Does St. Louis Deserve More Respect?
The Minnesota Wild were among the best teams in the league to kick off the 2011-2012 season. They’ve since come back to earth sitting eighth in the Western conference having won just twice in their last ten. If memory serves me correctly, Minnesota was the first team in the NHL to reach the 20 win mark.
The Wild are an interesting team to breakdown. They have some talented offensive players but they struggle putting the puck in the net ranking 29th in goals per game. They also allow the most shots per game in the league which is slightly surprising for a Minnesota hockey club.
They are very strong in the face-off dot where they have several players with a 50% or greater winning percentage.
Like St. Louis the Wild struggle on the power play at just over 14%.
Josh Harding is expected to get the start in goal opposite Jaroslav Halak.
The Blues will get Barret Jackman back in the lineup who missed Thursday’s overtime loss to Vancouver with a sore back.
D-man Kris Russell remains out with a groin injury and is unlikely to play Monday when Dallas comes to town.
Alex Steen is practicing but will not play tonight.
The Blues were 0-4 on the power play and their inconsistently continues to attract attention this season.
Speaking to Ken Hitchcock this morning he confirmed what we said in our previous story regarding the lack of tempo getting the puck up ice. Hitchcock says the team hasn’t practiced entries as much as they should have and it’s something will likely address once they get some practice time. The busy game schedule doesn’t allow for too many practices nowadays.
Common sense tells us if you can’t retrieve pucks it’s hard to establish any kind of power play at all.
Hitchcock tells me he was “personally disappointed for David” that he was left of the NHL All Star roster. Hitchcock believes the rest of the league should know by now how good of players Backes and Alex Steen are and they deserve serious Selke Trophy consideration as we move along.
Both these guys are among the best two-way performers we have in the NHL and sometimes personal recognition goes hand in hand with team success. The more success the Blues have (especially in the playoffs) the more likely they’ll get more respect.
The Blues are certainly ok with Brian Elliott representing the team especially when you consider it’s in the city where he was drafted and eventually traded away. You can probably assume the Blues helped push for Elliott to be named and they probably thought Backes would have made it on his own.
Halak Closes Chapter…
Goaltender Jaro Halak tells me the return to Montreal this past week allowed him to close the chapter on his time with Montreal. “Once you’re a Canadien always a Canadien but St. Louis is now my home”.
Reaves Have to fight?
Hitchcock says it’s way overplayed. He wants Reaves to be a physical player and knows he’s the team caretaker but fighting shouldn’t be his focus.
Reaves isn’t looking to be labeled either, he knows he’s in between a fighter and a player and is learning by the game how to perform the role in the NHL. Assistant Coach Scott Mellanby is really helping him understand when to fight and how to be an effective player in his role. There are a few times this season, at home against Chicago and recently in Montreal, when you can make the case Reaves could have answered the bell.
It’s not always as simple as dropping the gloves especially against P.K. Subban who is never going to fight Reaves. He did respond with a heavy hit on Montreal’s Chris Campoli which landed him in the penalty box. This came after Subban injured Blues defenseman Barret Jackman.
Lately finding a partner to square off has become easier said than done as Reaves is quickly earning a reputation around the Western Conference. Fighting is still relatively new to him as this wasn’t his role in Junior or when he first turned pro in Peoria. Being a physical presence is far more important than knocking down an opponent. He rarely passes up a chance to truck an opposing player and you’d be hard to find a player who hits harder than this guy.
More to come,
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