Lighting the Lamp with Rick Ackerman
This is a hard time for Blues’ fans as it has been almost two weeks since we’ve seen the boys in action at home. Since then, divisional rivals Stars, Avs and tonight’s visiting Blackhawks all made deals to bolster their rosters at the trading deadline while the Blues did little to ramp up for the upcoming playoffs. Acquiring a back-up goalie with NHL experience in case Jake Allen blows up is hardly anything to get real excited about. The public display of disappointment (and condemnation of GM Doug Armstrong) was not totally unexpected as the Blues manager pretty much sat pat.
I am in the minority with the belief that Armstrong did the right thing by not doing much at the deadline. Apparently the asking price for Boston’s Loui Eriksson or Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin was too high (any two of first round draft choice, Fabbri or Parayko) and the Blues’ offer too low (any two of Jaskin, Berglund or Paajarvi and a second round draft choice) to add any significant scoring talent. Adding Eriksson would have helped the offense a lot (with a tip of the hat to my Game Time colleague Dan Buffa, who was particularly anxious to add Boston’s high scoring winger), yet apparently a satisfactory deal could not be worked out. Some radicals in Blues Nation, giving up on this season and looking to the next, even called for trading David Backes, a UFA at the end of the season, and one of Kevin Shattenkirk or Alex Pietrangelo in order to shake up the team and add some much needed offense. Of course, none of that happened and the Note will go into the playoffs with what they already have. It will certainly be interesting to see if the Blues re-sign Captain Backes or let him walk to another team (Minnesota?) this summer.
The well-rested Blues paid a visit to Minnesota and played two and a half excellent road periods, snatching two points from the Wild, who are in scramble mode trying to stay ahead of the Colorado Avalanche. That enabled St. Louis to keep pace with Chicago and Dallas and further distance themselves from fourth place Nashville. The Blues experienced a pretty shaky third period, yet Jake Allen stood tall in the net, making 30 saves for his 21st victory of the season. The number one penalty killing team in the NHL (86.6%) led up to its reputation staving off four penalties. The Blue power play only had one opportunity and failed to even register a shot on goal. That kind of discrepancy is nothing new, though. The Blues have now been shorthanded 231 times in 67 games, yet they have only had 189 power play opportunities.
The Arizona Coyotes have had the most power play opportunities, 244, through Sunday’s games, followed by Florida with 225, Colorado 224,Tampa Bay 221 and Nashville, Philadelphia and Montreal with 214. The New York Rangers have had the fewest power play opportunities, 179, followed by the Islanders with 185, St. Louis 189, Los Angeles 192 and Vancouver with 193. The teams that have had to kill the most penalties include Winnipeg and Arizona with 238, Anaheim 232, St. Louis 231) and Los Angeles and Columbus with 228. Those enjoying the least penalty kills include Carolina with 165, Minnesota 166, Buffalo 169, Calgary 180, the Islanders 184 and San Jose with 186.
Within the tight Central Division, Colorado has had the most power play opportunities with 224, Nashville 214, Dallas and Minnesota 211, Winnipeg 207, Chicago 203 and finally the Blues with the fewest, 189. When it comes to killing penalties within the division, Winnipeg has had the most, 238, followed by St. Louis 231, Colorado 212, Dallas 202, Chicago 189, Nashville 198 and Minnesota 166. The Blues have had 42 more penalty kills than power plays, followed by Winnipeg with 31. All the other divisional teams have had more power plays than penalty kills, led by Minnesota with a whopping plus 45, Nashville with 16, Chicago 14, Colorado 12, and Dallas nine.
If you want to keep up with man games lost so far within the division (through Sunday’s NHL contests), the Blues lead that category with 243, followed by Colorado 240, Winnipeg 139, Nashville 131, Dallas 120, Minnesota 113 and Chicago with only 88 man games lost. Overall, New Jersey leads the NHL with 285, followed by Edmonton with 281, Buffalo with 270, Toronto with 266 and Arizona with 251.
You can easily draw your own conclusions about how the Blues have persevered through this season, having to battle both the injury bug and the referees more than any other team in the division. It is indeed a pleasant surprise that the Blues are still the fourth best team in the NHL point-wise and still right behind Chicago and Dallas in the standings.
After tonight’s game the Blues only have 14 contests left in the season and only six at home. And only four are against divisional rivals; one tomorrow night at Dallas, two with Colorado and one at Chicago. Only three are with Eastern Division teams, two with Washington and one against Boston at home. That projects for the Blues to finish the regular season with around 100 points, and assuming that things stay pretty much
the same in the standings, that means it is most likely that the Blues would face the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round of the 2016 playoffs. If the Kings end up winning the Pacific Division, then the Blues would play the Anaheim Ducks.