Thursday, September 26, 2013

Meet The Central Division: St. Louis Blues

St. Louis Blues
Head Coach: Ken Hitchcock (3rd season in STL)
Arena: Scottrade Center (Capacity: 19,150)
2012-13 Record: 29-17-2 (2nd in Central)
Record vs MIN in '12-13: 3-0-0
Leading Scorer: Chris Stewart-36 points (18 G, 18 A)
Leading Goaltender: Brian Elliott-24 G, 14-8-1, 2.28 GAA, .907 SV%

2012-13 Recap: A season following a 109 point campaign in 2011-12, the Blues looked to repeat as Central Division champs. But a fast start from their nemesis in Chicago and a slow start from the Blues dashed any chance of the Blues repeating in 2012-13. The Blues however were able to finish strong and lock down a fourth seed (home ice advantage in the first round) in the Western Conference Playoffs. They were matched up with the defending Stanley Cup Champs Los Angeles Kings in the first round and lost in six games. It was the second consecutive season the Blues lost to LA in the playoffs.

Offseason Additions-LW Magnus Paajarvi, C Derek Roy, LW Brendan Morrow, C Keith Aucoin, C Alexandre Bolduc, C Maxim Lapierre: If you thought the Blues were already strong up front, they got even better this offseason by adding Derek Roy via free agency and Magnus Paajarvi in a trade from Edmonton. Roy will slot into the second line center spot left vacant by Andy McDonald giving the Blues a trio of talented centers. Paajarvi projects to play on the fourth line, and he is still young and can improve vastly (very talented nonetheless).

Offseason Subtractions-LW David Perron, D Kris Russell, RW Jamie Langenbrunner, LW/C Andy McDonald: Perron went back to Edmonton as part of the trade for Paajarvi. It was less salary on the books for the Blues, and Paajarvi is still young so he could develop into another Perron for cheaper cost right now. Langenbrunner and McDonald were injured for most, if not all, of 2012-13 so their loss is not horrible for the Blues since they managed to lock down a fourth seed without them.

Top Prospects: Dimitrij Jaskin is a big high scoring forward, who has emerged as the Blues top prospect. He averaged nearly two points per game in the QMJHL last year and got a brief two game stint with St. Louis last season. He is not projected to make the squad this year, but lookout for him down the road. Ty Rattie can be another top 6 forward for St. Louis as he notched 48 goals in 62 games in the WHL, and then got even better as he found the net in 20 of 21 playoff games. Again, lookout for him down the road.

Projected Lines:
Patrik Berglund - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Tarasenko - Derek Roy - Chris Stewart
Jaden Schwartz - Vladimir Sobotka - Alexander Steen
Magnus Paajarvi - Maxim Lapierre - Brendan Morrow

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Jordan Leopold - Kevin Shattenkirk
Barret Jackman - Roman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

(Projected Lines courtest of

Scouting Report: Whenever the Blues step on the ice, they are very smart defensively. Finding scoring chances against this team is rare, due to their defensive/physical system which has done them well under Ken Hitchcock. The team clamps down on you beginning in the neutral zone, making it extremely difficult to gain the offensive zone. The system also is built on making the opposition pay for their mistakes, so you have to limit turnovers against St. Louis because they WILL make you pay. If you are lucky to get in behind the defense, they have one of the better goalie tandems in the league so good luck to you on trying to score. Offensively, the team does not take a lot of chances (obviously) and they take a lot of shots from the point to help create scoring chances (when you have Pietrangelo on your team, you are definitely taking many shots from the blue line).

Come back on Saturday to find out where the Blues finish in the division.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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