Folks: Jeremy just got out of the locker room and is headed to a place where he can set up for the chat. Give him about 5 minutes or so, and thanks for your patience.
I'll be joining everybody momentarily. Thanks for hanging tight.
Good afternoon everybody and thanks for joining me for the next hour or so. Lots of intrigue as the Blues head to Minnesota for Game 5 Saturday afternoon. There are some nervous fans after being shutout 2-0 in Game 4 and now heading on the road. I spoke with Mike Yeo and players about that today and here's how they're looking at it. It's a series. They could have lost Game 1, won the next three and everybody would be feeling good about a 3-1 series lead. But after losing the last one, some doubt steps in. Either way, they've got a job to do and Tom Timmermann and myself will be headed up to Minny tonight to cover it for you. With that, let's get chattin ...
Schmaltz was sent down to get some playing time with the Chicago Wolves in the postseason. The Blues haven't called up anyone, which is interesting to me. They're headed on the road with six healthy defensemen. I'm sure they have a contingency plan in place in case someone were to get sick, but to us watching practice and observing the situation without knowing the contingency plan it seems a little risky.
Upshall practice today and was on the fourth line, so it looks like that line will stay intact. Paul Stastny practiced with the top line and there was a trickle-down effect. In case you didn't see our blog or my tweets, Lehtera was back on the third line and Barbashev was the odd-man out. Yeo wouldn't confirm anything after practice, but from Game 4 to Game 5, it looks like Stastny and Lehtera are in and Barbashev and Sanford are out.
I did ask him. He said he wasn't getting into lineup decisions the day before the game. So asked him what would go into the decision to start either Lehtera or Barbashev and he said experience, etc. So he wouldn't come out and say it, but it does look like they've made that decision already. Barbashev, by the way, stayed on the ice for quite a while after practice, which is usually the sign of a guy not playing.
Here's my take: a week later, I'm still surprised that they took Lehtera out of the lineup. I'm not saying they shouldn't have. I'm saying I'm surprised that they did. But once the move was made, I never expected Lehtera to disappear. Yeo has really been complimentary of Lehtera, which is why I didn't expect the move in the first place. I figured they get him back in at some point and you can't expect a lot of a guy you sit out for two weeks, so I think it probably makes sense from their perspective to get him back into the lineup after sitting out the last three games. Also, I've liked Barbashev, but the Blues aren't getting much offense and even though that doesn't fall strictly on him, they've got to do something. So you get Stastny in there, give Lehtera another crack and see where it goes.
The Wild don't have time for retaliation. Down 3-1, they've got to play hockey. Maybe something happens if the score is out of hand either way on Saturday afternoon, especially if the Wild are down, but not in a game that's still up for grabs. My prediction: I actually never made one. But if I'm being honest, I would've picked the Wild in 6 or 7. The Blues have really surprised me with their defensive play against the Wild. I did think Allen would be good, but not as great as he has been. I think the Blues will find a way to close it out.
What many people have gone by for years is that the home team makes about $1 million for hosting a playoff game. I've heard that number is outdated and it's actually a little more, but that's the number that I've heard for years.
I can see your point, but I would argue that it's been different leadership throughout those years. I mean, we were having that conversation six years ago when Backes, Oshie, Jackman and others were in charge. Yeah there are still some of the same guys like Steen and Pietrangelo, but I think there's more to it. First of all, we focus on the Blues, so we only think about them coming out flat, but I'm telling you it happens all over the league. Just like when I talked to David Perron the other day about the Blues' inability to close out series when they HAVE to, he said it happened in Pittsburgh and Anaheim when he played there. I just think it's the pressure on these teams to win at every turn. You won three in a row against a good Minnesota team??? Well, win four in a row!!!! You didn't do it??? Well, you stink. They're up 3-1 and very few fans would've envisioned that. The first period Wednesday was disappointing, but to me it shows how hard it is, not necessarily a reflection on leadership. That leadership somehow led them to a 3-0 lead.
Schwartz-Stastny-Tarasenko ... Steen-Berglund-Perron ... Sobotka-Lehtera-Paajarvi
Well, he's got to be rusty, right? He hasn't played in one month and now he's stepping into the playoffs. Now that I've said that he'll score two goals and have points ... it always happens. But seriously, I think he'll obviously bring some veteran experience and while I've liked Barbashev, I think the Blues will benefit from that. He's been a good playoff performer, so when he gets up to speed, he's one of the guys that teams have been able to count on. He played well in the postseason for Colorado (against Minnesota in fact) and he was good for the Blues in three rounds last year. And he'll help on faceoffs, of course, and the good Lord know that the Blues could use some help there.
We spoke to Stastny yesterday and he said if he had only been on the ice a day or two, he couldn't do it. But he's skating for about a week now, a few days on his own and then with the team for the last 3-4, so felt like things were building for him. Look, it's going to take him some time to get up to speed, but they wouldn't be putting him in if he couldn't handle 90-95 percent of what he's used to. He averaged about 19 minutes per game this season, which included about 1 1/2 minutes of penalty kill. Maybe they limit him on the PK, I don't know. But I would guess he'd be in that 17-18 minute range.
We'll have more on this subject in the blog, which will be posted soon. You remember all the delays in the faceoffs Wednesday? Well, that the linesmen telling the Wild to put their sticks down first in the defensive zone, which the Blues say they weren't doing. So to answer your question, it may have been a more level playing field in Game 4 and that could have led to the Blues' better numbers.
I guess you can look at it both ways, but my pick would be to sweep every time. I'd much rather worry about rust than risking injury and dealing with fatigue. Look at the Blues last year. They looked dead against San Jose in the third round. Part of the reason, of course, was they had never been that far before and never experienced what it took. But also, they played two more games than the Sharks (14-12) before the series started. Pietrangelo said the other day in reference to that fact that the games add up on your body. It'll be interesting if the Blues beat Minnesota in six or seven games and then have to play Nashville, which wrapped up its sweep over Chicago last night. Teams and players are going to spin it whatever way fits them, but I'd rather be the team that's rested and healed, even if you're dealing with a little bit of rust.
I asked Yeo about that the other day and he said they like things the way they are. I think it's more about not liking Lehtera on the wing than it is not like Sobotka at center.
Yes, if they win, they will host Games 1-2 against Nashville.
I think they are, yes. I mean just a couple of months ago some didn't think they'd even make the playoffs. I heard from people who said trade Shattenkirk even if it means missing the playoffs. Now fast forward to April and sure things have changed. People are excited about this playoff run. Certainly fans would be devastated if they coughed up this lead and YES the team, players and management would be ripped if that happened. But let's be real here, if they do close this out, I think the Blues head into the next series playing with house money. I can't imagine the Blues losing a hard-fought series in the second round and people being in rip-mode. Now since Chicago is out and it's going to be Nashville people are going to think that's an easier path, so the Blues will have lost a great opportunity to waltz into the third round again. But those people didn't watch the Nashville-Chicago series. The Predators look great and they were good against the Blues in the regular season this year (Preds won 3 of 5). I'm not telling anyone to tone down their hopes, but this is shaping up to be a fun, enjoyable ride whatever happens.
No, he didn't. Yeo said he was fine and Sobotka was back on the ice again. For anybody that missed it, Sobotka took a shot from Tarasenko and went down. Tarasenko was also the one whose shot knocked Stastny out of the lineup, hence the "friendly fire" reference. So Tarasenko should be feeling pretty good since Sobotka is fine and Stastny is coming back.
Still a lot of work to be done, so you're fellow chatters probably won't like you jinxing the team. But if it happens, I'm sure you'll have a lot of people that will join you. As for me, I'm putting my fat butt on a Southwest flight. I'll meet you at Tootsies.
I don't think so. He's still trying to decide if this is what he wants to do. I think there's a chance that it does eventually happen because he seems to have the desire and the work ethic to be good at it. But I think it's going to take some more time to learn on the job. Plus, who would shovel and the crease for Allen and Hutton if he left. Kidding! But I do think after this season we've probably seen the end of Brodeur's days as the goalie coach.