Blues chat with Jim Thomas

Blues chat with Jim Thomas

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




    Hello again everybody. What a night, eh? Let's get this going.
    JT,

    Do you think that the Conference Finals and the SC Finals could play a little bit more open, and the series not be so intense? I think the first two rounds are very close because the teams play each other all of the time and they know each other so well, but now that the conference finals are teams that don't see each other much, the series could be more open.
    Well, if it's Colorado, it will be teams that are very familiar with each other. The Avalanche are in the Central Division with the Blues but crossed over to the Pacific Division half of the brackets in the playoffs as the second wild card. The Blues played Colorado four times in the regular season and went 4-0 against the Avs. although three of the games went into overtime (1 was a shootout). The Blues played San Jose just 3 times since the Sharks are in the Pacific and went 1-1-1 against them. The Blues won 4-0 against San Jose, lost 4-0 against San Jose, and lost in OT 3-2 in a game where Tarasenko was a scratch. The Sharks and Avalanche both are more wide-open, offensive-minded teams as opposed to Dallas. And on paper their goaltending isn't as good as the Stars. Not many goalies are as good as Ben Bishop. So there perhaps could be more open ice in the series.
    We are in the Final Four. Did that seem possible back in January? Are we better than the last time we were here against San Jose?
    No. It did not seem possible in January. I thought the Blues were toast in January. Didn't most of us? But now I think all things are possible. This team believes. This team is tight. This team has balance. This team knows how to play with its back to the wall and knows how to play in close games. I was sorting through the rubble of the Rams leaving St. Louis at the time the Blues played San Jose in the 2016 Western Conference finals, so I couldn't even guess an answer on that one.
    Curious on your thoughts of Bishop's acting after the Parayko shot in game 6? I think EVERYONE thought he collarbone was broken but he clearly was not injured whatsoever based off his performance last night. More flopping?
    Oh, I think he was stung by the Parayko shot. No question. I know he has a reputation as flopper, and we saw it on a couple of occasions in this series. But that wasn't an instance of flopping. Bishop was spectacular last night. Give him some credit.
    I know you were not covering the blues in 2016 but what is up with this Stars team and game sevens? If the vezina finalist were not in the net it would have easily been a 3-1 game minimum. They simply did not play well until overtime. They lost 6-1 in 2016 in Dallas against us and were just awful then as well.
    Yeah, in my mind, it was more like a 4-1, 5-1 game. And when you think about it, the Dallas goal was an ultimate Hockey Gods score. The ref (Joanette) kicks the puck off the post and the puck bounces right to Zuccarello. The Blues were almost as dominant in this game as they were in the Round 1 clincher against Winnipeg. Bishop is clearly the best player on the Stars. They have some young, promising talent, but they clearly need more secondary scoring.
    No need to post. I give bishop all the credit in the world. The BEST goaltender performance I have ever seen.
    It was an amazing performance to be sure.
    That was a wonderful game last night. I don't live in St. Louis any longer, but even after decades of being away I still root for the Blues. I was a season ticket-holder in the mid-70s when the Blues still played at the Arena. Going back in time, can you explain why Gary Unger's number has not been retired by the Blues? He was the heart of those teams for many years. What happened?
    I'm not sure on Unger. He was quite a talent. And here's my little Unger story. I don't think I've told it on the chat before. If I have, I apologize. I was at a Blues game back in the day with some friends. After the game, we went around to the players' entrance to the Arena, and out walks Unger with a blonde on his arm, he hops into a sports car, waves at the fans, and drives away. Just as you'd imagine it, right?
    How good is Rob Thomas? I mean, a rookie 19 year old and he’s playing out of his mind. He’s gonna be a star, and I can’t wait!
    I think he was the Blues best player in the series. He blossomed right before our eyes against Dallas. Remember back at the beginning of the season, when we wondered if the Blues would send him back to juniors before his 10th game. That seems like a lifetime ago, doesn't it?
    Is it me, or is Thomas playing like the best combination of speed, stick and vision the Blues have had since Turgeon? It has been a pleasure watching him grow during this playoff season, and I can't wait to see more.

    Which raises two questions about the future: (1) Do the Blues move him to center next year, freeing up Schenn, Bozak or Sundqvist for a trade; and (2) Is there any chance Kyrou could follow a similar developmental path next year, giving the Blues a speedier, more talented core?
  • Thomas needs to work on finishing. And like most young players in the NHL, needs to work on his faceoffs. I think he deferred too much to the veterans for most of the season, but now he's shooting more which is good. But he's got a little bit of everything doesn't he? You have to wonder if the Blues think about moving Schenn (I hope they don't) who will be entering the final year of his contract. I would think Kyrou has to make the team next season. And shouldn't the same be true for Blais, who played only 32 games with the big club (partly because of that ankle injury).?
    Jim, how was your food in Dallas? Make it out to any places on my scouting report? If not no worries. Let's Go Blues.
    Texas Tiger, we stayed pretty close to the hotel. Ate at the Rodeo Goat a couple of times (great burgers, and our waitress was from the St. Louis area and a Blues fan). And ate at Ferris Wheeler's once _ pretty good barbecue. One night, some of the writers went out to a fancy steak place, which they said was excellent. Pietrangelo had heard of the place. (I forget the name.) But I wasn't finished writing in time to join them.
    I was watching the game from 1200 miles away, and tv didn't do the crowd justice. How would you rate the loudness of the crowd this game? They seemed as exhausted as the players when Maroon scored. Loudest Blues game I ever attended was the 1981 2OT win vs Pittsburgh...the Mike Crombeen game. Wondering how this one compared to it or any other Blues game over the last 50 years.
    In terms of comparing it to other Blues games, check in with Jeff Gordon on his Friday chat. He should have some perspective for you. (I was covering bad Rams football most of those years.) But I thought the crowd was insane. I noticed most were standing once the overtime sessions began. (And maybe they were standing before that and I just didn't notice.) But in terms of my experience, I would rate it right up there with some of those Rams crowds at the dome during the Greatest Show on Turf days, like that first home playoff game ever in St. Louis against Minnesota.
    My Prediction Blues in 5 vs. Colorado or Blues in 7 vs. Sharks.
    OK. There it is from Brian. We'll see how this holds up.
    How about that 19 year old Robert Thomas? Or that get rid of, 2 time GWG scorer St. Louis raised Maroon? Whew, what a series. I have to say I was impressed, no bad bounce (or kick pass from ref), no loss has gotten to these guys, and it looks more promising each day.

    As far as top line scoring goes, I was and am not worried. Our top line was used for defense and puck possession against the ever changing top line(s) of Dallas, and not used as traditional scoring lines. And if Colorado is next, I see more of the same. I don't think any team left has the depth of the Blues. I think putting our 2, 3, 4 lines against the same line against other teams will get us the scoring. I think it's a good strategy if I'm reading it right. What are your thoughts Jim? (And yes, I do think super stars should still score 5 on 5)
    Yeah, with Washington, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Calgary, the New York Islanders, Nashville, Winnipeg all out of the way, the Cup is there for the taking. Not that it will be easy, but I think you know what I mean. This thing is wide open. So why not the Blues?
    As for the Blues scoring, of course you'd like to see more from the top line. But Tarasenko does have five goals. It's not like a power play goal counts less than a 5-on-5 goal. You know what I mean? I don't know if Berube's strategy was to strictly have the top line concentrate on defense. But obviously defense was a high priority against a team with a goaltender like Bishop. Even though he didn't score last night, I thought Schenn was a beast in that first overtime. I don't know if O'Reilly is banged up or a little gassed. But he did have 5 assists in the series, if my memory is right _ I don't have the stats in front of me. It's not like he wasn't involved. But overall, Doug Armstrong assembled this team with depth in mind, and that's what he's got.
    Jim, I also was a Garry Unger fan as a kid, but no way he should have his number retired. A few years ago -- I think just a year or two after Keith Tkachuk retired -- the Blues had a No. 7 night, where they brought back all the former notable players that previously wore No. 7. You could make a very strong case that Unger was the fourth best of the bunch behind Joey Mullen (in the Hall of Fame), Tkachuk (has a pretty good case) and Red Berenson (one of the most legendary players in franchise history and in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame). He was a very good player and that consecutive games streak was impressive, but he's not even close to elite.
    Thanks for that perspective.
    I do not know if I envisioned this in January but I did foresee the playoffs. The Blues are loaded with talent. I do not think Armstrong is getting the credit he deserves for assembling this team. Does he have a shot at Executive of the Year?
    I remember him sitting on a bench with me in Traverse City in early September, in a lobby-like area between the 2 rinks at the Prospects Tournament. He said he thought he had the talent in place for the window to start opening again for the Blues to be a Cup contender. It seemed like a bold statement considering his team was coming off a season in which they failed to make the playoffs. And it seemed like he was totally wrong at the beginning of January. But here we are. I'm not sure if he has a chance at executive of the year, since I believe the voting is done at the end of the regular season and the Blues _ as you know _ really didn't begin to make their push until February.
    Can you explain how Bishop didn't make it here?Who was any better at the time?
    Yeah, seems kind of mind-boggling now. But I believe the Blues had Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott ahead of him at the time. And Jake Allen was working his way up the system as well.
    What do the Blues do with Maroon after the year? You would think with the way he's played in the second half especially on that line with Bozak and Thomas that they would try to re-sign him, but is he pricing himself out of St. Louis with his play? If they do manage to re-sign him do they look to move Sanford and other fringe players to open space for Kyrou?
    You would think Maroon is making himself some money with each game-winning goal he scores. Given Maroon's interest in playing in St. Louis, maybe you can get him to return for less than open-market value. Does $3 million a year over a couple of years do it? I don't know. But the Blues have to try to re-sign him, don't you think. Every playoff team needs at least one big guy like Maroon that can do some dirty work around the net. Klim Kostin certainly has some power forward promise, but he's not ready yet. (Remember, he's just 20 _ and he just turned 20 on May 5.) At the moment, I don't know what the Blues do to open up a spot for Kyrou or a full-time spot for Blais. Do they try to buy out Steen? Maybe Sanford goes, although I do think he has plenty of promise.
    Jim - why does it seem that since Backes has left, we don't have that presence in front of the net on each possession that clearly (see Maroon) nets some blue collar goals. It seems this team is content to play around the perimeter and leave those rebounds for the other team to clear. Is that part of the playbook overall or an area of imprivement?
    It's always an area that needs to improve. And when the Blues do establish that net front, they always seem to play better. Schenn does it to a degree. And Steen. Schwartz, too, despite his small stature. And Thomas has some potential in that area although he's not the biggest guy around.
    Chances of Maroon coming back next year? If so, what does the contract look like?
  • Right now, I'll guess at 60-40. Strictly a guess. As I mentioned earlier, is $3 million per year over a couple of years enough? I don't know.
    Jim, any idea when the Western Conference Finals will start?
    Obviously, we'll know after tonight's games. I would have to think Saturday. If the Blues are facing Colorado, they'd have home-ice advantage and the series would open at Enterprise. There is a Cher concert at Enterprise on Friday. If it's Blues-San Jose, the Sharks have home ice and there's a Stars on Ice Show on Sunday.
    Before we start calling Thomas, Turgeon! Let’s look back to game 6 where our defenseman fell behind the net and Thomas left his man right in front of the net to go guard the point instead of staying on that man! Oh and the stars scored. Also, when he chose to attack the puck like a forward along the boards and whiffed and it caused a 2-1 fast break! He was covering the point as a defenseman and should have dropped and play like a defenseman. Oh and by the way the Stars scored! I like Thomas but he has a ways to go before we start giving him more responsibilities. Thanks
    I guess we'll call this a vote for keeping him on wing for now.
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