Right when you thought the St. Louis Blues were out of the injury plague, they get pulled back in!
The Godfather sequel line may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one examines the ugly Achilles Heel of an otherwise thrilling season-but it still fits. Oskar Sundqvist is the latest Blue to hit the Injured List, throwing Craig Berube’s lines for a loop once again.
When Sammy Blais and Colton Parayko returned from their respective injuries (28 games for Sammy, 7 for Parayko) this week, there was some optimism around St. Louis. It stemmed from the idea of what this team could look like at near-full capacity. Yes, Vladimir Tarasenko hasn’t been put through an true hockey workout just yet, but the Blues were close to at least being able to walk on both legs of their roster.
Parayko’s absence was surely felt on defense, a unit in annoying disarray that his return hasn’t exactly given them a boost just yet. Parayko is a big defensive body who can play like a quality forward at the same time, on the same shift.
Blais is also a big body who offers the Blues a healthy blend of power at the forward position. Someone who is going to do what Zach Sanford won’t do or is incapable of doing, which is winning battles in the corner and basically forecheck with tenacity.
But Sundqvist going back down (he’s already missed time this season) may be an even worse blow. The team played well during his initial absence earlier this season, but they are still a team that struggles without their top three lines pumping at once. They are a streaky scoring team as well and need all the defensive steel from their forwards at the moment.
Sundqvist is one of the team’s most complete players. You could say he’s not quite at the level of Ryan O’Reilly and Tarasenko, or Alex Pietrangelo, but he’s so vital at both ends of the ice. Sundqvist can put a player on his ass, take the puck up ice and make a play, and get back if the play doesn’t work out. He’s high intensity and all over the place out there.
Losing him is a moderate blow to a team trying to find some balance in the second half while challenging for the top spot in the league. Depending on the level of the lower body injury, it could throw a small wrinkle into Doug Armstrong’s trade plans. He noted in Jim Thomas’ recent column that he is weighing the addition of a top six forward. “Sunny” going down may trigger a deeper search, or making a call that Armstrong wasn’t ready to make.
The Blues are a resilient bunch, which is a trait that the past few years and rosters have proven. Their ferocity this season, in light of several key injuries, is especially impressive. It will be tested with the absence of Sundqvist.
One could say the Blues are quietly singing this song at the moment: