Aug. 5 Blues chat with Jim Thomas

Aug. 5 Blues chat with Jim Thomas

Bring your questions and comments about the Stanley Cup champion Blues and the NHL, and talk to Post-Dispatch hockey writer Jim Thomas in a live chat starting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

    Hello again everybody from Edmonton. Let's get to it.
    Defense looks good, thanks to Binnington. Offense seems moribund. Are they getting quality chances or are they playing “old?” A couple of goals by Tarasenko sure would help. Do you think he’ll find his form before it’s too late? Finally, how can the Blues’ parley their great depth into an advantage in the current format? Thanks.
    Well, it was more than just Binnington. He was good. Very good against Colorado. But it wasn't like his Game 7 performance against Boston or anything. Even in getting those 16 shots on goal in the first period, it's not like the Avs sent a ton of high-danger chances at him. But the back end does look good.
    Hard to tell on Tarasenko. Nine months away from the game is a long time. These 3 round-robin games _ a non-elimination  setting _ is a godsend for him to shake off some rust.
    As for the Blues' depth, I'm not sure it's as big of a factor in this setting, because all the teams entering are fresh from the long layoff. It'll be tougher for the Blues to wear them down.
    Jim, after this season do you think the Blues will look to make some whole sale changes to bring in some offense? I don't have a problem with letting Petro walk and use that savings to bring in a Tier 1 scorer. Your thoughts?
    Appreciate the thought. But the Blues averaged 3.14 goals per game this season _ their highest single-season total since 1994-95. As lacking as the offensive results have been in the exhibition game and the round-robin opener, it's just two games. I expect the Blues to pick it up. But if they don't, and they make an early exit, well Doug Armstrong has never been shy about shaking up a roster.
    As for letting Petro go to free up money, remember they're going to have to let people go in order to keep him. So even without Petro, they'd have to let people go to go out and add another scorer.
    Where are you sitting in Rogers Arena to watch the games? I would imagine they don’t have everyone sitting in the press box. Also where are the extra players sitting? Are they in a box or do they have to watch from the team lounge? I think they should space all the extras around the rink to bang on the glass
    Actually, we're a little lower than press box level. And that's a good thing, since the Rogers Place press box is one of the higher ones in the league. I don't want to say it's in the club seat area; it may be just an area where they've set up temporary tables behind the last row of seats in this part of the stadium. For Blues games here in the regular season, I'm usually near center ice. I'm down at one end here in the bubble. On Sunday, I was down in the end where the Blues and Binnnington were on defense twice.
    Yeah, that would be fun if the extras were down banging on the glass. But the extras are up at press box level. Each team has it's own suite or long area if you will.
    On the whole, I thought the Blues looked much better against Colorado than against Chicago. More offense is desirable of course, but if they continue that progression against Vegas tomorrow night that would be very encouraging.
  • Agreed. The Blues also know what time it is. These round-robin games are pretty meaningless in terms of defending the Cup, and the Blues know that. I noticed also that Boston lost its exhibition game and round-robin opener. Obviously, you can't just assume that you can just turn it on once the real games begin. That would be a big mistake, but I don't think the Blues have that mindset. They realize they have to get a lot better on offense, and are working to improve that.
  • Are you able to go to the arena for any other games? There’s been some really good hockey played.... working from home has never been more enjoyable
    Yes, I can. I stayed late Sunday (after my story was filed) and watched some of the Minnesota-Vancouver contest. I plan to head over today after the chat to watch some of Dallas-Colorado and Edmonton-Chicago, and work on my story from there. It's only a half-mile walk _ maybe 10 or 15 minutes _ from my hotel. Maybe it's partly because we went so long without it, but I think the hockey has been great. And wall-to-wall _ like 12 hours worth a day. It's like the NCAA hoops March Madness, only it's hockey in August.
    Hi JT, after a week of bubble hockey what has impressed you most by the play so far? For me, besides guys blocking shots with their faces, it's how much young legs and speed are putting pressure on D-men to make quick plays on sometimes less than optimal ice and the turnovers and scoring chances that are being given up under the pressure. McDavid looks otherworldly. Thanks for the chat and LGB!
    The overall intensity has been impressive. Even in the round-robin games, it's been pretty easy to tell that the players aren't just going through the motions. Part of the reason these guys made it the NHL is that the vast majority aren't just elite talents, they're elite competitors. I've been pleasantly surprised. And you're right about the defense. In most of these games there isn't a lot of space to operate.
    And speaking of McDavid, there have been some tremendous individual performances. Sebastian Aho _ as Dick Enberg would say, Oh my!
    I didn't see much of either game, but in your estimation, who were 3 or 4 players who noticeably had knocked off some of the rust between the Chicago and Colorado games?
    You know, I'm still getting my hockey eyes back after the long pandemic pause. I need the exhibition games and round-robin to knock off the rust, too. But I would say Robert Thomas would be one. Binnington would be another, although he was pretty good against Chicago. But he looked really locked in against the Avs. That's about all I got on that.
    Florida staves off elimination with a 3-2 win over Florida.
  • Looks like MacEachern will get the first opportunity to replace Ivan Barbashev, who's back at home about to become a father for the first time.
    Wonder if Jake Allen will get some work in the round-robin? Or Jordan Kyrou? Or Jacob de la Rose?
    I think Jake Walman has looked pretty good in practice. He has skated with the main group at least once since the team has been in Edmonton.
  • Nashville-Arizona is underway here in Edmonton; series is tied 1-1.
  • Hey Jim, I noticed during the Colorado game there was a couple of sticks behind the bench with the name Yoda on them. Do you know what player has the nickname Yoda?
    If petrangalo leaves, who do you think will be the new captain
  • Yoda, huh? You've given me something to look into. Thanks. If there was a Yoda on the team, I would have to think either Jay Bouwmeester or Alexander Steen because of their experience and their willingness to help their teammates. They haven't seen all of it, but they've seen most of it. Of course, Bouwmeester isn't here.
    If Petro leaves, I think the logical choice would be O'Reilly as the new captain.
  • I was just typing a question about whether Jake would get in a game as I saw your comment.... so instead I’ll ask about life out of Q. Have been to Local Omnivore yet?
    Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if Allen got the start Thursday. No, I haven't been to the Omnivore yet, but I hope to at some point. I did order delivery from them on three occasions while in quarantine. Their "pirate spice" poutine was delicious and their burger was the best I've had up here so far.
    Since quarantine ended, I haven't been out and about much. On Sunday, I walked down to the North Saskatchewan River near the hotel and went for a walk. Scenic. And of course went to the Blues game that night.
    Since quarantine ended, my routine has been to work out in the hotel gym in the morning _ gotta try and work off that poutine, right? _ and then I walk about two blocks to the Subway for a tuna and wheat for lunch. But as I mentioned earlier I think I'm going to head to the rink tonight to watch a couple of the games while I work on my story.
    Happy Hump Day Jim. Glad you are back in the free world.

    Have you heard of any anyone with another team at "Bubble West" test positive for Covid-19? It seems the NHL with the help of its host cities have put a good plan in place to finish the playoffs and crown the 2020 champions.
  • Have not heard of any new positive tests, either here or in Toronto. The NHL announced Monday that over the first week in the bubble there were zero positive tests league-wide. Who knows if that'll hold up, but it does look like the bubble system is working. Another thing to consider is the very low COVID-19 rates in Canada, especially here in Edmonton, Alberta. I think there have been maybe 35 deaths over the entire pandemic here in Edmonton, which is about the size of St. Louis city and St. Louis County combined.
  • Mr. Thomas,
    From your story about life in the bubble for the Blues, can I presume that Steen is vegan? I had read somewhere (probably in the Post) before that O'Reilly is vegan or at least vegetarian, but I did not know that about Steen. Any others on the team?
    The entire team eats very healthy. But O'Reilly and Steen are the only guys that are vegan _ Steen, I believe isn't quite a full-fledged Vegan these days. I talked to him about it but can't remember exactly what he said. I think he may eat fish. I hear him on the radio in St. Louis every now and then doing ads for Frida's plant-based restaurant in University City.
    Here's a story I did on Blues eating habits from around last Christmas
    Mr. Thomas,
    I have two questions about the rink layouts in Edmonton and Toronto. First- the big tarp like things that are covering the seats: does the league think those look better than empty seats? I am surprised they are not covered with advertisements. Second- the humongous video screens in the stands: who are those for? No fans in the building to look at them and I doubt the players have time (or interest). The content on them is really not shown often on the broadcasts of the game, so I don't know what the point is.
    Yes, on the tarps. I think they are there because the league thinks it's a better look than just empty seats. And I agree. I think it's a better look. As to the video boards, it makes it a better atmosphere. I'm sure the players are looking at them occasionally. But it is a little extravagant, as you suggest, if they're not incorporating them into the telecasts much.
    Has the question come up of who the Blues would want to play in round one? My theory is we want to play a team who was picked to win. I wouldn't want to play a low ranked team who got it game together to win its series in the face of long odds. Its hard to beat a team that believes in itself (see Blues 2019). Your thoughts?
    Barry, we asked a couple of times while the team was still back in St. Louis, but didn't get much of an answer. There isn't much difference between teams in the NHL _ I think the parity is greater here than even in the NFL. Look at a team like Chicago for example. The Blues swept the season series but needed to rally twice to squeeze out a pair of one-goal wins _ including a game in St. Louis that I'm sure you remember where the Blues had to rally from 3-goals down in the third period. And then the Blues lost 4-0 to the Blackhawks in the exhibition game up here. I'm sure privately the Blues may feel there are some teams here that they match up better against, but that's something they almost certainly wouldn't share with us.
    Mr. Thomas, I just wanted to say I really enjoyed your Quarantine Chronicles. I am sure that is not an experience you will be longing to repeat, but your daily recaps were a treat. Thank you for your commitment to providing high quality Blues coverage and being willing to put yourself through that to do so! Your work, Mr. Timmermann's work, and the efforts of the Post-Dispatch to continue providing content throughout this entire situation is not taken for granted!
    Thanks. Much appreciated. It wasn't as bad as you might think. And I viewed it as an adventure, something you'll probably only do once in a lifetime. I'm glad we're here, it's just another indication of the commitment of the Post-Dispatch to its Blues hockey coverage. There are only a handful of U.S. media up here (or in Toronto) and I'm proud of the fact that we're one of them.
    The absolute silence in the building after the Jake Muzzin injury followed by the explosion of sticks tapping on the ice and boards as he was being carted off the ice was a pretty stirring moment made possible by a bubble void of any fans. Have you felt that watching games in person a more intimate experience with so few people in the building, and has it changed any nuance of how you watch hockey?
  • Yes, much more intimate. You can hear a lot of what's being said on the ice. The stick-tapping is more noticeable. The thump of a shot off the goalie's pads. Even the sound of the blades on ice as a player changes direction. And the expletives! The sound of a player yelling "Go! Go! Go!" as a team gains possession with a little bit of open ice ahead. I don't know if I have enough of a sample size to say that it's changed how I watch hockey.
    The issue of crosschecking has come up in light of the d-man with the Leafs who was carted off yesterday because of a crosscheck. Keep your eyes and ears open if the league is going to start making crosschecking a penalty in the playoffs. The Hockey News says the refs don't call it unless its really bad.
    Yeah, it does seem to be something that they don't always call.
    We know the process of Barbie having to pass 4 tests when he returns from the birth of his baby... but what about a player that gets hurt & has to leave the bubble to go to the hospital. Do you know if there’s a process for them to rejoin the team?
    Do you feel the round robin teams are at a disadvantage? I feel the play in series are not only more intense, but those teams will be better conditioned since they are playing every other day and sometimes back to back where the round robin teams play every 3-4 days.
    Yes, I do feel they're at a disadvantage. The only reason the round-robin was put in was to give the top seeds something to do _ some way to knock off rust _ while the best-of-5 series were being played. I think one of the reasons the Blues won the Cup last year was because the team literally had a playoff intensity from the aftermath of the all-star break on. They had to have a playoff like intensity for all that time or they wouldn't have even made the playoffs. So we'll see how this shakes out once the Round of 16 gets here. Then again, it would be hard to match what happened last year when there was of course a traditional playoff format: All 4 division champs got knocked out in the first round.
    Just got a text response from Tom Stillman. He arrived in Edmonton yesterday, driving up from a place he has in southwestern Montana. He will be here _ in the bubble _ for the duration of the Blues in these playoffs. That man loves his hockey team.
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