Apparently, the key to recognition in the NHL is points in 17 of 19 games and league-best goaltending. I don't think it's mere homerism to say the the St Louis Blues are usually one of the most over-looked and under-exposed teams in the NHL. For St Louis to be a primary topic of an article is a pretty rare thing. However, within just the past few days:
- THN opened their power rankings with a focus on the Blues (who cracked the top 10) 12/19
- ...and also had a column that featured Brian Elliott 12/17
- Puck Daddy called the Stewart/Shattenkirk trade the 2nd biggest exchange of 2011 12/20
- Cam Charron on Backhand Shelf (Bourne's blog) had a wonderful analysis of the Blues recent run 12/19
- Even the NHL.com power rankings (Blues @ 7th!) feature Hitchcock's effect on the Blues 12/18
- NHL.com also had a feature on the Halak/Elliott tandem 12/19
- Not to mention the nice words from the usual local sources.
That's a lot of coverage in just four days. There have been times before, in recent memory, where the Blues seemed to get a little over-confident after a hot stretch. They've been accused of reading too many of their press clippings, and not working hard enough. Hopefully, these guys have matured a little bit, and the added veteran leadership won't let that be as big a factor anymore. While it's nice to see the larger hockey world recognize that the Blues are a legit team, it'll all be for naught if the team can't handle the
The Enemy: The Colorado Avalanche are currently in 14th place in the Western Conference, with a record of 16-17-1. They seem to be surging now, though, having won 6 straight at home. They have young players making significant contributions; their scoring is led by 3rd-year man Ryan O'Reilly with 7G and 16A. Matt Duchene, also in his 3rd year in the league, leads the team in goals with 11. Goaltending, however is another story altogether. The current hot hand is Jean-Sebastien Giguere, one of only 3 players over 30 on this team. His 1.86 GAA and .930 SV% has supplanted Varlamov as the nominal starter (sound familiar?).
Other key stats: The Avs have the 3rd-best power play in the league (21.3%). Also, the Blues will need to end this in regulation. Another streak that Colorado is riding is 9 straight shootout wins, stretching back to last year. When the game has gone to the skills competition, they are 6-for-6 on the year.
Final Verse: The puck drops at 8:30 PM St Louis time, and the GDT should be along slightly beforehand. The broadcasts are on the usual outlets: FoxSports MW for TV, and KMOX 1120 AM for radio. One broadcasting note: while Kerbs is out of the booth, the play by play will be done by Rivermen radio voice Brendan Burke. Until then, this is your pregame warmup. Gather here, kvetch about Christmas shopping and wrapping, trade mall horror stories, and dig this- You can have your Frosty and your Rudolph... this is MY favorite Christmas hero:
Die Hard - Music Video - NEW 4th Verse! (via GuyzNite)