The Blues are batty as could be. We never know what to expect from these moody Blues, a team that goes ‘round the bend and back again. Their season is an adventurous loop-de-loop, fraught with difficulty and danger and recovery.
Why do they do this? There is no answer. The Blues are a Freud quote: “Just as no one can be forced into belief, no one can be forced into unbelief.”
That’s about right. The Blues have voiced a thousand similar post-game comments during this kooky season — talking about believing in each other, believing in the talent in the dressing room, etc.
Until they don’t.
And when bewildered outsiders are up and done with believing in the Blues, the boys put on their blue suede shoes and entertain us by winning three straight home games. They play inspired hockey, revive their season, delight the fans and begin to restore the belief.
I’m not sure if I’m buying it.
But the last three games at Enterprise Center showed (again) what this volatile team can do when hearts and heads are aligned.
The 3-1 win over Vegas was followed by a stunning 9-1 demolition of Minnesota and capped by a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory in the rematch with the Wild.
After winning only one home game (1-8-3) in two months, the Blues won three home games in four days.
After scoring only 17 goals in their previous 11 games, the Blues scored 15 goals in three games while beating the Golden Knights and Wild.
The insane season was personified by Blues forward Mike Hoffman, who scored two huge goals against the Wild on Saturday, with each erasing a one-goal deficit. Hoffman’s second score came with less than a minute to go in regulation and made it possible for Ryan O’Reilly’s fantastic finish for the winning goal.
Before Saturday, Hoffman was scratched from the lineup in two straight games, and three times in six games. And with Monday’s NHL trade deadline looming, Hoffman’s exit from St. Louis seemed likely, and imminent. It probably still is.
Social-media detectives noticed an alteration to Hoffman’s Twitter profile. An action shot of Hoffman in a Blues uniform was replaced by a photo of a dog. Hoffman’s bio (#68 for the St. Louis Blues) was removed.
And then Saturday happened. Robert Thomas was injured Friday and unable to play Saturday. That opened a spot for Hoffman.
The dog photo in his Twitter bio seemed appropriate; Hoffman’s first goal Saturday got him out of Berube’s dog house. Ruff! Ruff!
And Ruffman scored his second goal from the trading block.
The post-game media Zoom conference was weird.
Berube complimented Hoffman without adding enthusiasm. Berube looked like a guy who had just received word that he was being audited by the IRS. I’m surprised the Chief didn’t hit the mute button on Zoom and claim technical difficulties when reporters invited him to praise Hoffman.
And Hoffman? He was … restrained. He was brimming with indifference. His mood was hard to describe; just think of the word “tranquilizer.”
Will Hoffman be traded? Did the two goals change anything? Only GM Doug Armstrong knows for sure. But just because Hoffman returned from a benching to score two goals, it doesn’t mean Berube will utilize Hoffman properly if Hoffman stays here.
Armstrong must factor that in. Berube-Hoffman has been an uncomfortable match all along. The coach and player aren’t about to become besties now.
What about core forward Jaden Schwartz, center Tyler Bozak or defenseman Vince Dunn? Are they in play?
I say keep Schwartz. Yeah, he has a streaky scoring touch, and that can be a source of frustration. But Schwartz is a leader and a strong two-way player, and his value is highlighted by this stat: over the last two seasons, when Schwartz is on the ice, the Blues have scored 63 percent of the goals. Keep in mind, the Blues have a thin supply of left wingers.
As for his signability, Schwartz strikes me as sincere in his desire to stay in St. Louis … then again, after the Alex Pietrangelo experience you can never be sure. Armstrong is in position to know what it will take to re-sign Schwartz, and that will likely influence the GM’s deadline decision.
After a long absence because of his concussion, Bozak seems to be coming on — with a goal, three assists and a 69 percent faceoff win percentage in his last four games. He can become an unrestricted free agent after the season, but a healthy Bozak is a plus, and still fits the team’s short-term goals.
If Armstrong is determined to stay the course and put his faith in his team instead of shaking things up, a decision to subtract multiple forwards goes against that philosophy.
Ten forwards on the Blues current roster were part of the unit that won the Stanley Cup in 2019, and that still counts for something. Collectively the 10 forwards played in 225 postseason games during the ‘19 playoff run, scoring 54 goals. Even with the goal-production disappointment of this season, we know what this group is capable of.
As for Dunn: no, he hasn’t played as well this season. Even the advanced metrics show that. He commits too many turnovers. But his career Corsi-for percentages are impressive, and I don’t think he’s as bad as critics claim. The Dunn decision could come down to Armstrong’s confidence in Jake Walman and Niko Mikkola to handle more significant roles as left-side defensemen.
Will Armstrong add to his roster? It would be nice to see a large-sized, physical defenseman enter the building.
We’ll see what happens today. But this is fun. Berube let Hoffman off the leash, and the two goals have created considerable intrigue. The Blues have won three games in a row, and people are talking about the boys making a late charge, just like 2019.
This isn’t the same scenario; the ‘19 Blues went 16-3-3 in their final 21 regular-season games. But why kill the buzz? A comeback is a comeback. And many of the ’19 Blues are still around. Maybe that’s why Armstrong would be inclined to give these guys another crack at the postseason.
The Blues have moved ahead of Arizona by a point for fourth place in the West, and the Coyotes graciously helped out by losing their last three games.
According to MoneyPuck, the Blues’ probability of making the playoffs is 37.6 percent as of Monday morning. The odds were much worse before The Note, out of the blue, set forth on their improbable three-game winning streak.
Next stop: Monday night’s game at Minnesota. If the Blues yack this one up, we’ll be doubting them again, and going off the deep end.
It’s been a crazy season for the Blues. And one way or another I think we’re in for more madness.
But at the moment, as I type this brief update, all is calm. Armstrong made no trades today.
Armstrong is letting it ride with what he has. And what does he have, exactly?
If it’s the team that just won three straight, the Blues will have a chance to get into the playoffs and cause some trouble.
Thanks for reading…
Please check out Bernie’s 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 live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.