The right things are being said in the post-game interviews, but we still haven't seen the Blues rebound back to the team we all know they can be. When asked about that, Coach Hitchcock replied
(CONT) Hitch: "Proof's in the pudding. Come on. It's something we need to address now." #stlblues— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) February 25, 2015
Damn Straight, Hitch.
As the ads are quick to remind us, this is the Stretch Run to the playoffs. I don't think the Blues are in danger of missing, but this time of year is when you determine your seeding, and also establish what kind of momentum you'll carry into the postseason. You don't know what you've got, until the playoffs begin. Right now, the Blues are 9 points behind the Nashville Predators and only 3 points ahead of third-place Chicago. The Hawks position is already tenuous, and they are only 4 points ahead of tonight's opponent, the Winnipeg Jets.
Now, I'm not advocating tanking right here, but I wouldn't be completely disappointed if we were to win tonight in OT or shootout. A win in a three-point game tonight would advance our cause, and also send a nice "Fuck You" to TFUN. Win-Win. Us and the Jets can be fake friends for the night.
The Jets are accumulating points for the postseason this year, and also players to get them there. Just last week, they shipped Zach Bogosian and Evander Kane to the Sabres in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, a pick and prospects. That eliminated a distraction in the dressing room, and also beefed up the Winnipeg D Corps. In addition to that, just yesterday the Jets sent a few picks to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Jiri Tlusty . The Jets are arming up for the playoff run. This is also helpful in replacing what's been lost to injury. Top-liner Blake Wheeler has just been placed on IR, and the Jets were already without the services of Mathieu Perreault and Ben Chiarot and a few others.
This road trip for the Blues is more than just a chance to right the ship. These next three games are going to influence how GM Doug Armstrong handles the 03/02 Trade Deadline. Sometimes the grind of travel and the changes in scenery can re-focus the players on playing the right way and within the system that got them to this point to begin with. As mentioned in this week's podcast, these February lulls often precede transactions by Doug Armstrong. Everyday, people are speculating what this year's move is going to be.
The Jets have never had an issue with scoring. They are led by Bryan Little with 50 points (24 goals, 26 assists) and Andrew Ladd with 49 (20g. 29a) points. Dustin Byfuglien is further down the list, but will certainly be asked to make an impact tonight. The new kids are putting up points too: Myers has 5 points in 6 games, and Stafford has 3. It's almost like leaving Buffalo makes you more productive or something.
While neither goalie has been confirmed yet, I'd expect Brian Elliott in the Blues goal tonight. The Winnipeg goalie will be either Ondrej Pavelec (13-13-7, .909 save percentage) or newcomer Michael Hutchinson (18-7-4, with a .918 save percentage). Whichever they pick to start, the Blues need to break the bad habit of slow starts. I hate to nag, BUT: Get shots on goal earlier, and limit the shots against. Please, please no more odd-man-rushes against us. Start with that, and everything else should fall into place.
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Final Verse: The puck drops at 7:00 PM St Louis time, and the GDT should drop shortly before that. For all of their other quirks, the Jets do at least have the sense to play hockey at a reasonable time. The TV broadcast will be on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM. Come join us, won't you? Until then...