Sunday, February 23, 2020

Blues doing best to keep management from altering roster after fourth straight win, 4-1 over Wild

Trade deadline looms Monday at 2 p.m. (CT), St. Louis is playing best 
hockey again, looking to make repeat run at Cup with current group

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A fourth consecutive win, this time over a tough Minnesota Wild team on home ice at Xcel Energy Center, was a loud and clear message by the Blues to general manager Doug Armstrong: they want to keep this team in tact.

The Blues' 4-1 win here on Sunday night was their fourth win in a row and leaves them in first place in the Western Conference and Central Division at 36-17-10, good for 82 points, or three more than the Colorado Avalanche and four more than the Dallas Stars.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Brayden Schenn, who scored in a 4-1 win at Minnesota on
Sunday, feels the Blues just need to play hockey and let management make
the roster decisions. 

The Blues, who got goals from Jordan Kyrou, Brayden Schenn, Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev (shorthanded), and Jordan Binnington made 32 saves and was one wonky, flopper of a goal from a third straight shutout, can't make those managerial decisions upstairs, but they can help so with their play on the ice. 

They know Vladimir Tarasenko is working his tail off to return and they feel this is a good enough group to do this Stanley Cup thing again.

"If you look at the trade deadline every year, there's lots of rumors, lots of talk," Schenn said. "At the end of the day, it's out of our control. We have to go out there and play and worry about winning hockey games, and if they make moves, they make moves. We're not sitting in the office going over decisions. We come out here and play hockey and that's all we can worry about.

"We're in first place. We went in a stretch there where we're still in first place. We're fighting for first place. I'm sure they feel in that office that we have a chance to do it again. It's not easy, but we're a veteran team that's finding ways to win."

The Blues have outscored their opponents 13-2 during their four-game winning streak, and if those can remember this time a year ago, Armstrong saw the momentum the group finally built up after an underachieving start and made one move, acquiring defenseman Michael Del Zotto from Anaheim for a 2019 sixth-round pick to help fortify the defensive group.

That's it, and that was enough.

There will be players open for sale Monday, New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider at the top of the list who will come at a heavy price, but is that a price the Blues would be willing to pay? At this point, probably not. There are others that won't come by such a heavy price, but this is why Armstrong and his management team have been hunkered down in their offices the past few days making these decisions.

Do they believe this group constructed as is, is good enough to make a run at a repeat title? 

Armstrong replenished the defensive group again when he traded for Marco Scandella from the Montreal Canadiens for a 2020 second-round pick and 2021 conditional fourth-round pick.

Time will tell whether the roster changes, but Blues coach Craig Berube likes his group as is and is all for seeing it in tact come Tuesday.

"I do, yeah, it's a good team," Berube said. "I think Scandella has been a great addition. He's looking really good out there, looks like he fits in with [Colton] Parayko very well. So it's a nice addition to have. You know, we've got good depth.

"Yeah, I mean we feel ... we're a good team and we know that. There's still a lot of hockey left and we've got to keep trying to get better. I think we're doing that. I think our guys are dialed into doing that."

The players know they can't make the decisions that management make, but they can help dictate the decision with the play on the ice, and right now, that play is dictating the needle to getting Tarasenko back, and going for it full bore again.

"When we're getting Vladi back, it's going to be like getting a completely new player in," Sundqvist said. "I don't feel like we need any changes. We're starting to find our game and we're a tight group in here, especially in the d-zone. We're finding our roles and that's important now and during the whole season.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players (pictured from left) Alexander Steen, Marco Scandella and
Oskar Sundqvist celebrate a goal Sunday in a 4-1 win over Minnesota.

"... I think we've done that the last week here. We had a tough period there, but we started turning things around. I think it's starting to look good."

Good enough to keep the roster in tact? Those decisions will come down at 2 p.m. central time on Monday.

"We've got a good group of guys. We'll see what happens," Binnington said. "We all get along and we all understand our roles and that's important. We play hard for each other and we're selfless. Hopefully we can keep growing as a team."

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