Good morning/afternoon.

Three Things About The Blues’ Three-Game Winning Streak:

1. Ryan O’Reilly finally has a line: In the wins over San Jose, Vegas and Colorado, O’Reilly played exclusively at 5-on-5 with wingers Brandon Saad and Josh Leivo. The Blues scored 66.67 percent of the goals (4-2) with the O’Reilly line on the ice. Now let’s compare that to other lines that O’Reilly has centered this season. When he teamed with Saad and Jordan Kyrou, the line scored 25% of the goals at 5-on-5. And the goal share was also 25% when O’Reilly had Brayden Schenn and Kyrou on the ice with him at 5-on-5.

The analytics people would say this: The O’Reilly, Saad, Leivo rio probably did better than it deserved to do over the last three games; their expected goal share at 5-on-5 was 44.2 percent. A lot of that has to do with having to go against the opponent’s top lines. But O’Reilly and chums have been opportunistic, And they’ve created chemistry and have built confidence. That really matters. And I’ll take actual goals over expected goals.

2. Jordan Binnington has finally been given a chance to shine: During the abysmal eight-game losing streak, Binnington was used for target practice. The Blues were a vulnerable, error-prone mess, and it wasn’t a fair competition for the goaltender. But Binnington has been brilliant in the three-game upturn, stopping 94 of 99 shots at 5-on-5 for a save percentage of .949. His overall save percentage during the three games was .938, and that includes a very good .850 save rate on high-danger scoring chances. Binnington is in a good place right now. He never lost his cool or his confidence during his team’s wretched 0-8 stretch.

3. Happiness abounds when a team converts scoring chances instead of flubbing them. I wrote about this on multiple occasions last season, so here’s a refresher. The Blues ranked third in the NHL with an average of 3.77 goals per game because of a league-best shooting percentage of 12.4 percent. (Which means that 12.4% of the shots on net resulted in a goal.) How great was that? The Blues’ 12.4 shooting percentage was the highest by a team in a season since Pittsburgh scored on 13.7% of its shots on goal back in 1995-96.

The Blues had little chance to sustain that ridiculously high shooting percentage in 2022-23. A leveling off was inevitable. And understand that some luck is involved in this. A team’s shooting percentage can be influenced (and increased) by bounces, deflections, screen shots, lousy goaltending, etc.

The trend turned hard against the Blues early this season. They currently rank 31st among the 32 NHL teams with a shooting percentage of 8.10. Through their first 11 games of the season, the shooting percentage was the worst in the league at 7.19%. During the eight-game losing streak, the shooting percentage plummeted to 4.9 percent. (That’s a long way down from last season’s 12.4%.) But during the three-game winning streak the Blues have scored on 11 percent of their shots on net … so the trend is normalizing. But that’s only been three games, so we’ll see how that shooting percentage develops over the next few weeks. In all candor, the Blues weren’t naturally prolific at scoring as they seemed to be last season … and this sport – like most sports – has a way of evening things out.

Good luck to the Blues in Wednesday night’s game at Chicago.


What a swell win for Saint Louis U on Tuesday night, as the Billikens defeated Memphis 90-84 at Chaifetz Arena. It’s too early to dwell on rankings, but Memphis is a quality team and this was a quality victory for the Bills. SLU got careless and sloppy during the last four minutes or so, but hung in there and reliably poured in free throws to close out the late-charging Tigers.

Bottom line: the Billikens led this game for 36 minutes and 40 seconds – and trailed for only 52 seconds. I enjoyed watching SLU outdo Memphis in the pace-race game, with a net advantage of 15-10 on fast-break scoring. With the exquisite point guard Yuri Collins finding the cracks in the Memphis defense, SLU had a 17-12 edge on layups.

No surprise, but Collins was fantastic offensively with 22 points, nine assists and only two turnovers. He made 12 of 14 free throws. In points per 100 possessions Collins was 36.4 percent above average and that made him the best player offensively in this game among participants that played at least 15 minutes.

Most impressive (of course) was Yuri’s passing; he assisted on 40 percent of SLU’s baskets while on the floor. Collins struggled at times defensively, but that’s no shame because Memphis has an excellent point guard in Kendric Davis. Collins was part of a defense that limited Davis to 6-for-15 shooting. In the battle of the deluxe point guards, Collins was 30 percent better than Davis in their respective points per 100 possession ratings … nice games by Javon Pickett and Gibson Jimerson.

Just wondering, not endorsing: what about Michael Conforto? The Cardinals need a left-handed bat, and Conforto is back in play as a free agent after missing the 2022 season with a shoulder injury-surgery. There’s no draft-pick compensation for signing him, but there’s a risk to signing him because of the shoulder and the lost season. But the former Met, age 29, will likely have to take a reduced-money deal and use 2023 as he attempts to reestablish his viability and value. The Cardinals like bargains, right? Conforto (124 OPS+) is 24 percent above league average offensively during his career, and has a .356 onbase percentage and .468 slugging percentage over seven MLB seasons. Conforto has hit 27 or more homers three times. He has a 12.1 percent career walk rate, and his strikeout rate (23.4%) isn’t awful.

Conforto has pounded right-handed pitching during his career, generating a .371 onbase percentage, .502 slug and .873 OPS in addition to homering every 17.6 at-bats against righties. He can play all three outfield positions but is well below-average in center. He can be deployed as a DH.

There’s uncertainty because of the shoulder, a factor that complicates everything. But agent Scott Boras insists that his client is healthy. “He’s kind of the return to the ‘Mike,’ the hit of free agency,” Boras said during the recent GM meetings in Las Vegas. “Every club knows that they can get a guy to come there and give them a couple years, and reassert himself into the market.”

Another award for Goldy: It’s been a bountiful offseason for the classy Cardinal first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. He received another honor this week, chosen for the MLB Players Alumni Association’s “Heart and Hustle Award” for 2022. It goes to a player who demonstrates “a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game.” This is the only award in MLB that’s voted on by former players.

Other honors – so far – in 2022:

– His 7th All-Star selection.

– His 5th Silver Slugger award.

– The Hank Aaron Award for being the most outstanding offensive performer in the National League. The recipient is selected by writers who cover baseball.

– The Player’s Choice Award for being the most outstanding player in the National League. MLB players vote on this award.

– Finalist for the NL Gold Glove award at first base. (Won by Arizona’s Christian Walker.)

There’s one more award coming for Goldy: he’s the leading candidate for National League MVP, which will be announced Thursday night on MLB Network.

USC is the most intriguing team in the College Football Rankings. The Trojans moved up to No. 2 in the third and latest CFP Top 25 list. At 9-1 USC is the only one-loss Pac-12 remaining going into Week 12, and the second-highest one-loss team in the rankings, two spots behind No. 5 Tennessee (9-1.) Can the Trojans become the first Pac-12 rep to make it to the four-team national playoff since Washington in 2016? They have a shot, but it won’t be easy. USC is a modest 1-1 this season against teams ranked in the updated Top 25. But there’s a huge opportunity to change that; next up for USC are games against UCLA and Notre Dame. A victory over rival UCLA would put the Trojans in the Pac-12 title game. And that potentially would give USC a chance to avenge its only loss of the season, to Utah.

Coach Lincoln Riley’s offense, led by the outstanding QB Caleb Williams, ranks 3rd in the FBS with an average of 42.4 points per game. If the Trojans run the table, they’d have two or three more wins over ranked opponents and can move into position for a playoff spot. But in that scenario USC wouldn’t be entirely safe. Tennessee has a cake schedule (South Carolina, Vanderbilt) with a fairly strong chance to move into the top four.

As David Ubben of The Athletic pointed out: “For (USC) to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday, they’d need two of the following four: a two-loss ACC champion, a TCU loss, a Tennessee loss or a lopsided loss by Michigan or Ohio State in The Game.”

Hmm … Kevin Kiermaier: USA Today’s Bob Nightengale says the Cardinals may have interest in signing the free-agent center fielder who is best known for his superb defense during 10 seasons with Tampa Bay. Kiermaier, who turns 33 in April, has won three AL Gold Glove awards. But injuries have been an issue in his career, with 326 days missed while on the IL – including 99 days lost in 2022. Kiermaier, who bats left, has been in a gradual decline offensively with a below-league average OPS+ in five of his last six seasons. Over the last five seasons Kiermaier has a .224 average, 24 percent strikeout rate, .293 OBP and .391 slug against RH pitching.

Jeff Albert: hired by the New York Mets. I’m a day late on this. But according to Andy Martino of SNY, the Mets have brought in the former Cardinals’ batting instructor to become their new director of hitting. Albert was offered a contract extension to remain with the Cardinals but declined. Albert – burned out by idiotic but relentless criticism from fixated haters on social media – had no problem finding another gig. The Mets wasted no time in hiring Albert. Which is interesting because the Mets won 101 games in 2022 and seem to know what they’re doing.

This past season the Cardinals were second overall and No. 1 in the NL in OPS+, finished tied for fifth in MLB in runs per game, ranked fourth overall in onbase percentage, fifth in OPS and seventh in slugging. Albert also modernized the Cardinal organization by implementing a consistent system-wide hitting approach that speeded up the development of their promising prospects.

Over Albert’s four seasons with the Cardinals their hitters ranked tied for 11th in the majors in runs per game, were eighth in OPS+, eighth in offensive WAR, and ranked among the Top 10 in the majors in road offense for slugging, onbase percentage and OPS. And they were fifth in the NL in road runs over that time.

As president of baseball ops John Mozeliak said upon Albert’s departure: “I was hopeful he would come back, but there was a lot of frustration. (Albert) took a lot of the blame when things weren’t going well. I was prepared to offer him a contract, but before I even got that out of my mouth, he already had told me he was not coming back. If you read social media, a lot of people put a lot of blame on him.”

Congrats to Albert for landing a prestigious new job.

The St. Louis Defense: honored again. For the second time in three seasons, the Rawlings Team Gold Glove for the National League has been awarded to the Cardinals. Rawlings began handing this out in 2020, so winning two of the three is impressive. The Cardinals ranked fourth overall and second in the NL in defensive runs saved this past season. They were also second among NL teams in Outs Above Average. Since 2019 the Cards lead the majors with 229 defensive runs saved. And they also lead MLB with 127 defensive runs saved over the last two seasons. Congrats, fellas.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at or the 590 app which is available in your preferred app store.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.