1. Let’s begin with the Blues, who pulled themselves out of the sewage-disposal tank to begin a cleanup process that produced consecutive wins over San Jose and Las Vegas over a 48-hour period.

After losing eight straight in extreme, non-competitive fashion the Blues take their optimistic hearts and a two-game win streak into Ball Arena Monday for night’s game against the defending Stanley Cup-champion Colorado Avalanche.

The turnaround is too brief to matter in a serious way, but this team needed doses of success to boost confidence and morale. The boys also needed to prove that they could handle their misadventures by striking back after in-game mishaps instead of curling up in a spineless acceptance of their doom.

Thursday at home, the Blues won 5-3 after blowing multiple one-goal leads. The determination was a good sign. Saturday the Blues began a three-game roadie by rallying for a 3-2 attainment at Las Vegas after fumbling a 1-0 lead. That’s even more encouraging.

So now let’s see how the fellas take it from here.

There’s no mystery to this early-stage recuperation. It’s all about their overall sturdiness at 5-on-5 play.

– During their eight-game losing streak, the Blues were outscored 24-7 at 5-on-5, which computes to a goal share of 22.58 percent.

– In the back-to-back wins, the Blues outscored the Sharks and Golden Knights 6-4 at 5-on-5 for a goal share of 60%.

And this wasn’t a case of lucky bounces. Sorry for the fancy-pants stats, but they are revealing. In losing eight straight, the Blues had an expected 5-on-5 goal share of 17.43%.

That’s pathetic. But in the wins over San Jose and Vegas, the Blues had an expected 5–on–5 goal share of 49.5%. That’s a huge difference that explains the improved play.

Sure we can give a complimentary tap of the stick to a few players that have stood out during the last two games, and defenseman Calle Rosen tops the list.

In the two victories the Blues have outscored opponents 5-0 and outshot them 16-8 with Rosen on the ice at 5-on-5. His expected goals share in the two games was a superb 74.93 percent. Rosen teams well with Niko Mikkola … but let’s keep the emphasis on Rosen. In 23 games for the Blues since the start of last season, his expected goal share (54%) at 5-on-5 is the best among current Blues defensemen. He should be more than just an injury-emergency fill-in.

This is a collective effort, of course. Other Blues have stepped up. Including Jordan Kyrou, Ryan O’Reilly, Brandon Saad, Brayden Schenn. I didn’t put Robert Thomas in the group for a simple reason: he brings his best to the ice on a regular basis. The same goes for Vladimir Tarasenko.

2. About Missouri football: I’m not in the mood to write another batch of words about the “state of the program,” and I have no interest in dispensing many syllables about how Mizzou trailed No. 5 Tennessee by four points in the third quarter Saturday down in Knoxville. The Vols outscored the Tigers 38-0 from that stage and kept on tabulating yards and points. Mizzou’s normally stubborn defense was turned into grits, with Tennessee scoring nine touchdowns and 66 points while averaging an astounding 9.7 yards per play. A 42-point loss is humiliating. I’m a little cranky here; I thought the Tigers could limit Tennessee’s exciting offense to 38 points or so and cover the 20.5-point spread. Um, no. Gimme the dunce cap.

Quarterback Brady Cook played well by Brady Cook’s standards, but Cook wasn’t going to win a QB duel against Hendon Hooker. The Tigers committed 14 penalties. Coach Eli Drinkwitz is 0-2 since receiving his contract extension. The loss dumped Mizzou to 4-6 overall, 3-6 vs. FBS programs, 1-5 vs. winning FBS teams and 2-5 in the SEC. It’s just so monotonous. I can’t even get properly ticked off anymore.

3. I guess some Mizzou fans are sore at Tennessee coach Josh Heupel for declining to leash his offense. (How many fans were upset, I have no idea.) The Vols kept throwing and scoring, right down to the final seconds. OK, so Heupel wasn’t a gentleman. My general thoughts on this non-controversy: if Missouri can one day build a good football program, no one will have to worry about Heupel being a bully. And if Missouri can’t build a good program – the Tigers are 24-41 in the SEC since the start of 2015 – then maybe relocate to a lesser conference. In two games vs. Mizzou and Coach Eli Drinkwitz, Heupel’s Tennessee squad has averaged 64 points, 8.5 touchdowns and 703.5 yards per blow-out.

4. Next up for Missouri: home game against New Mexico State, and I would put this one in the automatic win category except, well, Mizzou. But the Aggies average only 19.9 points per game, and the Missouri defense presumably will be raging after the whomping at Tennessee. Does Sam Horn exist? If the four-star quarterback recruit can’t be trusted to play in this one, then this is even worse than I thought.

5. Illinois. C’mon. Why did you have to go and mess this up? After a 7-1 start overall, including a 4-1 slate in the Big Ten, the Fighting Illini have been smacked down by Michigan State and Purdue in successive weeks. Illinois had the Big Ten West under control, only to be taken down as the betting-line favorite in back-to-back home losses. And that’s after leading Michigan State and Purdue 7-0 early in the games. In the two defeats coach Bret Bielema’s tough team lacked the expected muscle, which is trouble when the philosophy is based on dominating the line of scrimmage. In coming up short against the Spartans and Boilermakers, Illinois had only one more rushing yard (combined) than their opponents. 255 to 254. And in giving up five touchdown passes over the last two weeks the Illini defense managed only one sack and three hurries. And the penalties? Too many to overcome.

Losses by Wisconsin and Illinois have set up a four-way tie in the Big Ten West standings. Purdue, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota are all 4-3 in conference competition. Iowa plays at Minnesota on Saturday and that will break one tie. Illinois’s next game is at Michigan. Purdue has the most favorable remaining schedule with games against Northwestern and Indiana. If Iowa and Purdue finish in a tie, the Hawkeyes have the head-to-head tiebreaker.

6. In the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, only three Big Ten teams made the cut: Ohio State (2), Michigan (3) and Penn State (11.) The Pac 12 has six teams in the new rankings: USC (7), Utah (10), Oregon (12), Washington (15), UCLA (16) and Oregon State (25.)


I was dozing off a little bit before Tennessee turned on the rocket boosters, so someone help me out here: the way Rick Neuheisel (CBS) was carrying on about Brady Cook, I assumed Cook was closing in on winning the Heisman Trophy. As Gabe DeArmond wrote at Power Mizzou: “Find someone that talks about you the way Rick Neuheisel talks about Brady Cook. If he grew today as much as Neuheisel said he grew, Missouri’s quarterback is now 17 feet tall.”

My friend Ben Frederickson (and others) are advocating a free-agent by the Cardinals run for center fielder Brandon Nimmo, the left-handed hitter who had a very good 2022 for the NY Mets. Nimmo has a career 13.6 percent walk rate that’s been a large factor in his sweet .385 onbase percentage through seven MLB seasons. In 2022 Nimmo had seven triples, 30 doubles, and 16 homers and was 30 percent above league average offensively in OPS+. He also accrued 5.4 WAR at FanGraphs, which was fifth-best in the majors among all outfielders. There are mixed reports on his defense: Fielding Bible gives him a negative rating in center field – but he grades out as a plus defender according to Statcast and Outs Above Average. And if there’s a tiebreaker, let’s cite Ultimate Zone Rating and the improvement Nimmo has shown in UZR. The baserunning is not so good …

Nimmo, Part Two: I can see three reasons for skepticism or hard questions: (1) Durability; Nimmo has played 100 or more games in only two seasons. In fairness, he likely would have reached 100+ games in 2020 had the season been a normal 161-game schedule. But Nimmo has missed 256 game days of baseball to injuries during his MLB career including 73 lost days in 2021. His 151 games-played in 2022 was encouraging. (2) I’d be surprised if the Mets let Nimmo walk and ownership won’t hesitate to overpay Nimmo to stay if Steve Cohen wants to keep him. (3) If Nimmo doesn’t reach a deal with Cohen and the Mets, the Cardinals would face competition for his services. And the Cards would also have to give up draft-pick compensation for signing Nimmo. Bill DeWitt Jr. and John Mozeliak are historically reluctant (understatement) to do that.

The Cards super-utilitarian, Brendan Donovan, is up for the NL Rookie of the Year, with the winner announced Monday night on MLB Network. Donovan had a splendid rookie season but it would be a stunner if he prevails over Atlanta outfielder Michael Harris II and ATL pitcher Spencer Strider. That said, Donovan is a worthy choice. Among the National League rookie position players that had at least 300 plate appearances in 2022, Donovan ranked 1st in onbase percentage (.394) and walks; was 2nd in bWAR (4.1), runs scored, OPS (.773), and OPS+ (130); was third in batting average (.281) and doubles. Oh, yeah … Donovan won the first-ever utility-man Gold Glove for his six-position defense.

My pal Travis Sawchik, the excellent baseball analyst who writes for The Score, recently did a match-making exercise and decided that left-handed starter Carlos Rodon would be the ideal fit for the Cardinals. “The Cardinals stated they intend to spend money this offseason and their biggest need is at the top of their rotation,” Sawchik wrote. “This team is built to win now with corner infield superstars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado signed for multiple years, but they’re not getting any younger. It figures to be a wide market for Rodon, but St. Louis must address its rotation. The Cardinals’ starting pitchers had the seventh-lowest strikeout percentage in the majors. The lowest four: the Tigers, Rockies, Royals, and Nationals – not the kind of company you want to keep as a contending club. Prediction: Cardinals, five years/$135M.


1. Remember when the Buffalo Bills were viewed as The Next Great Team in the NFL? That still could become true, but as of late they’ve been going over Niagara Falls. They’ve lost two in a row after a 6-1 start, in part because of QB Josh Allen, who has thrown four red-zone interceptions in his team’s two consecutive losses. The Bills blew a substantial lead in losing a wild one (33-30) to the visiting Vikings in overtime. And no NFL team has a worse turnover percentage (18.9%) than Buffalo. Surprising, yes? It’s just one of the reasons why the Bills can’t win tight games. Since the start of the 2021 season Buffalo is 16-1 in games decided by nine or more points but only 2-9 in games decided by eight or less. Oh, and the Miami Dolphins now lead the AFC East with a 7-3 record.

2. The Rams are burnt pie. The defending Super Bowl champs have lost five of their last six games to slide to 3-6 on the season. A once dazzling offense ranks 29th among 32 teams in points per game (16.4), is 29th in net passing yards per attempt, is 31st in average yards per play, has the fifth-worst turnover percentage, and is last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (68.1)

3. Dallas Cowboys: still overrated. The Boys blew a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter Sunday in Green Bay and lost in OT. The Cowboys are 2-2 with starter Dak Prescott at quarterback. They went 4-1 when Cooper Rush took over at QB after Prescott suffered a hand injury. Hmmm.

4. After losing at home to Indianapolis of all teams, the Las Vegas Raiders flattened to 2-7 on the season. First-year Raiders coach Josh McDaniels, who failed in Denver, is now 7-24 in his last 31 games as a head coach.

5. Justin Fields, my goodness. Over the past two games, Fields has rushed for 325 yards and three TDs. He still has rough moments as a passer but definitely is getting better, having thrown seven touchdowns with one interception in his last three games. The Chicago Bears have their quarterback.

What the heck, here’s one more: The Minnesota Vikings (8-1) appear to be real.
Sunday’s incredible win at Buffalo was their fifth victory of the season in the last 2 minutes and 30 seconds of games. Overall they’ve won seven in a row, all by one-possession margins.


CHECKING IN ON JAYSON TATUM: St. Louisan Tatum, now in his sixth NBA season with the Boston Celtics, is off to the best start of his career. And that’s saying something considering the success Tatum packed into his first five NBA seasons. With Tatum averaging 32.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game, the Celtics have raced out to a 10-3 start, running shoulder to shoulder with the Milwaukee Bucks (10-2) for the top record in the Eastern Conference. Tatum is shooting 50 percent from the floor for the sharpest accuracy of his career. That includes a 38.7% success rate from three-point range. Only Luka Doncic (Dallas) and Steph Curry (Golden State) are averaging more points per game than Tatum this season.

Tatum is doing something else that’s made him extra effective so far this season: getting to the foul line. His current rate of 11.8 free-throw attempts per 100 possessions is easily the highest of his career. Motivated by last season’s NBA Finals loss to Golden State, Tatum worked extensively during the offseason at being more aggressive about attacking the rim, and the new mindset is paying off. Showing more explosiveness on his drives, Tatum is shooting a career-best 81 percent on shots near the rim. And only three NBA players have attempted more free throws than Tatum (117) this season.

Though it’s early, Tatum is the subject of considerable MVP talk, and it’s legit. The Celtics have won six in a row as they head into Monday night’s home game against Oklahoma City.

“This is definitely the best I’ve felt to ever start the season,” Tatum told reporters recently. “It kind of feels like how I felt I was playing toward the end of last season when we went on that run going into the playoffs. It feels great to start a season like this, because I definitely know what it feels like to be on the other side of being .500, struggling shooting the ball, just really trying to figure it out. The way we’re playing, it’s fine. It feels good.”

JORDAN GOODWIN IS TURNING HEADS: The Belleville native and former Saint Louis U. star is making a fantastic impression on the Washington Wizards while receiving the most extensive opportunity of his early NBA career. After being recalled from Washington’s G-League team, the Capital City Go-Go, Goodwin has become an important bench piece for a Wizards team that’s won four in a row to improve to 8-6.

Goodwin has averaged 24.6 minutes during a five-game stretch that’s produced a 4-1 record for the surprising Wizards. In the five games Goodwin has averaged 9.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He’s shooting .545 from the floor and has hit 61.5 percent of his threes. Over the last week, Goodwin’s highlights included 17 points, four rebounds and five assists in a win at Charlotte; his hounding Memphis star guard Ja Morant with dogged defense to key a 23-point road comeback that just fell short; and contributing 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists in Sunday’s home victory over Memphis.

Goodwin is an inspirational story. He’s outplayed guard Johnny Davis, the 10th overall selection in this year’s NBA Draft. Davis, from Wisconsin, has been on the bench for six of the Wizards’ last seven games and has made only 28.6 percent of his field-goal attempts. At 24, Goodwin is showing he belongs in the NBA.

“Guys have rallied behind him,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. told The Athletic. “They understand where he’s coming from. He’s competing for a job. He’s done a terrific job of making the most of his minutes, and he’s helped us win. So I give the kid a lot of credit. He’s got heart. He’s tough. He tries to play the right way, and he’s got a little grit, so he’s not scared of the moment.”

Thanks for reading …

– Bernie