This will be the last time the Hawks see the Blues until the 2nd Round (provided both teams get there, of course). While St Louis have won most of the matchups this year they’ve all been by the narrowest margins. The only blowout belongs to the Hawks, giving them a better aggregate score (thus far). but none of this matters a damn, now.  St Louis are locks for the Divisional title and fighting it out with the Bruins for the Presidents Trophy. The Hawks will face Colorado in the 1st round and almost certainly will start on the road. However, anyone anticipating a disinterested game clearly didn’t see the Blues losing their collective minds in the 3rd period of their 4-0 drubbing by the Avs last night.  The two teams combined for 120 PIMs in the 3rd Period (with the result no longer in question). Brendan Morrow may be facing Supplementary Discipline for a cross check on John Mitchell and the entire Blues ‘Leadership’ followed Captain manly man David Backes’ example and got themselves tossed from the game.  Remarkable (and the Avs contributed their share, it should be added)

 

Avoiding that sort of nonsense would seem to be a priority.  Personal antipathy aside, the Blues are a bloody good hockey team and any path to a repeat leads directly through them. Anyway, as it’s Sunday and I don’t feel like working, I asked some questions about the Blues of my buddy Tyler Atwood ,who writes for St Louis Gametime and. like me, contributes to Democrathree on III Communication.

 

So here we go.

 

mmD: What’s the general feeling in the Blues fanbase like right now? Are people thinking “this is our year” or are they wondering how they’re going to manage to screw this up? 

 

TA: Overall, the mood of the Blues fanbase is relatively excellent, as one might imagine. This is no doubt the best Blues team any fan of the team has ever seen. That said, there’s always the fear that the other shoe is about to drop because–after all–these ARE the Blues we’re talking about. The last two times the Blues either won the President’s Trophy (1999-2000) or were this close to winning it (2011-’12), the season ended in disappointment. The general feeling, though, was when Doug Armstrong pulled the trigger on the Ryan Miller deal (and yes, it’s the Ryan Miller deal, not the Miller/Steve Ott deal, let’s not kid ourselves), he–and ownership, who is very new, mind you, having purchased the team in 2012–was basically telling the whole league that THIS was the year, and we as fans have pretty much believed in that. Anything less than a Western Conference Finals appearance will largely be considered a disappointment.
 
mmD While, as ever, the Blues don’t concede many goals (only behind Boston and LA in that regard this year.. and not by much) but for me, the revelation this year has been the goal scoring: St Louis are on pace to have their highest Goals For total since the early 90’s. Alex Steen springs to mind as a factor, but have there been other things that you’ve seen that contribute to this?

 

TA: Alexander Steen, despite a couple injuries during the season (including a mysterious “upper body injury” that kept him out Thursday and will likely keep him out this weekend too), has had an absolutely unreal season, but the main reason he’s had such a good season has less to do with Steen and more to do with his linemates that form what is arguably the best all-around top line in the National Hockey League . . . T.J. Oshie and David Backes. These three guys–with the occasional inclusion of Jaden Schwartz when Steen has been missing–have all put up insane numbers in the traditional sense (G, A, +/-) AND in the “fancy stats” sense (Corsi, Fenwick, etc.) all season, all despite playing against every opponents’ best players, in all zones, in pretty much every game. If the NHL gave a Norris Trophy-type award to a team’s whole line of forwards, you could argue that THIS line should win it in a landslide. Credit is also due to guys like Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Vladimir Sobotka and great offensive zone play from the team’s top defensive pairing (Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester, but mainly Pietrangelo, who will be a Norris candidate for years and years and years and YEARS to come) and Kevin Shattenkirk.
 
mmD You’ve had the whip-hand over the Hawks in terms of the regular season series, but generally only by the slimmest of margins. How do you feel about a potential 2nd Round matchup between the teams and do you have a preference between facing Chicago or Colorado?

 

TA: Sure, the Blues have played well against the Blackhawks this season. The Blues have played well against the whole Central Division this season, actually. And if I’m completely honest with myself, I have no preference as to an opponent in ANY round (which I’ll expand a bit upon later). That said, if I had to choose between those two, the obvious pick would be the Colorado Avalanche(s). If you look at the numbers, the Blackhawks–thanks to that 4-0 drubbing a couple weeks back–have actually outscored the Blues this season. All but THAT game against the Hawks has been close, and indicative of the kind of game the Blues have won a LOT this season. The Blues–largely thanks to a 7-3 drubbing of the Avs in November, but whatever–have dominated the Avs to the tune of 13-9 this season on the scoreboard (and a 3-1-0 record), and those who have seen the games know that the Blues have dominated the season series physically as well (except perhaps for the last game, an Avs 4-0 win yesterday, and the 2-1 Blues victory in Denver a month back, a fast frenetically-paced game in which Patrick Roy had his goaltender pulled for the last THREE AND A HALF FUCKING MINUTES OF THE HOCKEY GAME, mind you . . . you are NOT Claude Ruel, dipshit). But whatever, I’ll be glad to make the second round and play whoever comes forward.
 
mmD: Are there any weaknesses or issues that you can see with the Blues that might hinder them come the playoffs?

 

TA: A weakness that has been repeated ad nauseum on Twitter and in the Blues’ blogosphere since Tarasenko went down with his hand injury has been the team’s secondary scoring, or more specifically, the team’s LACK thereof. Since Tarasenko broke his hand on March 15th in Nashville (“Et Tu, Brute?“), virtually all of the team’s scoring has come from that top line I spoke of earlier. I think too much is being made of it, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t cognizant of it. Patrik Berglund scored two goals in that Nashville game and has since fallen off the face of the earth, concerning because he played outstandingly in Sochi for Tre Kronor and was red hot in the aftermath. Schwartz, the other youngster from the first round of the same 2010 NHL Draft that gave us Tarasenko, has not been able to put the puck in the net too much lately either, maybe because of different line combinations since Tarasenko’s injury. Sobotka is still playing great defensive hockey and winning face-offs at an insane pace, but after playing outstanding on a line with Tarasenko in his first two games back from injury, has not had much success finding the net since. Steve Ott, who admittedly I didn’t expect much from when he came to the Blues, has a couple assists but nary a goal since the trade (though we’re finding he’s a very underrated passer). Now, all of this may be fixed when Tarasenko comes back, which may be very soon (he skated with the team recently and will travel on the next road trip). But for now, it may be much ado about nothing because of the dominance of the top line, who no team has been able to fully shut down.
 
mmD: Finally, do you have  a preference for 1st Round opponent? Dallas strike me as a potential spoiler.. that would be a spiky series. 

 

TA: A team as good as this Blues team should NEVER care who they play in the first round, or in any round, for that matter. That said, the Dallas Stars scare the ever-loving shit out of me in the first round, IF they stay hot enough to get in (which, as we’ve seen in past seasons, is NOT a given). As far as the two teams battling for the second wild card spot, I would prefer the Blues play the Coyotes, which will make for an absolutely mind-numbingly boring series but serve as a much better matchup for the Blues than the Stars. If, somehow, the Ducks or Sharks take the top spot in the Western Conference and knock the Blues into a matchup with the top wild card team, the Minnesota Wild(s), that would be a favorable matchup for St. Louis as well. All said, though, I have no preference. I just want to get the playoffs started, really, and to hell with who the Blues play. Just give me a team.

 

Many thanks to Tyler for taking the time to answer my questions.. give him a follow on Twitter @KingDonutI

 

Let’s Go Hawks