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02.07.2018 12:02
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With the NHL regular season right around the corner, profiles each team leading up to puck drop. Next up are the St. Louis Blues, knocking on the door as they try to catch the best in the West. Catch up on their summer moves and the issues they face this season, as well as Craig Buttons analysis of their top prospect and an analytical breakdown by TSNs Scott Cullen. Division: Central GM: Doug Armstrong Head Coach: Ken Hitchcock 2013-14: 52-23-7 (2nd in Central) Playoffs: Lost in first round (4-2 to CHI) Goals For: 239 (7th) Goals Against: 188 (3rd) Powerplay: 19.8% (7th) Penalty Kill: 85.7% (2nd) That Was Then: Similar to the past couple of seasons, the Blues stormed out of the gates to start the 2013-2014 campaign, sitting with a respectable 39-12-6 record at the Olympic break, good for a tie for second place in the league. Nine players representing five different countries from St. Louis roster went to Sochi, so with big game experience gained, and a Presidentsa€? Trophy in sight, general manager Doug Armstrong recognized that some tweaking needed to be done in order for the Blues to take the next step. The Blues went all-in leading up to the trade deadline, acquiring perennial all-star goaltender Ryan Miller and gritty forward Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Jaroslav Halak and Chris Stewart. The move seemed to push St. Louis forward as Miller won eight of his first nine games as a Blue, vaulting his club to the top of the NHL standings. As the saying goes however, what goes up, must come down. The Blues suffered a litany of injuries to key players as the regular season entered the final stretch. Captain David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo, T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrik Berglund, Brenden Morrow, Vladimir Sobotka, and Derek Roy all missed significant time as St. Louis dropped their last six games of the season. Not only did the Blues surrender the Presidentsa€? Trophy to the Boston Bruins, but they also gave up a seven-point lead to the Colorado Avalanche, who claimed top seed in the Central Division. To make matters worse, the Blues now had to play their bitter rival, and defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. For the second year in a row, St. Louis had to open up the NHLs second season with a date with the reigning Cup champs. As bodies slowly began to return from the infirmary, the Blues surprised the Hawks and took the first two games on home ice. Following the two victories, however, St. Louis held the lead for a total of three minutes and 42 seconds in the final four games of the series in what ultimately was a six-game series win for the Blackhawks. It was the second consecutive postseason the Blues let a 2-0 lead in a first round best-of-seven series slip away. Scott Cullens Analytics Blues 2013-14 Stats by Quarter Games GPG GAA SH% SV% SAF% PTS% 1-20 3.35 2.30 9.5% .926 56.8% .775 21-41 3.71 2.24 11.5% .921 53.5% .762 42-62 2.48 2.19 6.4% .919 51.9% .643 63-82 2.00 2.45 5.3% .920 54.0% .525 NHL AVG 2.67 2.67 7.8% .922 50.0% .562 Key: GPG= goals per game, GAA= goals-against per game, SH%= even-strength shooting percentage, SV%= even-strength save percentage, SAF%= score-adjusted Fenwick percentage (differential of shot attempts faced vs. shot attempts, excluding blocked shots, adjusted for game score), PTS%= percentage of available points. Analysis: Games 1-20: Tremendous start, with dominant possession and above average percentages. Games 21-41: Continued strong, but relied on sensational shooting. Games 42-62: Still winning, but shooting percentage crashed hard. Games 63-82: Even with strong possession, offence dried up; addition of Miller didnt materially change goaltending. Key Additions: D Chris Butler, D Carl Gunnarsson , C Paul Stastny, C Jori Lehtera, RW Joakim Lindstrom, C Peter Mueller. Key Subtractions: RW Adam Cracknell, G Ryan Miller, LW Brenden Morrow, D Roman Polak, C Derek Roy, C Vladimir Sobotka This Is Now: After failing to take a step forward, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong had some tough decisions to make. Right off the bat, Armstrong showed faith in his bench boss and the system he implemented, extending Ken Hitchcock through this season and then brought in some help with former Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller to act as an assistant. His attention was then turned to the ice and what should be done with impending unrestricted free-agent Ryan Miller. With Brian Elliott signing a new three year extension and highly-touted youngster Jake Allen ready to make a fulltime leap to the NHL, the Blues decided not to bring back Millers services after what many perceived to be a mediocre post-season. While he has never played more than 55 games in a season, Elliott is expected start as St. Louis number one goaltender and Allen as his backup with the hopes that the 23-year-old can eventually take over the lead role. Needing depth down the middle and more of a dynamic offensive flare, the Blues made a splash, signing the top unrestricted free agent centre on the market in Paul Stastny. The St. Louis native immediately fills the top centre role to take the pressure off Backes and gives the team a much needed one-two punch. With the loss of two way centre Sobotka to the KHL, the Blues responded by adding 2008 third-round pick and Finnish Olympian Jori Lehtera, as well bringing back forwards Joakim Lindstrom and Peter Mueller from playing in Europe. On the back end, the Blues kept their core intact with their top four defencemen all staying put. Looking for more mobility, St. Louis did decide to trade the hard-nosed Roman Polak to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Carl Gunnarsson with hopes that it could give more playing time for Ian Cole. The Blues also added defensive depth signing St. Louis native Chris Butler. As usual, expectations are high for the Blues this season, and they havent really had trouble delivering in the regular season. So, will these moves finally be able to translate into the post-season success? DEPTH CHART Forwards Left Wing Centre Right Wing Alexander Steen Paul Stastny Joakim Lindstrom Jaden Schwartz Jori Lehtera Vladimir Tarasenko Patrik Berglund David Backes T.J. Oshie Steve Ott Maxim Lapierre Dmitrij Jaskin Magnus Paajarvi Peter Mueller Ryan Reaves Chris Porter Colin Fraser Ty Rattie Defence Left Right Jay Bouwmeester Alex Pietrangelo Barret Jackman Kevin Shattenkirk Carl Gunnarsson Jordan Leopold Ian Cole Chris Butler Petteri Lindbohm Jani Hakanpaa Goaltenders Brian Elliott Jake Allen Jordan Binnington Craigs List TSN Director of Scouting Craig Buttons Top Prospect: Robby Fabbri Robby has a a€?big motora€? that drives his game. Hea€?s both fast and quick so in the open ice he can challenge defenders and create space for himself and in traffic hea€?s capable of getting that extra step to create opportunities. Very determined and hea€?s mentally a€?dialed ina€? to how he can take advantage. Doesnt get pushed away from the hard areas & he stays in the hunt for the puck and does not allow himself to be denied. Quick hands and will shoot or take it to the cage with the sole purpose of scoring. He may not be tall, but he plays a a€?biga€? game both literally and figuratively.a€? Fantasy - Cullens Player to Watch - Jori Lehtera A 26-year-old playmaking centre with good size, Lehtera had been a productive player in the KHL, scoring 116 points in 125 games over the past three seasons, and emerging as a prominent player for Finland in international competition last season. Lehtera has a good situation in St. Louis, with a strong supporting cast that includes rising star winger Vladimir Tarasenko, who played with Lehtera in the KHL during the 2011-2012 season. There may be some adjustment to the North American game, but Lehtera has been productive in the preseason and the Blues offer enough other options that Lehteras ice time can be managed to bring out his best production. James Daniels Bears Jersey .Y. -- That hangover from the Big East tournament is gone for Villanova. Roquan Smith Bears Jersey . This was one of them. 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