Categories
Parks Picks sports

Top 5: Players to Watch in the Blues/Kings Series

After tonights game seven match ups (Florida & New Jersey, New York & Ottawa), we’ll have a full schedule for the Western Conference Semifinals, including the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings. This is going to be an incredibly well-matched series (although LA won the season series 3-1), and hockey fans should enjoy the fast pace, low scoring games that are bound to ensue. While watching (on CNBC, i’m sure), I’ve got a few guys to keep an eye out for:

1. Andy McDonald, 10, St. Louis: I think it was apparent in the first round against San Jose that little McDonald (listed as 5’11…yeah, right) has quite a bit of speed. Scoring 4 goals in the first round and racking up 8 points total to lead the team, I can’t see him slowing down anytime soon. Look for him to be one of few who can get something by Jonathan Quick. Speaking of…

2. Jonathan Quick, 32, Los Angeles: That Vezina nod wasn’t a fluke – 26-year-old Quick is here to stay. His 1.95 GAA may seem in like with the Blues tender tandem, but it was through 69 games (Jaroslav Halak played 46, Brian Elliot, 38). Not to mention, he just held the President’s Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks to 8 goals in 5 games, maintaining a 1.59 GAA. He’s not your average goalie.

3. Jeff Carter, 77, Los Angeles: After a deadline deal sent former Columbus Blue Jacket Carter to LA for Jack Johnson and a first-round pick, it was apparent that what Carter needed wasn’t a big contract, but a set of line mates to help push him (Mike Richards, Dwight King). It may not have been his best year (21 G, 13A), but he hasn’t had a chance to explode in the playoffs yet. He will.

4. Scott Nichol, 12, St. Louis: Go ahead, call me crazy. Nichol is not cut out to be a first line top scorer, and he knows that. Which is why he is so solid on the fourth line. Averaging 9:19 on ice time (mind you – he’s a fourth liner!), this little guy is not afraid to make big plays in the defensive end, and is not afraid to bring the puck down the ice, regardless of who he’s facing. Plus, he’s got a little mean streak in him!

5. Brian Elliot, 1, St. Louis: I’m a firm believer in going with the hot (and healthy) hand, which is what Elliot has. With Jake Allen on the bench for games 1 and 2, Elliot can truly shine against one of the leagues finest. Between him and Quick, you can rest assured that there will not be a similar situation to that in the Philadelphia Flyers/Pittsburg Penguins series.

Who are you most excited to see this series?

Categories
sports

St. Louis Blues: Deadline Day & What’s Left To Come

Let me sum up what could easily be the most boring deadline day ever: Rick Nash is still a Blue Jacket, Nashville paid too much for Gaustad, and sports writers across country (especially Canada) just wasted 12 hours of their lives.

The Blues lone deal from Saturday, Ben Bishop to the Senators for a 2nd Round Draft Pick, is fine. Bishop needs to get more NHL experience, and the goaltending situation in Ottawa lends well to that. But what’s important to the fans, the team and the organization is where we’ll be come April 10.

Currently, the Blues sit in the 4th spot of the West; just two points shy of division leader Detroit and four points ahead of 5th place Nashville. With 20 games left, including three bouts with Chicago and one with Detroit, the Blues have their work cut out for them. Key injuries to Alex Steen (concussion), Matt D’Agostini (concussion) and Jamie Langenbrunner (foot), as well as the recent loss of Kris Russell (concussion) continue to haunt the team. But are we OK with the healthy guys? Let’s break it down line by line.

Backes – Oshie – Perron

This trio can do some damage. Between the grit and grind of David Backes (18 G, 25 A) and the skilled paws of David Perron (12 G, 17 A), this isn’t the line goaltenders want to see. Plus, TJ Oshie (15 G, 26 A) has been in the zone this season, following a disappointing (and embarrassing) 2010-2011.

Sobotka – Berglund – McDonald

I’m going to call this the honey badger line. Unfairly maybe, because I have a minor obsession with Vladdy Sobotka (4 G, 14 A) and his agression, but Andy McDonald (3 G, 4 A) is not someone you can catch up to quickly. The biggest concern on this line lies with Patrik Berglund (13 G, 15 A). Not that his numbers are extremely disappointing, but for a guy of his size and skill, I expect more.

Porter – Arnott – Stewart

Another surprise for me this season has been Chris Porter (4 G, 3 A). This kid goes hard game after game, and has definitely earned his spot on the NHL Roster. Veteran Jason Arnott (13 G, 14 A) has been a strong force on and off the ice, while Chris Stewart (13 G, 11 A) still seems to be finding his place in the Blue Note uniform. Get this line to produce consistently and you’ll see a much higher goal differential.

Crombeen – Nichol – Reaves

Everyone has a tough line, but not everyone has a tough line who can move the puck. BJ Crombeen, Scott Nichol and Ryan Reaves have a combined 5 goals, 6 assists, and 180 penalty minutes. Not too shabby for a fourth line with an average TOI of nearly 8 minutes.

Onto the Defense…

Colaiacovo – Pietrangelo

Yes, Carlo Colaiacovo (2 G, 13 A) breaks easier than cheap glass, but Alex Pietrangelo (10 G, 24 A) is such a fabulous forward-minded defenseman that this pair is key.

Jackman – Shattenkirk

Barrett Jackman (1 G, 9 A) has taken Eric Brewer’s place as the season troll. How many times has he been the lone cause of a goal? Too many to count. But Kevin Shattenkirk (7 G, 20 A) is much stronger than his traded counterpart. (Sorry EJ fans.)

Cole – Polak

With Russell hurt, Ian Cole (1 G, 4 A) has stepped in at the point. I like the kid, but he clearly has some growing to do. Roman Polak (0 G, 11 A) however, is a BEAST. No wonder that guy wins the strength contest each year.

The goaltending story is one of honor and respect – the Jaroslav Halak – Brian Elliot team have come together for 12 shut outs and a goals against of .930. This is KEY – especially if the 4 – 5 matchup of St. Louis and Nashville occurs, considering the low-scoring of the past 6 match ups.

No, the Blues did not make moves at the deadline, but if the current, healthy team continues down their current path, the city of St. Louis may have more to watch then Baseball come mid-April and early May.

Categories
sports Uncategorized

Social Media: Pass or Fail?

We’ll talk about how terrible I’ve been at blogging lately later, but right now, I must address the Columbus Blue Jackets Twitter account. Nearly all NHL teams have one to run promotions, announce lineups, introduce players and press conferences – the typical sports team information. However after trading Jeff Carter to Los Angelas for Jack Johnson and some draft picks, the account owner has been addressing some of the most ridiculous, point blank questions I’ve seen.

 

 

 

Call me crazy, but as a professional organization, wouldn’t you rather ignore idiot questions from fans clearly upset with the original signing (he’s not good enouhg for a 10 year contract)? I mean really, “what’s a hockey?” There are questions as simple as “are you a man or woman” and “what’s your favorite pizza” being asked, as well as questions regarding Carter, Johnson and other hockey-related information.

What do you think? Are the Blue Jackets doing good? (I clearly mean off the ice.)

Categories
Parks Picks sports

Top 5: Reasons the Blues are Contenders

Image via KSDK.com

The Blues, currently sitting at 4th Place in the West with 60 points, have had their best season to date in years. And folks, that’s not a fluke.

1. The coaching is there: Not discounting what Andy Murray and Davis Payne brought to the table, but Ken Hitchcock has truly been able to take the rains and get players to play. Halak has taken his spot back as the number one goaltender, while TJ Oshie has proven why he belongs on a top line – all with Hitchcock’s help. The early-season move was a bit unexpected, but could not have been placed at a more opportune time.

2. Home is where the heart is. The Blues have the best home record in the league at 19-3-3. That’s not a coincidence. Scottrade Center has become one of the more difficult rinks to play at, and with an ever expanding fan base (yes, even those bandwagoners), the team knows the 6th man will make a difference. That big blue bear helps, too.

3. The Central Division: Let’s not discount the fact that the Central division, with the exception of the Blue Jackets, is arguably the best division in the league. Seeing Detroit and Chicago six times a year is a challenge, as well as Vezina Trophy hopeful Pekka Rinne and the Predators. Unlike many college teams, no one can say the Blues have an “easy schedule” (14 back-to-back series this season).

4. We’re not afraid. You won’t meet another team that uses their size like St. Louis. From 6-3, 225lb. David Backes (who has it out for any man who’s ever stepped foot onto a Team Canada roster) to “5-10, 198lb” (talk about exaggeration…) Vladimir Sobotka, this is a team that knows how to play rough. The physical presence on the ice extends from forwards to defensemen, and (almost) always stays within the Shanaban rules.

5. It’s about damn time. The last playoff run the Blues had in 2001. The last cup appearance was in 1970 with Scotty Bowman as our head coach. This is a team that has been in a rebuilding phase for 5 years, and it’s time for the team to be built. This is a group of guys who want to win, and that determination will take them as far as they want to go. Hopefully, that will be at a parade on Market St.

Categories
sports

Another one bites the dust.

To much surprise last night, Ken Hitchcock was named the 24th coach in St. Louis Blues history – the 4th in the past 6 seasons – to “relieve” Davis Payne of his duties for the 6-7, 13th place team. Let’s discuss that word – relieve.

According to Merriam Webster, “relieve,” a transit verb, means a : to free from a burden : give aid or help to b : to set free from an obligation, condition, or restriction. With the way this team has played since January 2010 when Payne took over, a “relief” is just what it is – for Payne, that is.

“It’s shocking and it’s disappointing, but in the end, you’re responsible for all the areas of your hockey team,” Payne said. “There were pieces that weren’t firing on all cylinders and it’s under my umbrella of responsibility. But I also can say that we were looking at a favorable schedule ahead and ready to turn the corner.

“That said, if this is what gets things going, then I’m all for it. I wish nothing but the best for the team and this group of guys. They deserve it.”

via No Jackets required: Ken Hitchcock hired by Blues, Payne fired – Puck Daddy – NHL Blog – Yahoo! Sports.

However, is it really his fault? The blues “relieved” Andy Murray back in January 2010 when I was writing for Inside Hockey magazine. I broke the news for MSN. From the first presser, Davidson summed up the mistakes Murray made quite clearly.

“If a kid is not practicing hard or making redundant mistakes over and over again, then maybe he deserves to sit on his butt,” he said. “But if a kid’s making mistake out of passion or out of try and has worked his butt off at practice, stick him back on the ice and let him play.”

So here we are, almost two years later, with Davis Payne being “relieved” for a similar reason – the lack of young player development. Does anyone else find it odd that two good coaches could not help the development of this team over four years?

As I’ve said before, “Coach” is another term for “Scapegoat.” Sure, he creates the lines and earns the respect and trust of his players, however he isn’t the one out there missing practice or shooting goals in his own net.

Do I agree that we needed a change? Of course. This team is built to win, however they just can’t get it together. Do I think Payne is 100 percent to blame? Not at all. Accountability has hurt this team since the lock-out, and until that changes, the Blues won’t.

I do believe that Hitchcock will be a nice switch, however his coaching style is quite similar to Andy Murray, and while that will benefit our new veteran leadership, I’m not sure how the young guys will take it. In a perfect world, they will adapt well and quickly. With a five-game home stand, there is no better time for Hitchcock to take the rains and go. Let’s just hope the team is behind him, 100 percent.