Sunday, January 19, 2020

Blues in good position heading into break

With 68 points, they're first in the Western Conference and 
displaying no Stanley Cup hangover after winning it all last season

ST. LOUIS -- The result may not have been what the Blues were looking for heading into a week-long all-star break, but the overall body of work for the defending Stanley Cup champions proved one important aspect.

There's no Stanley Cup hangover in St. Louis.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues, including (left to right) Alex Pietrangelo, Vince Dunn, Tyler
Bozak, Mackenzie MacEachern and Robert Thomas are in a good spot.

The Blues were hopeful of a win against the Colorado Avalanche, which would have extended their lead not only in the Central Division to 12 points but in the Western Conference as well.

Instead, a 5-3 loss sent the Blues into their bye week and break with a 30-11-8 record, good for 68 points, and feeling good about setting the bar high once again and sending the message that they're not a one-hit wonder.

"Got to be proud of where we are," said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo, who is on pace for career-highs in all offensive statistical categories with 13 goals and 27 assists in 49 games. "Everyone’s going to agree on that. We wake up tomorrow and the standings are still in a good spot. So I guess it’s time to regroup and get ready."

Pietrangelo, along with forwards Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron along with goalie Jordan Binnington as well as coach Craig Berube, get four days leading into the all-star festivities that begin Thursday. 

The break comes at a good time for some guys, who are dealing with predictable bumps and bruises with such a rugged season, and as much as the Blues played into last summer, but for others, like Perron, not so much.

"I'm not sure. Personally I feel good," said Perron, who's played in the past two Stanley Cup Finals with the Blues last season and Vegas in 2018. "I want to keep going. I'm going to go home and take those next five days to obviously rest but sharpen up on certain things that are nagging or whatever and then onto the All-Star Game. I think that's going to be a cool experience for the four of us and 'Chief' and the trainers coming in. I think it's really cool. I think for our trainers to meet all the stars around the league, that's pretty cool for them too. They're not paid extra to do it, they're doing it because it's in St. Louis and hopefully they have a good experience."

Perron, who leads the Blues in goals (21) and points (49) in what has been a terrific season for the player voted into the All-Star Game as part of the 'Last Men in,' has been a key part in helping the Blues overcome some noteworthy injuries, namely filling in for Vladimir Tarasenko, the Blues' leading goal scorer in each of the past five seasons who's played in just 10 games after dislocating his left shoulder Oct. 24.

"Yeah, I wish we got the two points [Saturday] so that we can be tied again with Washington (atop the NHL standings), so that's the frustrating part for me," Perron said. "It's definitely a good start and more to this season and let's see where we can finish and hopefully we can take it to another level."

The Blues are getting balanced scoring from their top players with Ryan O'Reilly, despite his goals being down (nine), he's second in points with 43; Brayden Schenn (17 goals, 24 assists) and Jaden Schwartz (16 goals, 24 assists), the emergence of Robert Thomas (eight goals, 19 assists) and emerging as a quality center, Tyler Bozak  (11 goals, 13 assists) picking up his offense lately, Oskar Sundqvist, Ivan Barbashev, Mackenzie MacEachern, Alexander Steen and all supplying the necessary depth, and the rock-solid defense with Pietrangelo, Justin Faulk, Colton Parayko, who's been injured the past seven games but is expected to return after the break, Jay Bouwmeester, Vince Dunn, Robert Bortuzzo and others that have filled in admirably.

And then there's been the 1-2 punch in goal of Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen 

"Our guys are dialed in," Berube said. "A breaks OK right now and then we come back and we’ve got a tough schedule. We’ve got to be ready to go."

The Blues will most definitely be ready to go, and continue to take everyone's best shot, just like they have for 49 games, as Stanley Cup champs will do. It won't be perfect all the time; it never is, but they are in a good position, barring some sort of collapse, which seems unlikely, to be one of the top teams in the West.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Oskar Sundqvist (70), Alexander Steen (second from left), Niko Mikkola 
(second from right) and Robert Bortuzzo (41) have Blues first in the West.  

"Yeah, we're in a good spot," said Binnington, who's tied for second in the league in wins with 22. "Obviously you want to win every game and this one would have been a big win, but at the same time, we're in a good spot. Got to look at the big picture here and just take care of what we can control.

"It's been a lot of hockey, but we have a lot of fun. We'll miss each other a little bit, but we'll get back to work soon."

"Everybody, myself included, I think any time you can spend a week, regroup, people with families kind of spend sometime with their families, and enjoy that," Pietrangelo said. "Then get ready for a second half push."

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