Lighting the Lamp With Rick Ackerman
The St. Louis Blues’ longest home stand this season ends tonight with a visit from the big, bad Boston Bruins, who, like the Blues, have been having their problems. The Bruins are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 47 points in 43 games, sneaking into second place in the Atlantic Division just last Saturday ahead of Ottawa and Toronto. The Senators how have 46 points, two ahead of the Maple Leafs with 44, both teams having four games in hand on the Bruins.
The Bruins and Blues have struggled lately, Boston with paltry 4-4-2 record and St. Louis at 5-4-1 in their last ten games. The Bruins’ offense has not been productive -- Boston is ranked 23rd in the NHL with 105 goals. However, the Bruins’ overall team defense has been very good, ranking 6th in the league, with only 105 goals against. Of course, that is because goaltender Tuuka Rask has been quite spectacular, with a 1.93 goals against average, third best in the NHL, and a 92.8 save percentage, sixth best in the league. In contrast, the St. Louis offense is ranked 8th in the league with 114 goals, while team defense is 23rd with 118 goals against. Both Jake Allen and Carter Hutton have been less (read: much, much less) than spectacular as is clear from their lamentably mediocre statistics.
Boston has been a little below average at home (18 points in 19 contests), while doing quite well on the road (28 points in 23 matches). St. Louis has been excellent at home (36 points in 24 games), while on the road, earning only 11 points in 16 contests. And don’t look now, but for the rest of this season, the Blues will play only 17 more home games compared to 25 matches on the road.
The Bruins have won six Stanley Cup championships, the first in 1929 and the last in 2011. They had an amazing consecutive-playoffs streak of 17 years from 1927 to 1944, bettered by an almost unfathomable 29-season run from 1968 to 1997, an NHL record. In an interesting oddity, Boston did not qualify for the playoffs the first two years of the franchise’s existence, nor have the Bruins qualified in the most recent two seasons. St. Louis and Boston have met twice in postseason play, with the Bruins sweeping the Blues in the 1970 Finals, as well as winning all four games in the 1971 semifinals.
St. Louis and Boston have completed 15 trades in 50 years, the first in May 1970 when winger Jim Lorentz was obtained in exchange for a first-round pick in that year’s draft, defenseman Ron Plumb. Lorentz played two seasons as a Blue with 19 goals and 41 points in 88 games before being traded to the Rangers, who in turn traded him to Buffalo, where he played seven seasons before retiring. He had four 20-goal seasons in Buffalo. Plumb never suited up in a Bruins’ jersey, spending most of his career with five different World Hockey Association teams. Three other transactions in the 1970s saw defensemen Don Awrey and Joe Zanussi (and two late draft picks) come to St. Louis in exchange for Jake Rathwell (who played one pointless game in Boston), defenseman Rick Smith, cash and a second-round draft choice in 1974, which turned out to be Mark Howe. Howe, however, never donned the spoked-B jersey and instead signed with the WHA Houston Aeros.
Two transactions in the early 1980s were of little importance, although the Blues did trade Ron Flockhart to the Bruins in February 1989 for future considerations. The most important deal between the two franchises occurred in February 1992 when money-hungry Adam Oates was traded to Boston for Craig Janney and defenseman Stephane Quintal. Oates had signed a four-year, $3 million contract extension in 1991, but when the Blues signed Brendan Shanahan, Garth Butcher and Ron Sutter to rich contracts, Oates felt he was underpaid and threatened to leave the team if the Blues failed to renegotiate his pact. The conflict was resolved when Oates was dispatched to Boston.
Two more deals in the 1990s saw popular defensemen Rick Zombo and Steve Staois and winger Kevin Sawyer head east to Boston while forwards Fred Knipsheer and Stephen Leach went west to St. Louis. A minor transaction in June 2002 had the teams exchange draft choices for players who never made it to the big leagues. Three deals were struck in 2007: Yan Stastny, Brad Boyes and Hannu Toivonen ended up wearing the Note, while Dennis Wideman and Carl Soderberg ended up wearing the hubbed-B.
In the summer of 2010, pesky winger Vlad Sobotka was acquired from the Bruins in exchange for defenseman David Warsofsky. Sobotka played four seasons in St. Louis (29 goals and 101 points in 247 games) before signing a contract with Avangard Omsk of the KHL. The Blues still own his NHL rights. Warsofsky notched one goal and three points in 10 games over two seasons in Boston before being traded to Pittsburgh in 2015 and then New Jersey in 2016. The last St. Louis-Boston trade saw veteran defenseman Wade Redden head off to the Bruins in exchange for a seventh-round draft choice in 2014. Redden played only six games for his new team.
In the five previous games of this long home stand, the Blues have given up the first goal, forcing them to come from behind in each contest. They continue to cough up leads as well. Yet St. Louis held on Saturday to snatch two points from Dallas with a gutsy, gritty performance that gives Blues Nation ever more hope the boys will contend for the Stanley Cup come April.