Even the most optimistic Blues fans (is there such a thing?) would never have dared to think the Blues would sweep the murderer's row of Chicago-Anaheim-Dallas last week. Even less so, that the Blues would come out of that with a six-game winning streak. But yet here we are, lovin' every minute of it. This is where we become less concerned about the other team, and more so about the Blues simply beating themselves. Whatever St Louis had working for the weekend, they'll need to strive harder to keep it going. After the adrenaline rush of battling the top floor teams in the conference, we now get to tour the musty dank basement of the West.
The first stop this week is in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Saddledome has been an iconic symbol of Calgary since its construction for the 1988 Winter Olympics, but now is becoming an ancient artifact. The Flames owners are looking to build a new arena, and they certainly need one. Another big moneymaker for hockey arenas are concert tours, but from what I hear the acoustics are so bad in Calgary that most acts opt to play Edmonton twice instead of coming to Calgary. Ouch.
Their hockey team is not doing much better. Although they've made progress in their rebuild, they have a ways to go yet. They've made good strides with young talent like Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and T.J. Brodie, but they still need to add pieces and continue to develop their youngsters. While I haven't heard the word "tank" attributed to the Calgary front office, they are yet again destined for the draft lottery. Currently they are sharing the cellar with Edmonton (Wednesday's opponent) and Winnipeg. They all have 61 points for the year, and are jockeying for draft position the way the Blues are for playoff seeding. The Flames were sellers at the deadline, sending David Jones to Minnesota, Kris Russell to Dallas, Jiri Hudler to Florida, and Markus Granlund to Vancouver. In exchange, they picked up the carcass of Niklas Backstrom (UFA at the end of the year) from MN, Jyrki Jokipakka and Brett Pollock from Dallas, Hunter Shinkaruk from Vancouver, and a raft of draft picks. None of those pieces are expected to contribute to this team this year, except possibly Jokipakka.
So, for Calgary the youth movement continues. Johnny Hockey leads the team in both goals (26) and overall points (66). The boring Sean Monahan is next in both regards, with 21 goals and 48 points. After that are the two lead defensemen - Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie. Now, Brodie is banged up and not expected to play, nor will we see the Next Big Thing In Town with Sam Bennett being hurt also. Their absence will continue to push Calgary towards a better draft position when it's over. Witness their latest trend, where they've gone 2-6-2 in their last 10 games. Also, while they've established a league-worst goals-allowed per game at 3.1, it's been even worse lately at 3.7 over the last 15 games (Y! Preview). The Blues have been known to let a team get lucky against them, so let's not count our chickens before they've hatched.
They aren't great, but what they still have is good enough to punish you if you take them too lightly. Let's hope our boys avoid that. In the meantime, we continue to heal and wait for more news about Brian Elliott, Alexander Steen, and Steve Ott . All of them are travelling and practicing with the team. Of course, it'll be Jake Allen in goal for St Louis, and the Flames will start Joni Ortio between the pipes. For the season, Ortio has a 2-7-3 record and an .898 save percentage. I can see where the Blues have a chance to jump on this team early, and then lean on them for the rest of the game.
Tarasenko is sitting on 99 career goals; if the kid is hot tonite we could see him get 100 and then some.
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Final Verse: Of course, Western Canada means a late start. The puck drops at 8:00 PM St Louis time, and the GDT should drop shortly beforehand. If the current scoring continues, we should see plenty of puppy gifs. The TV broadcast is on FoxSports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM. Come on down! If the Blues win and take over first in the Central, I know I'll be dancing...