Good afternoon Blues fans and thanks for joining me today. What a couple of days we have in store with the Blues alumni game and the Winter Classic! Seriously, all of the talk the last couple of years about getting an outdoor game, including in this chat, and it's finally here ... and it's the Winter Classic. I hope many of you will be going to the game if you're in town and if not I'm sure you'll be tuning in on TV. The game is obviously the biggest deal of the week, but it's not the only story, so we'll be sure to tackle as many topics as possible today. Thanks for your continued support and now let's get chattin ...
I've heard nothing about parking. You can park in my driveway for $5. I live in Imperial, which is about 25 minutes away. I'm not sure if there will be trollies running or not.
The forecast keeps changing, but the update this morning is a little better. Today they're saying a little more cloudy, which is good. There's still some rain scheduled for the morning, but perhaps it'll move out before the puck drops at noon. If there are weather problems, yes, there are contingency plans to push the game back till Tuesday. When they make that call, your guess is as good as mine.
I don't see that happening. For those that may have missed it today, the Islanders put former Blue Jaro Halak on waivers. The Blues know that their goaltending has to be better, but though it's been a struggle for Allen at times this year, they still believe in him as their No. 1 guy. I don't think they'd have any interest in going down the Halak road again.
I wouldn't get too far ahead of yourself. I still believe that Shattenkirk will be traded eventually, but currently there's no talk between his camp with any other teams about a contract extension, and you'd think that would have to take place for the Blues to get fair value on a trade. As I always remind everybody, that can happen in one phone call and be done in an hour, so things progress quickly. But as of right now, nothing on that front is imminent. A Blues power play without Shattenkirk would certainly see Parayko get more opportunity and perhaps Hunt, too. But first Hunt has to get into the lineup and right now he's taking a backseat to Gunnarsson.
Sutter isn't playing. He's one of the Blues coaches, along with Plager, Unger and Berenson. As far as the relationship, I really can't speak to where it stands. I know all the background, but I don't know Brian and there really aren't any people currently in the organization (ownership, management, etc.) that were around back then, so I don't know who he could have a beef with. He's been back a few times over the years, and he's coming back this week, so obviously it's not situation where he's taking a flat stance against the team. The way I see, time has cured some of those old wounds. You're not the first person to wish that he was involved in the organization today, but as far as I know, that has nothing to do with the Blues. As you mentioned, he's busy back home on the farm and content with his life and has no real interest in being involved.
Today was his first day on the ice skating with the team. After practice, he said that things are on schedule. He was injured in early December, and the original timetable said he would be re-evaluated in six weeks, so we're looking at mid-January. He said he doesn't want to push the injury, so I'm not sure if we'll see him before mid-January, but both Bortuzzo and Hitchcock felt like being on the ice today was a good sign.
I don't see this as an option at all. He's a right winger. He's a goal scorer. He's not someone who's going to play down in the defensive zone and dig the puck out for possession. He's not really good at that any and you don't want him doing that anyway. If there's a list of players who the Blues might try at center, I'd imagine he'd be last on the list.
I would never accuse anyone of this, but I will say that players have been crossing their fingers for weeks about not getting injured and missing the Classic. Does that mean they've been sitting out of a practice to let an injury heal up? I don't know if we can say that. Nor can we say that players aren't giving it their all in the games, particularly the last couple before the game Monday. But they are definitely doing everything they can to stay healthy.
They're moving Steen to center because they want more tempo in the middle, and Hitchcock said the coaches went back and watched the Nashville game when Lehtera played on the left side and really him liked there, so they're going back to it.
I wrote about that in the blog today, so please take a look. Steen says he's like to be producing more offense, obviously, but he's still happy with his game overall. He says the scoring chances just haven't been there this season, and I'd agree with that. I don't recall a lot of games where Steen had chances and just didn't convert. It seems to be more of him either not being in the right place at the right time, or the puck not bouncing his way. Could that have something to do with being on a number of different lines, and he hasn't been able to build much chemistry? I counted this morning and he's been on 11 different line combinations in 30 games. I don't know if that is a factor, or whether the shoulder is a factor. He hasn't been himself offensively, but I think he's been good in a lot of other areas.
The fact that Chicago has played in five outdoor games and this will be the Blues' first will be a factor. Granted, not all of the current Blackhawks were on those previous rosters, but some were, and the coaching staff certainly knows how to handle the team going into these games. Conversely, the Blues are going in wide-eyed. Kevin Shattenkirk talked about that this week, saying that hopes the Blues don't find themselves looking around too much in the early going. Most of the players I spoke with said that once the puck drops, it's going to be another game for them, and because it's the Blackhawks, that will make it a bit easier to focus. I don't know, we'll see, that's what they're saying anyway.
I think it's a possibility. I'm not saying that because the Blues have a hole at center. I'm saying that because he looks ready. What a combination of size and skill he has. He looks really good at the World Juniors!
He played 18:07 in the Phillly game and took 26 faceoffs, so everything seems OK.
If he can't crack the Blues' lineup, he'd be playing with the Wolves in a perfect world. As I've said numerous times, nobody is benefiting from the current situation. The Blues have been worried that he'd be plucked off waivers. I guess there's a chance, and I still believe you don't give up on Rattie, so I guess there's a risk there. But man, it's tough to see a young player sit in the pressbox every night. Yeah, there are other players like Rattie to be had, and it wouldn't be the end of the world, but if you don't have to lose him, then why do it? The Blues are just using the system the way they have to.
That's going to be tough to do. That's not a good look, receiving the award after giving up nine goals on 13 shots.
If I get the chance .... is he going to change the lyrics to "It's getting cold in here!"
I'll just use the last game for example: Berglund centered the third line and had 11:01 of even-strength ice time. Brodziak centered the fourth line and had 7:49 of even-strength. So no, they're not getting third-line minutes, but you're right, they continue to make the most of the time they're getting.
For the past few years, the word around St. Louis and Scottrade Center was that the Blues would have trouble hosting an outdoor game at Busch because of Coors' sponsorship. I think the thinking then was the Blues weren't in consideration for the Winter Classic and the Stadium Series was sponsored by Coors. But then they found themselves in conversations to host the Winter Classic, which is sponsored by Bridgestone. So as far as I know, this is not really a conflict. There may be other minor conflicts, but no major ones.
I was told that when they sat down for their initial meeting about the uniform design, they agreed that it had to go back to the first year's colors, which was powder.
I think they are. Hutton's numbers (2.92 GAA, .880 save-percentage) are obviously not great. But I don't think the Blues feel the team has played well in front of Hutton and he's been the problem on the nights that he's played. I think they like the way he competes and they like him as the backup in general. I couldn't see a situation where the Blues feel like because of Allen's struggles, they would swap out the backup to give Allen more competition or themselves some insurance. I think they're more concerned about getting Allen on track than they are regarding Hutton.
From what I read and hear, it sounds like he's getting better, just not ready yet. Nothing wrong with him staying in the AHL the full year.
Agreed, Steen has to do more to create. However, using Chicago as an example, Kane is playing with Panarin. Toews is playing with Hossa. Steen has played 30 games this season and Steen has played with Berglund and Perron in nine of them. Scoring chances do have something to do with who you're playing with. Also, they're using Steen against other team's top lines. Is Chicago doing that when they have the matchup advantage? I'm not sticking up for Steen, I'm just saying the chances really haven't been there like they have in the past.