture.
Let’s Go Blues!
I had dabbled, unsuccessfully, for years in writing online. I think I’ve finally gotten an idea of how I want to do this. So let’s go.