Tempo Turning Up As Saturday Nears
I’m not one to breakdown scrimmages three days into training camp but then again we’ve gotten away from any type of normalcy.
To be fair it’s much easier to point out the positives than the negatives. Sure the pace was strong the first 25:00 before we saw fatigue start to creep in. I’m not ready to jump on guys who looked rusty in a measly scrimmage. It’s a much different story if the play carries over into Saturday night.
There were some things to get excited about. Chris Stewart looks as advertised. He’s playing with confidence and even on the play he was robbed by goaltender Brian Elliott he displayed the patience and skill we once were accustomed to seeing from #25. He along with Patrik Berglund and Jaden Schwartz play fast and look to create. A nice blend if you’re looking for offensive success.
While that line looked good, they still weren’t as impressive as Andy McDonald, Alex Steen, and Vlad Tarasenko. Can we stop calling this the Blues third line? I’ll be interested to see what the minutes look like at the end of the game Saturday. These guys look to be in January form with their ability to move the puck and control the play in the offensive end.
As long as Tarasenko is playing with these two he’s going to score. He’s as good as any player the Blues have without the puck in terms of his ability to get open in scoring areas. He’s spent the last few months playing with one of the most skilled players the NHL has ever seen in Ilya Kovalchuk so he understands how to think and play fast. Even if he doesn’t think he’s open these guys will get him the puck. He’ll need to show the ability to finish in the NHL.
Defensively Kevin Shattenkirk displayed his usual patience and made a nice play that led to Stewart’s goal.
There are other players who played well such as Schwartz but I’m not going through the entire roster. Ryan Reaves looked like a PK specialist the way he was putting his body on the line. Others understandably won’t stand out in a scrimmage where the physical play is kept to a minimum.
Roman Polak spent the lockout playing in his hometown of Vitkovice, Czech Rep. There was an initial adjustment as Polak couldn’t keep himself out of the box.
“The first three games I was just crushing guys. I had like 30 minutes in penalties.”
Polak says the bus trips were painful as some were as long as seven hours. “Some trips we’d get back at 4:00 in the morning and still practice at 10:00.”
Very few European leagues, if any, stay overnight at hotels.
Several NHL players including Jaromir Jagr and Tomas Plekanec played in the same league but Polak says fellow teammate Vladimir Sobotka dominated the league.
Polak beat Sobotka in their two head to head battles with Polak scoring the game winner in the first matchup.
Polak and his wife welcomed their first child, daughter Isabella, into the world back in July.
Sobotka who played in Slavia Praha Cze, skated in one of the only NHL sized ice sheets in the league.
Matt D’Agostini was eager to return to the NHL as his travel experience was nothing to brag about. “We’d leave for every trip at 5:00 a.m. and eat only at truck stops.”
Kris Russell says the chance to play with Alex Pietrangelo is “a great opportunity, he’s one of the best defensemen in the league.”
But he’s not going to change the way he plays. He knows he finished last year strong and is at his best when he gets on the “D” side quick and makes simple plays. His biggest asset is his skating which allows him to get pucks out quick.
Known as an “unreal dude’ according one former teammate, White was excited to get the call Monday night. He arrived in St. Louis on Tuesday and made the most of the scrimmage. He reminded people just how large of a man he is and I thought he got more comfortable as the game progressed. He’s a physical player who likes to step up on guys as he caught Patrik Berglund by surprise in the first period. If the Blues sign him he’s purely a depth guy who adds character to the dressing room. He doesn’t appear too worried about his chances of sticking around but it might be time to play like his life is on the line.
Chris Campoli would have been a good option as well considering he brings more versatility to be used up and down on the left side. He’s only 28 years of age and gets around the ice pretty well. I’m told Campoli would not come to St. Louis without a contract.
The Blues placed several AHL players on waivers yesterday, which is normal protocol during training camp. I won’t be surprised if Anthony Peluso gets claimed considering multiple teams needing toughness and are inquiring about him. Not necessarily on their NHL roster but some would like to get him in their system.
The Blues are holding an 11:00 presser this morning in which they’ll make Doug Armstrong’s contract extension official.
Head Coach Ken Hitchcock joins me tonight at Johnny Mac’s for Blues Buzz. The show begins at 6:00 and can be heard on am 590 the Fan.
More to come,
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