Here we go, all you diehards better be ready! Apologies that you had to go a couple weeks without my beautiful words. A couple things caused this absence: it’s the off-season and most pre-season games weren’t watchable and therefore not available to my scrutiny, you probably don’t care how much ice time Mackenzie MacEachern got in his preseason games, and I got married! So you’ll have to find a new RTN contributor to salivate over, I’m a married man now.
We all know the moves, the questions (hint: it rhymes with “snake”), and the opening night lineup. So what are our predictions for the season? Let’s take a look at what we expect to see out of the Blues lineup before we throw out our far-fetched dreams.
This is the make-or-break season with the Blues for Jake Allen. He has to step up and be the guy. His career save percentage and GAA of .913 and 2.47, respectively, are about league average. The only time he was close to elite was in 2015-16 when he posted a .920 with a GAA of 2.35. He will need to get back to those numbers if the Blues are truly going to make a deep run this season.
Chad Johnson is a guy. He’s not going to save the Snake’s skin if it sheds in January and February again. The journeyman goaler has been a serviceable backup, but there’s a reason he’s tagged as a journeyman. He’s good for his 20 games, he may be better with a good defensive core in front of him, but don’t expect a Hutton-like performance.
The D-corps starts with your pillar in Pietrangelo, who had a career year last year and unfortunately still couldn’t crack the top-5 for the Norris trophy. The top-4 is rounded out with Bouwmeester, Parayko, and Edmundson. You could match that against most of the top-4 pairings around the league and come out on top. Vince Dunn looks to be a Shattenkirk-type player and has shown to be efficient at quarterbacking a powerplay. Gunnarsson, like Bouwmeester, is going into the last year of his contract and coming off an injury. He’s still not fully healthy from his off-season surgeries and will start on the long-term IR.
This opens up an opportunity for Niko Mikkola to possibly crack the opening night lineup. He’s officially listed at 6’4″, but he looks much bigger. It just adds to a defensive core that is already the biggest (tallest) in the league. He’s not going to light up the score-sheet (at least not in terms of points), but his defensive game is ahead of the curve for his age. Mikkola and Chris Butler could both be in the opening night lineup with the Gunnarsson injury and Bortuzzo suspension.
This is where things get juicy.
I can’t even begin to express my excitement on, what seems to be based on these practice lines, Yeo’s willingness to change his approach on the 4th line. The argument against this is that the 4th line only plays 8 minutes a night, so why would you want your young talent to waste away on the bench when they could play 18 minutes a night and powerplay opportunities in the AHL? Solution, change the minutes they would be seeing. Who said the 4th line is only allotted sub-10 minutes on ice? Last season, the Vegas Golden Knights’ 4th line averaged ~12 minutes of ice time per game. Their top players (Marchessault/Karlsson) were able to contribute in big ways, but a goal by the 4th line is what sent them to the Stanley Cup final. Now imagine that 4th line having a 20-25 goal scorer (i.e. Blais with an elite playmaking talent like Thomas). Scary.
This is where the Blues current 4th line comes into play. It’s a 4th line that can put the puck in the net. Match that line against a couple of knuckle-draggers from Los Angeles and you could see very nice production. Kyrou playing with the Schwartz-Schenn duo is destined for greatness. Kyrou’s speed and ability with those two could be deadly. One could see Fabbri’s return from injury (a big if) play a part in how long this trio stays together, but I hope it lasts and thrives. A pricey third line leads to another mismatch. Those three up against most third lines in the league is going to thrive as well. Look for a rebound year from Steen (Lord knows he needs it) and Perron to come close (50-60 points) to his career year from last year.
My Three BOLD Predictions
- Jake Allen starts 60+ games and has a career year across the board posting at least 35 wins, .925 SV%, and 2.30 GAA
- Tarasenko scores 50 goals with O’Reilly as his center
- Parayko finally gets to double digit goals (by actually hitting the net) and ends the season with 40+ points
Did You Miss It?
The off-season – yeah, because it wasn’t televised. Thanks FSN..
Dmitrij Jaskin was claimed by the defending Stanley Cup champions (praise be). Now we don’t have to talk about him underperforming all season. Look for him to score 30 points and Washington to then hand him $5M AAV. *Cough* Tom Wilson *Cough*.
Tom Wilson (AKA The Trash Can) had his hearing today for a questionable high hit on Oskar Sundqvist. UPDATE: he received a 20-game suspension for his hit on Sundqvist.
Thanks for reading!! LGB!!