As the St. Louis Blues embark on yet another promise-filled season, the forward lines are settling in. The defensive pairings seem to be set. The goaltending tandem of Halak and Elliott are ready to roll. Hope springs eternal, again…….
This 2013-2014 edition of The Note comes with some very high accolades. I no longer will try to predict where they will finish. As a fan, those soothsayings have always been wrong, Stanley Cup or bust.
What we will discuss is the role the young kids will have, and must have, for the Blues to contend. Three second-year players come to the forefront on this one: Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, and surprise – Jake Allen!! We can pretty much predict what the Blues will get from Backes, Oshie, et al. What we don’t know is what these three will produce.
We’ll start with Schwartz. What player are we going to see? Will it be the one who meandered through most of the season, hopscotching from first line to fourth line and then back again? And when he wasn’t doing the line leapfrog, he found himself dressed in a suit watching like you and I. Then came the playoffs.
Schwartz earned Ken Hitchcock’s trust, and at the same time, tons of ice time. He was arguably the Blues’ best player versus the LA Kings. He was in the action, being a pest. He was causing turnovers that lead to scoring chances. If he puts a few of those chances away maybe the outcome is different. Either way the big thing is that he was creating those chances. The Blues will need that tenacity on the puck to continue this year. They will also need him to capitalize on his chances. He will have to make up for the loss of the retired Andy Mcdonald.
Next on the hit parade, oops sorry Blues fans, should not really talk about hits when speaking of Tarasenko. A hit is what separated his first year in the NHL. After being concussed on a hit by Mark Olver of the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 20th, Tarasenko could never find his way back from wondering, if he was Batman.
Before the hit, Tarasenko was living up to the mighty expectations thrust upon him. One can look back at his scintillating performance on opening night last year and daydream about what his and the Blues season could have been if not for that hit.
Fast forward to this preseason. Tarasenko comes in more fit and better able to communicate with his teammates. The language of hockey can only carry so far. To be able to communicate things, at practice and on the bench during games, can only have a mollifying effect on what can be a bumpy second year. Needless to say, the Blues will need the “bring you out of your seats” version of Tarasenko to succeed. He should be more than capable of making up for the loss of David Perron, provided the concussion doesn’t ironically rear its ugly head.
Finally, we get to Jake Allen. Yes, I know he is not even on the opening night roster, but if all goes as usual, he will be up at some point. History tells us Halak will be sidelined at some point in this full season. Allen will then be called upon, and I believe this time it will be for good.
Allen rescued the Blues last season when Brian Elliott could not take over the #1, when Halak went down. He won games the Blues shouldn’t have and did not give away games that the Blues had in their control.
While Halak has shown he can produce like a top goalie when not injured, he has that propensity of ending up hurt. Elliott, when teamed with Halak, has played like a #1, but he falters when given the microphone to lead the band. This is why Allen is so important. Even if he doesn’t finish the year as the go-to goalie, Allen will, at some point, be that guy.
A terrific time is about to commence for Blues fans. The quest begins. Hope springs eternal…….AGAIN.