I don't know if it's under-rated, but the team's defensive play has jumped up. It is the five-man unit that teams live to see. Early on, you'd see defensemen pinch forward, the puck go the other way, and whoever was in goal was facing an odd-man rush. You don't see anywhere near the number of odd-man rushes you used to see. There defensive coverage is much better. Also, they've gotten much better at keeping the puck in the offensive zone. One of the best ways to play defense is to have the puck 200 feet away from your net. That has helped them to wear down defenses more. And, again, the team's confidence has skyrocketed. They can weather storms much better than they have in the past.
I think I answered this question without actually posting it. Now, my answer may make more sense.
Fabbri has been a regular in practice and in contact. He hasn't been held out of anything that I've been able to see and they certainly played him when he first came back from his injury. But while he may be 100 percent physically, he seemed hesitant on the ice. The most noticeable stat was that when he came back, he wasn't being credited with any hits. While Fabbri is a guy who doesn't have a lot in that category, he went from having one or two a game to having none. He had one hit in the eight games he played after his shoulder injury. That speaks to a hesitancy in his game. Berube has said that's what got him out of the lineup and while they want to get him in, until the Blues or someone gets hurt (or Perron comes back) the gameday lineup isn't changing.
Between 1985 and 1996, when I moved to St. Louis, I covered, at various times, UCLA basketball, USC football and basketball, and, very briefly, the Clippers as full time beats at the Daily News and the Herald Examiner. (The paper I was at when I was covering the Clippers, the Her-Ex, closed a week before the season began.) And I helped out on the hockey beat. At the Daily News, I was also the assistant/deputy sports editor for three years. Helene wasn't doing the Kings when I was doing them, but she is very well respected in the hockey community. She's in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
You may, by the way, have noticed the promo on this page for our sale on a digital subscription. It's really worth it.
I didn't see that, but then, I was in an elevator and in a corridor under the stands after the game. He seemed in a jovial mood when he spoke to us in the dressing room after the game.
This is another topic we were discussing today. I tend to doubt Bouwmeester will come back. Gunnarsson, with his injuries this season, would seem to have a tough go of it on the free agent market after this season. He'll be 33 at the start of next season and is hitting that point where teams are more inclined to play younger, cheaper players. Would this drive down Gunnarsson's price that the Blues could make a minimal investment in him? Maybe, but it's more likely that the team would say, we've got these young defenseman backed up in San Antonio, like Reinke and Walman, it's time to give them a chance.
I don't think we've seen the last of Fabbri. When he has been healthy in previous seasons, he's shown he can play at this level and his price is still very reasonable, especially since he's not going to get much of a raise after this season. He's a valuable commodity and he's still young. (He's younger than MacEachern, for instance, and only five months older than Sammy Blais.) Going into this season, it was hard to figure what the Blues would get out of him as he returned from two knee surgeries, and then when you throw a shoulder injury in, that's a lot to deal with. If he's fully healthy and fully confident, he can be a contributor. It just may take until next season.
When Berube first took over, the Blues penalties seemed to go way up. There was one three-game stretch where the opponents had 19 power plays. The number of penalties has come down significantly.
The Blues are 28-22-5, so even if you call those OT losses losses, they're above .500. Which is no small feat.
Believe me, I hear you. We do have two writers committed to the Blues on a daily basis, and Jim and I try to crank out as much stuff and provide as much information as we can. But since analytics are the order of the day, I'll say that any Cardinals story gets way more readers than any Blues story, and I'm sure that goes for TV ratings as well. It's just how St. Louis is. Still, the beauty of the webpage is you can go straight to our hockey coverage if you'd like.
I might go for the win at Tampa Bay. The Lightning are the elite of the league and the Blues shut them down. But that Nashville game reinforced that belief, especially since any playoff run for the Blues would likely go through Nashville.
Yeah, I didn't even mention Mikkola when I talked about the D in the pipeline. There's a hockey axiom that you can never have too many defensemen -- Larry Pleau must have said that on a weekly basis back in the day -- and the Blues seem to have plenty there. Schmaltz may get lost in the shuffle there with younger, shinier models coming up. I think with guys like Mikkola, Reinke and Walman still playing at very affordable prices, I think they'll get first chances for the Blues to fill those openings next season.
There were several factors. Bouwmeester probably shouldn't have been playing at the start of the season. He may have been recovered from his injury, but he wasn't totally back. His play at the start of the season wasn't up to what was needed from him. Now, he's totally back and is playing some very good hockey. But it doesn't all fall on the defensemen. The forwards weren't doing their jobs, they weren't providing coverage when a defenseman went forward, which is something the team wants them to do. That was part of the reason for all the odd-man rushes. The defensemen would go forward, but so did the forwards, and when the puck turned over, it was see you later. That may have been the result of the wholesale changes at forward, which also may have caused all of them to think, with all these guys who can score, I better go forward to and get mine. As many players have said, earlier in the season, there were a lot of guys playing for themselves and now they're playing as a team.