Everybody seems to be clicking along. Kostin (goal, five assists in nine games for San Antonio) had a scare on a knee-to-knee hit, but that turned out to be just a bruise. Blais (four goals, two assists in five games) is excelling in the AHL. Also at San Antonio, Thompson has two goals and an assists in six games. Walman has two assists and a minus-6 rating in seven games for Chicago of the AHL.
Kyrou is leading the OHL in scoring with 14 goals and 20 assists in 14 games (not bad!) and Thomas has 17 points in 12 games.
Philadelphia desperately blocked shooting lanes after getting hemmed in. One thing I've heard from the old schoolers is the notion that players should keep firing after they hobble a shot blocker to discourage shot blocking. That sounds mean, but that's how the world worked in the old Chuck Norris Division days. The Blues did get inside for some point-blanks chances, too, and either missed or got stopped. That was a frustrating came all around.
Head shots will always be part of hockey. They will never be totally eliminated. Things happen so fast that players can't always adjust their targeting. \
But, yes, the crackdown has convinced players to be more careful and there is a lot of talk among the players about concussion dangers and respect.
Right now the team has four holes up front, right wing on the fourth line and all three spots on the third line. Berglund's return fills one of them. Maybe Sanford fills another later on. Or Barbashev. So there is ample room for young forwards to move in. I could see Sundqvist bidding for the fourth center spot next year, replacing Brodziak. Upshall barely made it back this season, so that's another spot that opens up. Between the lineup openings next year and the dedicated farm team in San Antonio, all those young guys will be in position to grow.
That is a question I have not asked.
Teams are going to lock in those players. No bridge deals for them, only long-term deals buying into their unrestricted free agency. Of course, the Blues have several good young forwards they must secure the same way.
He could be a factor once Sarnia is done. Those numbers get your attention. At the very least the Blues will want him to get another taste of the NHL to prepare and motivate him for his summer or work..
The Blues came out and applied the expected pressure on a team at a huge disadvantage. Then they eased up for a while before picking up the pace again. This is the sort of game you pocket knowing that tougher games are to come down the road when injuries and fatigue will be a bigger factor for your group. This Flyers team is well-coached -- I've watched a fair amount of Philly this season -- but those are still two points you hate to concede.
The Blues were ready, but potential owners were not. Starting an AHL expansion team is not cheap, particularly in a market that already had a lower-level minor league team. Just came down to money. The potential owner didn't pull the trigger.
The good shooters try to pick corners, so you see a lot of misses up high. If they were just trying to make sure the puck got on goal, they would just go for the netminder's chest. How many times to do you see THAT shot and lament the easy save? Factor in bouncing pucks, choppy ice, the need to shoot quickly with defenders closing in makes it harder that it seems. But I can understand the point coming up after a game when the Blues missed chance after chance after chance.
Apparently scouts from 20 NHL teams were on hand to see the Senators play. Sounds like the team sounded the emergency sirens. Thing is, Ottawa is looking for forward help, too, after losing Bobby Ryan to injury.
The NHL is very fast, very physical and very intense. Lehtera didn't train properly before last season, showed up a step behind and stayed a step behind. He vowed to do better for this season, but, miraculously, Armstrong was able to move him and the remainder of his contract. He is still behind, as evidenced at Chicago two nights back when he hesitated on a 3-on-1 rush and put the puck into the sole defender.
Not me. I would top out at about three, spaced out over about an hour at a cookout. That's plenty of tube steak at one sitting. Not into the whole soak-the-bun-in-water thing. Gross!
When you look at all of those entry-level deals coming the opportunity to leverage that into maximum talent under the cap, I have to think Armstrong will ride that out. He has some high-end forward talent with Tarasenko and Schwartz and now Schenn looks like a nucleus player too. Rather than commit $80 million to Tavares to play into his 30s, while not re-up the current key nucleus guys and lock in all the guys coming? The competitive window could stay open for a long, long time.
Couturier lost the puck on a toe drag and was hunched over, looking to see where it went. Schenn gave him a passing shot with the shoulder, catching him off balance and sending him down hard. I'm sure some Flyers figured it was a head shot, but it was really just high shoulder -- and Couturier put himself in peril.
The big issue is economics -- bigger rinks wipe out a lot of top-dollar seating. Also, the big international rinks could bring back some passing trapping principals that have been popular in Europe. Bigger doesn't mean better. Some day I could see slightly bigger surfaces to acknowledge that players are bigger, faster and stronger. Before that I could see bigger nets to allow more scoring. (The Blues might have put up a 6-spot Thursday with slightly bigger cages.)
Assuming everybody is healthy, that spot could rotate (as it did last season) depending on performance. At some point Gunnarsson could become a trade piece -- for a third- or fourth-line forward -- if the young D-men keep progressing.
Blais,Thompson and Barbashev figure to be back at various points this season when injuries strike. The junior players will have to play out their seasons unless this team loses so many players that is can make an emergency recall to junior hockey, as Vegas just did for a goaltender. The junior players shake free once their team falls out of the playoffs.
Hunt was terrific as a fill-in here. He got caught in a numbers crunch and he wasn't going back to the minors without another team claiming him. Given the development of Dunn and the play of the five healthy Blues D-men this season, there are no regrets here. And, yes, the Blues could use Perron in a supplemental role now. Solid in that role, given his pesky on-ice demeanor. When the Blues had Fabbri, Berglund and Sanford penciled in, he seemed more expendable.
I have a hard time believing Armstrong will move Bouwmeester. I mean, this is the same guy he wanted for the world stage in an all-star tourney. And for this year there is cap room for him. Bouwmeester isn't a great top pairing workhorse these days, but he can still help on the PK and take some defensive zone starts against good lines.