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I've been seeing a lot of people on Twitter after this game agreeing with Oshie's take on what's wrong with things.  Frankly, I just can't agree that Hitchcock's coaching has suddenly become the problem.  I had the misfortune to be at the game against Columbus on Saturday.  Plenty of blind passes, passes to the opponent, failure to win even half of the board battles, missed defensive assignments... The list could go on and on.  We've seen this team play Hitchcock hockey and win.  Substantially, in a lot of cases.  We've seen, going back to 2011-12, what even a lesser-skilled team can do when they apply Hitch's defensive concepts - that won the team a Jennings Trophy that year.


Still, it seems like every year after that first year that the team goes through a stretch or two where they just don't feel like playing to the demands of the system anymore.  They'd rather play loose and free, like some free-wheeling 80s team.  And when they do that, they lose, repeatedly, and we get another round of speculation about whether or not the team has finally tuned out (yet another) coach.


I've also seen more than enough questioning of Elliott's capabilities tonight.  Honestly, I get to the point where I wonder if some of these people actually watch, or even listen, to the games, or if they just look at the resulting box score and go off on their pre-programmed rants.  When your goalie has already bailed your miserable defense out on not one, but TWO, breakaways, it just might be incumbent on the skaters to actually backcheck for a change.  Keeping gap closure to the point that they can tie up an opponent's stick might also, possibly, be a good idea.  (See: Jaskin, Dmitrij - on the second Vancouver goal, as exhibit A.) It's well known that I'm not a Steve Ott fan, but the odd-man rush that resulted in the third goal was caused by him failing to support Bouwmeester's pinch to hold the puck in the offensive zone.  Still, of the three goals Elliott allowed, this is the one that we can argue that he should have stopped.


All that said, I'm still not ready to break the glass and mash the panic button.  We've seen the team under Hitch do this several times before and then round back into form.  As long as they can avoid a repeat of last April, I still have faith that they'll be ready for the postseason.


As a quick reminder:


Injuries

4/3/14 Alexander Steen LW Upper-body injury 

4/3/14  Barret Jackman D Lower-body injury 

4/8/14 David Backes C Lower-body injury 

4/10/14 Brenden Morrow LW Foot 

4/11/14 Derek Roy C Undisclosed injury 

4/11/14 T.J. Oshie C Upper-body injury 

4/11/14 Vladimir Sobotka C Undisclosed injury 

(postseason)

4/19/14 Brenden Morrow LW Foot 

4/19/14 David Backes C Upper-body injury

Record

4/1/14 - 1-0W vs PHI (SO)

4/3/14 - 2-1W vs BUF

4/5/14 - 0-4L vs COL 

4/6/14 - 2-4L @CHI

4/8/14 - 1-4L vs WAS 

4/10/14 - 2-4L @MIN

4/11/14 - 0-3L @DAL  

4/13/14 - 0-3L vs DET

2 days, 3 hours ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/michalek-it-seems-like-everybodys-doing-different-things-and-isnt-on-the-same-page.html

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Okay, I looked at it.  And I'm not sure if it really counts as common or an outlier.  Small sample size may be a thing as well here, as could quality of competition.


Depending on how you want to determine success, the Blues may well be the worst team in the league on long rest, with three points in eight games.  Edmonton has only two points on long rest, but have only four long rest games. (1-3-0).  San Jose is barely better, at 2-5-0.


Other playoff teams on the low end of points earning in long rest situations are:
Winnipeg - 4 points (2-2-0)

Washington - 5 points (2-3-1)

Vancouver - 5 points (2-3-1)


The ten best teams in long rest situations are a bit more like what I would've expected the whole list to shake out like.  Only three non-playoff teams are in the top ten: Florida, Columbus, and Calgary (and Calgary's right on the edge in the Pacific). 


Montreal and Florida lead that pack with 13 points (6-1-1), followed by Detroit with 13 points (6-2-1), and then Nashville with 12 points (6-0-0).  The rest of the list is NYR, Tampa, Chicago, Columbus, Minnesota, Calgary.


The only team in the league other than the Blues with as many outright losses on long rest is Carolina (2-6-0).  Buffalo joins San Jose in the five loss category at 2-5-1.  Arizona limps in at 2-4-1.


Without dredging up a bunch of historical data, I'm not sure what else to say about this, but it's certainly odd, for a team that's otherwise won so much this year.


Final note:  In doing the research for this, I discovered that Columbus entire schedule for the month of November was played on Tuesday/Friday/Saturday.

3 days, 9 hours ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/its-been-9-games-since-the-blues-scored-in-the-first-period.html

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It didn't help that they looked like they essentially had no energy last night, specifically.  No crispness to the passes, a lot of misses on defensive responsibility.  It was a game that could've been way out of hand if not for Elliott being awake early.  Particularly, there were a lot of attempts to pass to the slot when the only player in the slot was a Blue Jacket, which lead to a lot of odd-man or 3-on-3 rush chances against.  Sooner or later, that couldn't help but catch up to the team.


Time will tell, of course, but this really seems more like one of those random slumps that happens during a season.  Granted, it's not like they've been seriously lighting opponents up in the first before this streak, but unless they manage to extend it to something truly ridiculous (like, say, through the end of the regular season), I don't think it's particularly cause for concern in the long term.


Also, this stat from JR stood out to me:  "After last night's loss, the #stlblues are 1-6-1 this season when they have 3-plus days of rest."  I have to wonder if that's at all common in the league, or if it's an outlier.  Be a lot of grunt work to determine, but I might be bored waiting for more hockey this afternoon...

3 days, 10 hours ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/its-been-9-games-since-the-blues-scored-in-the-first-period.html

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@David Rogers What really got me was listening to the KMOX sports open lines on Monday (after the first Allen start) and Tuesday (after the second one), where the tune of the hosts totally changed from "Elliott's still the guy" to "Maybe Allen's making it a really difficult choice?"  And, of course, nobody who called in could make the simple argument above.  heh

I certainly didn't expect Allen to get that second start, if only because I was locked into the previous line of thinking that the team was preparing him for the playoffs, and the firepower offered by the Penguins would be a decent test in that regard.  Still, it's a cross-conference matchup, so, by the same token, it's a good classic case for giving the backup goalie another start.

On another note, I'll admit, I'm a bit prone to said knee-jerk reactions, but it usually revolves around scratching someone instead of Berglund after he has a particularly bad game, like the Detroit one. When one's worst concerns with the roster revolve around a third-line winger spot... the lineup's probably in pretty good shape, wouldn't you say?

4 days, 15 hours ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/

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It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that I approve of this.  The majority of Elliott's playoff losses have been caused, not, primarily, by the play of Brian Elliott, but by the inability of the skaters on his team to put the puck in the opposing net.  Hopefully, the new players brought in for this season will have remedied this problem, and we can finally put the idea that "Brian Elliott is not a playoff-capable goaltender" to bed.


See also:  Elliott's postseason numbers with the Blues, from blues.nhl.com player stats page


2011-2012 Blues GP 8 W 3 L 4 SO 0 Goals Against 18 Shots Against 187 Sv%  .904 GAA 2.37 Minutes 455

2012-2013 Blues GP 6 W 2 L 4 SO 0 Goals Against 12 Shots Against 149 Sv% .919 GAA 1.90 Minutes 378

5 days, 6 hours ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/

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Not only no, but absolutely no.  Daytime hockey is bad enough on the weekends, though I understand why it happens for the television side of things. (Poor Sens fans, from a certain point of view - they get far more than their fair share of Saturday afternoon games, because of TV.)  I can't imagine that working out state-side, especially on a Tuesday/Wednesday schedule - the NCAA gets away with it to some extent because they're scheduling these at the end of the work week.


Sure, I'd be happy to be wrong if it actually boosted hockey's popularity in the U.S., but.. sorry, I just can't see that becoming reality.

6 days, 11 hours ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2015-articles/should-the-nhl-try-daytime-weekday-playoff-games.html

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Just think of Shattenkirk on a third D pairing during the early part of his return from injury.  Talk about matchup nightmares for the opposition if he gets minutes at the same time as, say, the Stastny line.  Also, hopefully he can go ahead and wake the PP back up.  Well, that's a relative thing, I suppose.  It's still performing decently enough, it just hasn't been burying opponents like it was early in the season.  (Come to think of it, I wonder what PP/PK% looks like over the course of a season... somebody's gotta have that data.  My hypothesis being that PK% rises and PP% drops over the course of a season, generally.)


Meanwhile, as much as I like this news, I have to say there's also some frustration for me today.  Jaskin sitting instead of Bergie?  After the Detroit game?  Unless it's actually a minor physical issue for Jaskin resulting in him getting a game off, plus the three days break before Saturday's game... argh.  I think my past comments have been pretty fair to Berglund, but that might have been the most brutal I've seen him play, ever.

1 week, 1 day ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/kevin-shattenkirk-nearing-a-return.html

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@David Rogers Agreed 100%.  And, while we're at it, was Berglund channeling his inner Perron today?  Two offensive zone minors taken, and lots of soft play with the puck.

1 week, 3 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/ken-hitchcock-comments-on-detroits-controversial-ot-goal.html

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As annoyed as I am that the refs (and, by extension, the league, via the war room in Toronto) miserably failed to get the call correct here, I'm more annoyed that the Blues have once again failed to just put a team away, and prevent the game from getting to this point.  At some point, the saying goes, you have to make your own luck - something the Blues have been failing at miserably, lately, in games that shouldn't really be close calls.

1 week, 3 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/ken-hitchcock-comments-on-detroits-controversial-ot-goal.html

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I'm old enough to remember (and appreciate) ties in hockey.  But I can see why the league wouldn't want to revert to having them.  That said, if we're talking about extending the length of overtime, is there anything necessarily wrong with just giving that extended time to the 4-on-4 play?  It's already an open enough format, yet still resembles actual hockey, which I'm not necessarily convinced 3-on-3 will.  Sure, a couple extra minutes of 4-on-4 might not actually end up deciding things, but it's not like 3-on-3 is going to suddenly guarantee endings, either.


Also, I'm fully on board with moving to a three point game structure.  Or, alternatively, just going to a Win/Loss structure, while keeping ROW as a tiebreak, and throwing "points" out entirely as something of an extension of the idea discussed by Cam Lewis here:  http://nhlnumbers.com/2015/3/18/awarding-points-and-the-2015-playoff-race

1 week, 4 days ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2015-articles/roundtable-discussing-the-nhl-moving-to-3-on-3-ot-hockey.html

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With as long as the team has been waiting to finally drop the hammer on the rebuild, I can't say it surprises me that the speculation has finally come true.  It should make for a very interesting offseason watching the Leafs, if nothing else.

1 week, 5 days ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2015-articles/maple-leafs-forward-says-dressing-room-is-pretty-screwed-up.html

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@David Rogers This might sound conservative, but I expect something along the lines of a 50/32 split Ells/Allen, which would actually be a slight improvement for Allen's playing time compared to this year, assuming he gets two more games down the stretch on half of each of the two remaining back-to-back sets.  If Elliott really manages to grab the reins, maybe something more like a 55/27 split.  Allen started 26 games this year, and appeared in 30, to date.  Elliott, if he plays everything but half of the two remaining back-to-backs will end with 49 starts and 50 appearances.  The remainder, as I'm obliged to state rather than pay taxes to NHL officiating, belong to Mr. Brodeur

Just for fun, I said this on July 7th of last year regarding the potential outcome of this year's goaltending battle for time:  "If they'd like to go back to the 1A/1B arrangement from Hitch's first season, I wouldn't be against it.  Or ride the hot hand.  Whatever you want to call it.  Personally, I don't really foresee a situation outside of injury where it doesn't end up as roughly a 45/35 split (Elliott/Allen), but, of course, that's just a guess."  (http://frozennotes.com/2014/ken-hitchcock-on-goaltending-this-is-brian-elliotts-job.html)

1 week, 6 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/brian-elliott-has-the-most-shutouts-in-st-louis-blues-history.html

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@David Rogers That's more or less what I'm getting at.  Not really as a tanking thing, but rather, I'd prefer to face whoever we get with the team as close to 100% as possible, rather than pushing for home ice at all costs and getting dinged up down the stretch when we could give a guy a maintenance day here or there to reduce the chances of repeating last (post-)season.

1 week, 6 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/blues-have-the-depth-to-rest-key-players-down-the-stretch.html

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@David Rogers I certainly agree with the principle there.  I just can't help thinking back to last year, where nobody got rested at all, and seemingly everybody in the top six forwards got dinged up in the last two weeks of the season trying to bank points at all costs.  Between a first-round matchup with a wildcard team, and a healthy team ready to take on all comers, I'll take the latter.  Of course, even resting guys, there's no guarantee of that, but it's equally plausible that the Blues have a mini slump between now and the end of the year and Nashville or Chicago go on by to first in the division even if they don't try to get the top six a game or two off.

1 week, 6 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/blues-have-the-depth-to-rest-key-players-down-the-stretch.html

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Let's see if this gets extended to the top six forwards, before we get too enthusiastic about it.  Especially Oshie/Steen/Backes, who, given past performance, are going to be tasked with huge minutes in the playoffs.


From Jeremy Rutherford's article today:  “We ask that line to do everything,” Hitchcock said. “We ask the line to check the other team’s top players, we ask the line to do everything, and most nights they do everything for us. They’re a hell of a line. They’re a committed 200-foot line. You talk about 200 feet, that line is dug in.”

1 week, 6 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/blues-have-the-depth-to-rest-key-players-down-the-stretch.html

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Here's hoping he's not the next goalie run out of town on a rail before he hits even six years with the org, and he can build up a record that'll actually last for a while.  Honestly, though, the way this town goes through goalies, I have my doubts.

2 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/brian-elliott-has-the-most-shutouts-in-st-louis-blues-history.html

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"... And if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

2 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/the-locker/video-corey-crawford-spaces-out-on-the-bench.html

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Frankly, I'd prefer to see more talk about moving the league to a three point game system to try to reduce the amount of games that even go to overtime in the first place.  I know there's plenty of speculation that the league likes the way that three point games in what's supposed to be a two point system creates an artificial logjam in the standings, but if we're talking about trying to reduce things that have an artificial impact on the regular season anyway...


Anyway, as to the actual topic, I'm not really for or against 3-on-3 overtime, and since it seems to have worked out fairly well for the AHL for its stated purpose of reducing shootouts, the league may as well give it a go.

2 weeks, 1 day ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2015-articles/report-3-on-3-ot-hockey-is-coming-to-the-nhl-pending-nhlpa-approval.html

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Not only was Stewart part of Blues teams that didn't have that killer instinct when they had an opponent down, he was quite possibly the banner carrier of it while he was here.  Like Berglund, frustrating with those flashes of what he could be, but unlike Berglund, not capable of being a defensively-responsible center who at least drives possession, if not scoring chances, when he's not on a hot streak.


Now, if only we could do backsies on a few trades, and send Stewie to Edmonton in a salary dump instead of Perron, then send out Bergie in the Miller trade, and suddenly, Stastny's line is complete (Perron, Jaskin).  Ah well, a fan can dream, can't he?

2 weeks, 4 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/

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@David Rogers Apparently basic counting is hard for me.  I missed a season of games for Halak, somehow.  His actual Blues numbers are 20 shutouts in 159 games, or a 12.5% rate.  Still a marked improvement over his numbers elsewhere, of course.

2 weeks, 4 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/brian-elliott-ties-jaroslav-halak-for-blues-shutout-record.html

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Knowing my luck in fantasy this year, this means that Perry will get games for an illegal check to the head as supplemental discipline.  heheh

2 weeks, 4 days ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/the-locker/video-devan-dubnyks-theatrical-dive-against-the-ducks.html

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@David Rogers There was something about that 11-12 team that hasn't really been recaptured since, defensively.  It's just a shame that they didn't have the offensive punch to complement the ridiculously good defense that year, though, to be fair, the Kings romped over everybody in the playoffs anyway.

2 weeks, 5 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/brian-elliott-ties-jaroslav-halak-for-blues-shutout-record.html

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But it worked out so well for the Preds with Radulov! ... wait, no it didn't.


Seriously, though, between Stastny and Lehtera, Sobotka would be looking at either fourth line center or third line wing minutes, at best.  Somehow, I doubt that's the situation he wants to come back to, even if the money issue were solved.

2 weeks, 5 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/

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The Blues and goaltending is an odd beast, for sure.  Hall or Plante probably could've set a much larger record, but the Blues had both right near the end of their careers.  They didn't have a long-term goalie (again?) until Mike Liut in the 79-80 through 84-85 seasons, and he posted only ten shutouts over those six seasons - granted a time in the NHL when scoring was well above the rates seen today.


CuJo also played parts of six seasons (the first, in 89-90, as a backup to Riendeau), and had five shutouts in that time. Grant Fuhr followed that up by posting 11 shutouts in four years, after which the Blues kept no starting goalie for more than two years until Halak and Elliott came to town.


Halak posted those 20 shutouts in 102 games.  Comparatively, Elliott posted his in 131 games.  Both pretty crazy numbers, when you stop and think about it.  Just under 20% of starts for Halak, and a bit over 15% of starts for Elliott, resulted in shutouts.


Finally, just for fun, Halak's shutout numbers outside of the STL years:  12 in 146 games, a roughly 8% rate.  And Elliott's:  9 in 142, a roughly 6% rate.  Something in the water in St. Louis these days? ... or something in the system being coached?  heh

2 weeks, 6 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/brian-elliott-ties-jaroslav-halak-for-blues-shutout-record.html

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It's not strange that I didn't notice JK and Pang call Bergie's number all night. ... ... ... Wait, it's because he didn't play this time?


The more things change...

2 weeks, 6 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/berglund-benched-due-to-coachs-decision.html

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Normally, the crowd noise doesn't get terribly loud on the TV broadcasts, but after that hit (and a couple other times), the "Let's Go Blues!" came through really clearly for quite a while.  I can only imagine how good the atmosphere was in the rink.


Too bad the Blues don't have any games left against the Rangers this season.  About the only way to top that Backes hit would be an old-time Oshie reverse hit on Nash.  https://youtu.be/VAOITsia6HE

2 weeks, 6 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/

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@David Rogers That, and the nose and ears.  It obviously has Oshie's permanent blush.  heh

2 weeks, 6 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/tarasenko-doesnt-think-his-bobblehead-looks-like-him.html

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I still say it looks like some kind of Frankensteinian Oshie/Pang hybrid.

3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/tarasenko-doesnt-think-his-bobblehead-looks-like-him.html

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If that's a regular season game, I'd give a lot to see these two teams play seven when everybody (on both sides) is healthy.

3 weeks, 1 day ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/gif-barret-jackman-scores-from-center-ice-to-sink-the-jets.html

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There's been so much talk about the Leafs potentially being active moving players from their roster in the offseason, but I think that it's entirely likely that the Sharks could wind up doing much the same thing, especially if they end up on the outside looking in to the playoff picture, which is becoming more probable by the day.

3 weeks, 1 day ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2015-articles/report-sharks-convinced-gm-doug-wilson-keep-antti-niemi.html

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That's absolutely Datsyukian.

3 weeks, 3 days ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/

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A lot of people out there can't, for whatever reason, get over the fact that Elliott was not a stellar goaltender from the word "go" in the NHL, which caused a lot of the "Allen is the Future(tm)" talk.  Maybe Allen does have the higher ceiling, but in the meantime, we have Ells in his prime goaltending years, so Allen has a couple of years to gain the necessary seasoning... not unlike what happened in Elliott's first few years in the league.


Of course, my opinion on this doesn't count in a lot of places, since I'm clearly a believer in Elliott.  heheh

1 month ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/jake-allen-developing-slower-than-expected.html

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Been busy, so I'm still trying to parse all of the trade deadline news.  Mostly, at the moment, I feel like the Blues made moves just to make moves.

Of the three moves that they made, the Cole/Bortuzzo swap intrigues me the most, because it seems like an admission that the Polak/Gunnarsson trade to increase the mobility of the D actually did impact the D corps negatively on the physical side.


Between the other two moves, I'm not sure whether a prospect for a concussed player or Lindstrom for Jokinen makes my head spin more.  

One thought regarding Jokinen - Am I recalling incorrectly, or wasn't he just complaining a week or so ago that the Preds had bounced him to the wing rather than his natural center spot before shipping him off to Toronto?  I can't imagine that he's suddenly going to crack the top nine in a center role, and if he was unhappy about not playing there for one contender...


I'll probably post again after I've actually had time to digest this, but I wanted to at least have an initial reaction out there, for whatever it's worth.

1 month ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/blues-add-defense-and-depth-at-the-trade-deadline.html

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@David Rogers Sooner or later, the team is going to have to overcome the adversity, though.  Or fail to do so, one of the two.  Which is also why I don't get too worried about the ups and downs of the regular season.

I did go back and have a look at the record of a couple of Hitch's Dallas teams (98 and the Cup year in 99), and in both cases, they had some pretty clear stretches of .500-at-best hockey late in the season.  So it isn't as though he hasn't driven a team deep into the playoffs after going through stretches where his team, being better than most of their opponents on paper, didn't play like it on the ice.  Add in the fact that I'd rather see them figure out how to fix it now, rather than when crunch-time really hits, and we'll have to see.

All that said, I thought some of the player comments in the blog that Lou Korac posted earlier were a bit telling:  http://lkorac10.blogspot.com/2015/02/struggling-blues-hit-road-for-tough.html  Certainly, there's nothing there that isn't fairly standard hockey player quote boilerplate, but if Hitch really is "losing the room", as I've seen suggested by a few folks on Twitter and elsewhere, I would've expected some of that to show through here.

Particularly, I think the quote from Jackman sums it up:  "I think it's just collectively all being on the same page in our game," Jackman said. "We have a system that works, that's been proven in the past to work..." (quote continues) 

Maybe it's wishful thinking on my part, but that at least sounds fixable with time, concentration, and effort to me.  Comparatively, I'm still a lot more worried about our D getting pushed around (again).  Puck-moving is all well and good, until the forechecker is on you before said puck-moving happens, and it seems like teams like the Kings and Hawks (and Rangers and Canadiens, to draw a couple of Eastern examples) are quite happy to exploit it.

1 month ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/hitchcock-says-blues-arent-following-directions.html

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@David Rogers That's a tough question to answer, because it hinges on so many things.

First and foremost:  If the Blues have another relatively early exit, does Hitch *want* to come back?

Second:  In what manner do the Blues go out?  If they get swept out of the first or second round four straight games, I'd have to think the answer is Hitch goes, especially if it's not, say a second round Blues/Kings matchup (and how that happens... wildcard/cross-division oddities?), with the Blues short major injured pieces from a first round matchup with the Hawks (which is looking more and more likely by the day).

Third:  Playing off of the above, what happens if the Blues go farther (WCF), and wind up losing to some team that isn't CHI or LA (again, some wildcard oddity where the Hawks slip and end up playing in the Pacific for the first two rounds now that they've lost Kane for at least the balance of the regular season)?  Personally, I'd be happy if the team made it this far.  I'd be a lot happier seeing the Blues in a Cup Finals, of course, but we don't call it the hardest postseason in professional sports for nothing.  Being one of the last four teams standing is no small feat, especially coming out of the West.  Whether that means that Hitch's job would be safe if he wants it for next year, I'd personally say yes.  Of course, I'm not President of Hockey Ops, or the guy holding the purse strings...

So much of this is contingent on health, for one thing.  See last year, for example.  Maybe we can blame that on Hitch's desire to chase the President's Trophy, and maybe we can't, but the team definitely wound up heading into the postseason more banged up than anyone really would've liked.

Personally, and this will go back to the hiring of Mullen, what I thought, and still kind of think the Blues could've done (and maybe still should do) is bring in a Martz-like offensive genius to balance out Hitchcock's Vermeil-ish defensive proclivities.  Sure, it's not a perfect example, since football doesn't really transition defense to offense like hockey does, but some kind of meshing of a more open offensive style which we saw flashes of when the STL line was really clicking earlier in the year, while maintaining the neutral zone and defensive zone tightness that characterizes Hitch's teams with the increase in available talent would've made a lot of sense, as well as some really fun-to-watch hockey.


Hitch even seems to realize this himself, if you look back on some of his comments about how he wound up with three different "styles" of lines, with STL playing more of the Euro-style E-W game, SOB playing the N-S crashing game, and XSB (Now JBS, at least, for the moment) playing the board cycle game.  At this point, I'm not certain that Hitch is someone who can really draw out those different strengths (and thus create even more match-up difficulties for opponents).  Needless to say, I'd want to see this without going out the other side and sacrificing all defensive consistency in an Oilers-like manner in a vain hope that games will be won 7-6.  All of which is certainly a tall order, and I couldn't even begin to guess at a slate of names who could pull it off, outside of guys who obviously already have head coaching jobs for as long as they want them (Babcock, Quenneville).


Anyway, that's way off down the bunny trail from where the question started.  heheh  As a question in return, do you think there's really a way for the Blues, playing Hitchcock's system or otherwise, to get through the regular season without having to go nearly all-out for the wins that they get?  In other words, is it a system thing, where the system only works at that intensity level, or is it a team thing, where the team doesn't have the ability to just skate by on some of the "easier" opponents... or is it even a league thing, where even those "easier" opponents still require nearly the full effort to take points from?

1 month ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/hitchcock-says-blues-arent-following-directions.html

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The Blues have actually had something of a tendency do this at times for the past few years.

For example, last year had an inconsistent stretch starting with a 2-1 loss to the (awful Torts-coached) Canucks on January 10th.  They proceeded to squeak out a 2-1 win over the Coyotes at home before dropping home games to the Kings (4-1) and Ducks (3-2).  A road win over the Red Wings (4-1) was then followed with a 7-1 shellacking by the Blue Ja... err... Devils.  The remaining eight games before the Olympic break featured a 6-2 record, the losses being to Ottawa and Carolina, while three of the victories came in the shootout (@NYI, vs Rinne-less NSH, and vs WPG), and one came in OT (vs BOS).


Meanwhile, it's hard to forget the lockout-shortened season that Jake Allen had to come in and wake the team up when both Halak and Elliott struggled, compounded by Halak's lower-body injury.  The Blues had struggled since the start of February (Allen was called up for the game on the 13th), having lost to DET, NSH, DET (again), ANA, and LAK.  Starting the month 0-5, they ended it 4-8, and went on to split March 7-7, before finally settling back into Blues Hockey reeling off 12 wins in the last 15 games over the month of April.


And, for completeness' sake, going back to 2011-12 (a.k.a. the year Hitch arrived), the Blues skidded through the latter half of March. Starting with a shootout loss to the Hawks on the 13th, the Blues lost eight of the final twelve games of their season, which didn't cost them as much as it might have only because of their meteoric January and February records that year (8-3, 11-4).


We can't really go back further in a meaningful manner, because we run into the rebuilding and questionable coaching years following the 04 lockout.  Essentially, since Hitch was brought in and the Blues started playing winning hockey again, they've been good for at least one really frustrating skid a season, including the first season with Hitch as bench boss, which should certainly preclude the cries of "tuned out the coach", at least for that year.


Now, I don't know that we can go so far as to say that this is a coaching problem or a players problem, but it's clearly been a recurring problem in the Hitchcock era.

1 month ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/hitchcock-says-blues-arent-following-directions.html

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The Dallas media might want to take a look at the team being iced in front of Lehtonen, as you described.  The fact that they're running an entirely top-heavy first line, without a great deal of follow-on depth, plus the defensive system allowing the opponents shots (relatively) hand-over-fist, are a couple of really obvious culprits here.  Of course, as a Blues fan, I'm long familiar with the "blame the goalie" refrain.  And, of course, just like in St. Louis, it's reasonable to look at the rest of the team and their play when the goaltending "struggles" - see also how the Blues goaltending looked when they turned the defensive responsibility off for a few games.

1 month, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/

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@David Rogers

 Seems like the Blues have had a lot of chippy games against the East here lately.  Ottawa, Washington, Tampa all come to mind.

And yeah, Stamkos is a ton of fun to watch.  A couple years ago, my brother asked why I was watching a non-Blues hockey game, and I said, "I'm watching Brett Hull, Jr."  Of course, then I had to explain that he isn't *really* Hull's kid, but with that nose for the net, he may as well be.

1 month, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/infographic-t-j-oshie-before-and-after-oshie-os.html

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@David Rogers Maybe if goalies suddenly regressed both in tactics and equipment to circa 1980.  Though, for that, rather than a cereal, I think you'd need a shrink ray.

Also, somewhat related, how about Stamkos trying to get feisty with Backes last night?  The linesmen very much saved him from himself there, I'd think.  Otherwise, the story today would be "Backes punches Jonathan Toew... err... Steven Stamkos so hard that he pukes in the penalty box."

1 month, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/infographic-t-j-oshie-before-and-after-oshie-os.html

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Unsustainable! ... Sorry, my inner hockey analytics geek got out for a second there.  Really, though, it's an amusing story, and a well-constructed graphic.  Now, if they can just go ahead and admit that they also shipped cartons to Steen and Backes, since they caught fire at pretty much the exact same time...

1 month, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/infographic-t-j-oshie-before-and-after-oshie-os.html

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According to his post-game comments, he lost it in the empty seats.  Which, frankly, sounds terrible, if plausible.  Still, in such a situation, shouldn't a goaltender at least cover the base of the net... and, preferably, hug the post on the side the dump-in was taken from?


I guess the saying is true, good teams find a way to win, even when they haven't brought their A game.  This was definitely a game that could've gotten away at a few points, though, and this was one of them.

2 months ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/video-jake-allen-is-lost-in-his-thoughts-almost-lets-in-an-embarrassing-goal.html

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The last Blues game I attended with my father, just before the All-Star Break, I actually brought this up.  I'm well and truly on the side that wants to revert to teams wearing their white jerseys at home.  When he asked why, I said, "Because this way, it's always just Team Blue (or insert your home team's color of choice) versus Team White.  Maybe the color of their shoulders changes, but that's about it."

2 months ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2015-articles/gary-bettman-discusses-teams-wearing-white-home-dark-colors-road.html

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I'll admit, I chuckled, if only because one can't turn on the TV, radio, internet news sites, Twitter... or basically go anywhere I go without stumbling across eleventy-billion references to the football "scandal".  When even my non-sports-inclined friends know about it, you know it's omnipresent.


So yeah, go Hull&Co.  At least this take on it is funny.

2 months ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/hull-tarasenko-and-chase-mock-deflate-gate-in-mcbride-homes-ad.html

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Borrowing from LeftWingLock.com, "(Additionally,) the post-lockout league average for PKSV% is .875 annually with little variance." Allen is sporting a PK sv% of .856, and Elliott a .851.


The Blues have been shorthanded 154 times so far this season (16th in the league), but, as you stated, are down to 81% and change on the PK (17th).  Some of this can be explained away with the sub-par PK sv%, as Elliott would have saved 1-2 more shots playing at average (64.75 saves/74 shots, compared to his current 63 saves), and Allen's totals would increase by about the same.  Of course, it's impossible to explain away entirely in this way, as goals cut non-major penalty powerplays short, so it could just mildly inflate their individual statistics without significantly improving the team's fate.  Plus, they're not so wildly under the average that we should necessarily expect a huge correction toward (or past) the mean.


Meanwhile, of course, the eye test would say that some nights (and for some stretches) the Blues simply didn't have the will/gumption/work ethic to play the penalty kill system in the manner required to achieve prior years better results.  Since the expectation is to give up a bit over one goal per ten shots against on the PK, it's fairly obvious what happens when the Blues play well in that particular area - shots against are low.  This may explain part of the low PK sv% - when they play the system correctly, shots against aren't generally made lower-percentage, but are eliminated entirely in a lot of cases.  The Toronto game was a prime example of this.


All that said, I think the Blues PK will rise and fall primarily on the backs of the skaters, rather than the goaltending.  If they keep playing at the level they have recently, the PK% for the year will probably end up near years past.  If they decide to take a few more breaks from the proper structure of the PK, it'll remain "off".

2 months, 1 week ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/blues-have-weakened-defensively-but-only-slightly.html

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Those are every bit as hideous as they were without anyone in them.

2 months, 2 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/the-locker/photo-patrick-kane-jonathan-toews-show-ugly-star-uniforms.html

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One of the things that I love about hockey, when you get past the sport itself, is the stories like this that come out of it.  As a Blues fan, sure, I hear more about the Blues community efforts, but things like this, or the P.K. Subban event that happened around Christmas are the rule for hockey orgs, it seems, rather than the exception.


Well done, Chicago.  Well done, indeed.

2 months, 2 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2015-articles/blackhawks-make-dream-come-true-young-blind-fan.html

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I'm convinced that Brian Elliott has been perpetually underrated by Blues fans, and I'm not entirely sure why, aside from the one obvious fact that it took management a few years to realize just how good he is.  Certainly, he had some difficulty establishing himself in Ottawa and Colorado.  His 2009-10 season in Ottawa was solid, if not really inspiring (2.57GAA/.909sv%), and the 2010-11 season that he split between Ottawa and Colorado was downright forgettable (3.19/.894 in Ottawa, and 3.83/.891 in Colorado).  However, what he's done after that, starting in his age 26 season in St. Louis, has been, if not elite, very, very good:


2011-12:  1.56GAA/.940sv% (Jennings w/ Halak)

2012-13:  2.28GAA/.907sv% (lockout-shortened season)

2013-14:  1.96GAA/.922sv%

2014-15:  1.81GAA/.933sv% (to date)


A few comparisons, just for fun:

2011-12

Goalie A:  2.05/.929

Goalie B:  1.95/.929

Goalie C:  2.39/.923

Goalie D:  1.97/.930


2012-13

Goalie A:  2.00/.929

Goalie B:  2.45/.902

Goalie C:  2.43/.910

Goalie D:  2.05/.926

2013-14

Goalie A:  2.04/.930

Goalie B:  2.07/.915

Goalie C:  2.77/.902

Goalie D:  2.36/.920

2014-15

Goalie A:  2.47/.914

Goalie B:  2.40/.915

Goalie C:  2.00/.929

Goalie D:  2.30/.916

And who are these reasonably comparable statistical comparisons to Brian Elliott over the last three seasons and the current half-season?  In order of appearance, A:  Tuukka Rask, B:  Jonathan Quick, C:  Pekka Rinne, and D:  Henrik Lundqvist.  And the Blues are seriously getting away with an AAV contract of 2.5m through the 2016-17 season for this guy?  heh  Doug Armstrong, Highway Robbery Expert.

2 months, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/brian-elliott-had-an-outstanding-first-half-of-2014-15.html

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I've been awaiting this impatiently since the league first began discussing it, and I certainly can't imagine the PA shooting it down.

2 months, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/2015-articles/nhl-will-place-player-tracking-chips-uniforms-star-game.html

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When I saw the replay at full speed, I thought it was just trying to throw it into the middle and hoping for the best, and it happened to bank off of the Sharks player's skate (89) as he cut left.  Slowed down, though, it's obvious Schwartz did exactly what he meant to do, and the only thing that hit the Sharks skate was his stick.  Such a crazy pass.

2 months, 3 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://frozennotes.com/2015/gif-crazy-pass-from-jaden-schwartz.html

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I'm going to play off of Derek's idea here.  Instead of the winner of the Winter Classic gets the next one, how about the Winter Classic is a rematch of the previous year's Cup Finals, and winner gets home venue (such as it is when we're holding these things in baseball and football stadiums).


Sure the team composition might be different than it was for the Cup run, but the same can be said for whoever won the Classic the previous year, or any number of other variants on that theme.  It meets the test of rivalry, since the teams met to determine the grand prize in the sport.  Plus, it could wind up with some really unlikely results (unlike the current Blackhawks vs. Eastern Team X format):  Anybody remember 2006?  Sure, it'd be hard to consider Hurricanes/Oilers a draw right now, but coming off of a seven game, back-and-forth Stanley Cup Final?


Alternatively, and likely a bit more boring from the anticipatory drama aspect, would be to just swap it back and forth between the conferences (or even the divisions) from year to year, and have some combination of the division winners face off, or the top two in each division (for the divisional format), or the two teams that played in the previous year's conference finals.


Beyond that, go ahead and cut the Stadium Series games out of the mix, at least if the Winter Classic is supposed to be a big TV/ratings draw.  And let the Canadian teams hold a Heritage Classic if they're of a mind to, since they've only been doing it every 2-3 years, and the U.S. market, outside of die-hard hockey fans, is a bit different for this one - They're certainly not in danger of saturating the market with it.


I'll admit I'm not really qualified to speak to the whole musical sideshow aspect of things.  They could certainly do away with it, for all I'd care.  Or change it.  Or leave it alone.  "I went to a hockey game, and a live stage show broke out!" - said no one, ever.

2 months, 4 weeks ago on Conversation @ http://bloguin.com/puckdrunklove/

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