The St. Louis Blues are in Florida tonight to take on the Panthers, and they are looking to make history by winning their fifth straight game to open a season. Not once in team history have the Blues accomplished this feat. Tonight they get the chance. The game starts at 6:30 central time.
What is interesting to me, is that the Blues have found a way to win games with an average bottom six group. Through four games, the play of the bottom two lines have been severely lacking. From lack of offensively production, to consistently letting the other team get the puck with poor play at the face-off circle. So today we’re going to look at the play of the bottom six and get get you updated on tonight’s line up.
Chris Thorburn has been, in my not so humble opinion, the worst player on the Blues roster so far in the first four games. He’ll be playing again in his third game of the season tonight, as he’s set to start on the fourth line again tonight. Hopefully when Steen comes back he’ll end up the odd man out, because realistically, he shouldn’t be an every day player. Wade Megan should be playing over Thorburn right now.
Megan, who no one expected to make the roster, was the biggest surprise of training camp. However, with all the praise he’s received from the coaches, he’s sitting in the press box while Thorburn is playing. Megan has played in just one game this season. I can’t explain it, considering Thorburn just isn’t that effective right now. I will give Thorburn credit on one thing, he’s staying out of the box. For a guy who has a history of taking random dumb penalties, he’s been in control through three games.
Scottie Upshall has left me indifferent. I wasn’t pleased with signing him, as I believed we have other players in our system who can fill his role. Yeah, he has a little speed left, but hardly does anything with it. He can play on the penalty kill, but so can a boatload of other players on this roster. To me he is still just a wasted spot because Doug Armstrong wanted ‘veteran presence’.
Kyle Brodziak has been absolutely average through four games. He’s registered zero points, he’s been average defensively, and he seems to be slowing down. He’s losing face-offs as well. He’s sitting at a 48.9% on the dot. He needs to be better.
Tage Thompson is playing his way out of the line up with his lackluster play. He’ll be in the press box tonight. He’s not really getting many offensive chances, as he’s only registered three shots in four games. He’s a minus three, and has taken two minor penalties thus far in his young career. Honestly, Thompson would be better suited continuing to develop in the American Hockey League. I still can’t believe he made the opening roster over Samuel Blais, who I think would be more effective playing a third line role than Thompson is. Considering Thompson is only 19, it’s not the end of the world that he’s not playing great hockey right now. He’s got plenty of time to develop.
Magnus Paajarvi has been average. Playing decently defensively, he has four shots on goal and he’s a minus two. In my opinion, he’s been outplayed by Dmitrij Jaskin. Jaskin will draw back into the line up tonight, and through three games, he’s registered six shots on goal and he looked much improved so far this season. He’s moving his feet, getting into scoring lanes. He should playing every day right now.
Lastly, we look at the two players battling it out for the third line center role. Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist.
Sundqvist in my opinion has been pretty decent defensively, but offensively and on the face-off dot, he’s not doing well. He’s got four shots in three games played, that said, he has mostly been a perimeter player thus far. His numbers on the dot are downright frightening. Winning only 32.4% of the draws he takes, he’s putting the Blues at a disadvantage more than 75% of the time. That’s not good.
That being said, Barbashev hasn’t been much better. He’s only taken eight draws in two games, but he’s won three and lost five.
That’s 37.5%. He’s got two shots in two games, and after an average pre-season, he’s going to have to start picking it up if he wants to prove he wants to be an every day player.
My eyes will be on the bottom six moving forward, as I think they can be a deciding factor throughout the season. Who will secure a regular spot in the line up as the season progresses? We shall see.
Tonight’s line up, according to Tom Timmermann;
Vladimir Sobotka – Paul Stastny – Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz – Brayden Schenn – Ivan Barbashev
Magnus Paajarvi – Oskar Sundqvist – Dmitrij Jaskin
Scottie Upshall – Kyle Brodziak – Chris Thorburn
Joel Edmundson – Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson – Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn – Robert Bortuzzo
Jake Allen gets the start in goal.