Mr. Tom Timmermann and myself just walked into Xcel Energy Center, ready for Game 2. I'll be chatting with you for about the next 90 minutes or so, then the Blues will be on the ice for their morning skate. We get the latest from the locker room and post it in the blog. And then at 7 p.m. tonight (thank goodness for the earlier start), it's time for some more hockey. But for now, we've got lots to talk about from Game 1, so let's get chattin ...
I wouldn't say overly concerned. It's the playoffs and they were thrilled to come away with a win, any way they could get it. Having said that, yes, as I wrote this morning, the Blues know they need to be a lot better if they're going to stay in this series. They couldn't get through the d-zone or neutral zone very cleanly and if they did, there wasn't much of a forecheck. They've got to figure it out obviously because if they get pinned in all night in Game 2, it's going to be another challenge for Allen. Like I also wrote, they must be much better on faceoffs. I know they're without Stastny and the Wild are a good faceoff team, but if they're not starting with the puck, it's going to be even tougher. The even-strength faceoffs aren't a huge deal, but they've got to start winning special teams faceoffs, especially keeping the puck in the zone on the PP. They were definitely outplayed and the Blues were aware of that, but I think they're somewhat concerned and still confident.
He's not on the trip. I saw him the other day and he was not wearing any protection on his foot. He may be skating, but if so it's obviously back in St. Louis and out of the public eye. He was involved in the team meetings before the club left for Minnesota, so they're keeping him engaged. But when they're targeting him to return is just tough to say with limited updates and not seeing him on the ice. We'll see if that happens when we get back to St. Louis. One good thing as I mentioned recently is all the days off in this series. After Game 3 on Sunday, the Blues-Wild will play just once in five days. So even if he misses a couple of more games, he's going to have a lot of time to get ready before the Blues play Game 5.
I don't see it happening, but we'll find out shortly. Lehtera played 16:53 in Game 1 and was a plus-1. He was on the ice for the Sobotka goal, winning the faceoff and setting up the play. So it's not like Lehtera's performance in Game 1 is calling for a change. Sanford has looked good recently, and putting him in would mean moving Sobotka to center, which is fine. But I just don't see that happening right now. I think they prefer Lehtera over Sanford, at least for now.
I would have if I were him. What a game! We're talking 51 saves and many, many of them were highlight-reel. I saw him when he came into the rink yesterday and as far as I know he spent the night at the team hotel, no chambers. The Blues had an optional practice and he didn't skate, just did some stretches in the hallway and when he spoke to reporters said he felt fine. We joked with Yeo about who he was going to start and he responded that he hadn't figured it out yet, haha.
Yeah, in case not everyone saw this, the big news this week is that Ken Hitchcock is taking over in Dallas. Sure there will be a big storyline now when the Blues play the Stars, but I don't know if we'll see it develop into a big rivalry. We saw it step up a notch last year with the playoff series and "The Kiss" from Ryan Reaves, and maybe now it'll get a little bigger with Hitch on the other side, but I don't know if the Blues and Dallas will be rival-rivals. It's great though to have Hitch back in the game and we'll see how his knowledge of the Blues helps the Stars.
That lazy #$* ... tell him the readers are the reason he has a job! I'm pulling my support for his Hockey Hall of Fame nomination.
I believe you do. I appreciate the offer but it was tough enough telling my wife that I would be working on Easter. I think it would be tougher to tell her I'm going to collect a bet at a bar on Easter morning before the game.
I always find my way back to Tom Reid's. It's a sports bar, but they have terrific food. Tom and I both had the pecan crusted walleye last night. Yum-yum.
Way to step forward and acknowledge this. So daring of you doing it on social media under the handle "CMCalvin."
Barbashev will obviously need to put the work in over the summer, but I think he's got a spot lined up. He's been great. I mean, we're talking about a 21-year-old who made his NHL debut in late January and after playing 30 games in the league the Blues felt comfortable enough putting him between Tarasenko and Schwartz. At the very least he's a good third-line center next year. Thompson is going to need more time. He's going to need a big summer and impress some people in camp next year to have a shot. I could see him spending some time at the start of next season in the AHL, but there's nothing wrong with that. It took Barbashev some time, too.
Bortuzzo has been skating the past few days and I'm interested to see if he's in the lineup tonight. As I mentioned earlier, the Blues are on the ice in about one hour here in Minnesota, so we'll find out then. I give full marks to Schmaltz for stepping in and playing in this environment. He played even less regular-season games than Barbashev (nine) before seeing his first NHL playoff action. Schmaltz played just over nine minutes in Game 1 and not much more than you or me in overtime and was OK. I think he's shown that he's capable and think the Blues have to feel pretty good about him moving forward. But that said, the Blues could really use Bortuzzo back in the lineup. He's bigger and he's going to be able to help them against a big group of Wild forwards.
I don't have all the details, but I've heard some recently. Most people have probably heard that the Blues were approved for the first phase of funding. That covers the Jumbo-tron, seats, ice plant and some office work. From what I've heard, it sounds like the Jumbo-tron and the ice plant will be projects that are finished before next season, but the seats won't likely be installed until after the 2017-18 season. So it should start taking shape soon, but it's going to take a little time to get everything moving forward.
Well, I would probably go with the guy who's still on the team. Plus, if anybody gives you any grief just hold up six fingers (no not the middle one). Tell them six points in six games against the Wild in the 2015-16 playoffs. T
I don't think anybody's going to take Shattenkirk's spot. That guy needs to be in the media when he's done. I talk that back. If he's offered a job in media, he should run. But he could do it. Allen is a good talker, but he's been quoted a bunch lately because he was the story going into the playoffs and obviously was the story in Game 1.
I bounced your question off Timmerman, who's sitting beside me, and he points out that Brent Johnson had a pretty good run. Remember his three consecutive shutouts against the Blackhawks in the playoffs? They weren't 51-save kind of nights. Tom just looked it up and they were 26-12-27, so Allen had 51 and Johnson saw just 65 in three games. But three straight playoff shutouts is beyond impressive.
It's hard to say what Yeo will do after seeing just one game, and it was an overtime game, so the score and the importance of the ice time down the stretch perhaps skewed the minutes. Pietrangelo wound up playing 34:30 and Bouwmeester was also 30-plus. Then you had Edmundson and Parayko, who were 27-plus minutes. In the third pair, you had Gunnarsson with 18 and Schmaltz with nine, so a huge drop with Schmaltz. I have to imagine that would be different with Bortuzzo, maybe 12-13 minutes, which would shave some time off elsewhere. So to get back to your question, Hitchcock played Pietrangelo a ton last year early in the playoffs. It worked, he did a nice job on Chicago and Dallas but it wore on him. I think Yeo would like to lighten the load a bit, but I see him doing it more with his top four and probably limiting the third pair.
Lehtera was 5-9 on 14 faceoffs, Sobotka was 3-4 on seven. I don't have the breakdown in front of me, but I'd guess that most of Sobotka's draws came on the top PP unit. I'm a little surprised that Sobotka isn't taking a little more. Maybe he will be, but right now this is how the lines are constructed and Lehtera was a faceoff guy all season, winning about 49 percent.
Did you just jinx us with OT?
1. Granlund 2. Dubnyk 3. Tarasenko
Did I give away my prediction with the 3 stars?
The Blues didn't do much offensively in Game 1, with just 26 shots and limited offensive-zone time. But I thought Schwartz was terrific. He and Tarasenko made the game-winning goal. Edmundson scored it, but they brought puck in the zone and set it up. They got the assists, but Schwartz did a lot that wasn't on the scoresheet Wednesday.