On Chris Pronger Night the Blues relaxed and watched the pregame ceremonies as No. 44 was raised to the girders of Enterprise Center. Someone forgot to set the alarm for the wakeup, and the boys took time to get ready for the competition.
True to their collective personality, the feisty Blues responded by hanging a 5–3 loss on Nashville. With their latest success the Blues updated their record to 11-3-1 since Dec. 7 for a .767 points percentage that ranks fourth in the NHL over that time. If we roll it back to Nov. 26 the Blues are 13-4-3 for the league’s fifth-best points percentage (.725) since Thanksgiving.
The Blues did their part to make it a special night for Pronger and his family and Blues fans. Hopefully Pronger saved a few of those cold Bud Lights for the hockey writers.
Let’s Roll Four Lines …
FIRST LINE: It takes too much time for the Blues to get the car started, but once they reach the highway they’re usually on their way to a win. This pattern was in place again Monday night when the Blues overcame a two-goal deficit by scoring five of the game’s final six goals to stunt the Nashville Predators 5-3.
During their 13-4-3 streak the Blues have been outscored 17-13 in the first period have made up for the slow starts with a massive 28 to 12 overload advantage in second-period goals. And they’ve won the goal-scoring count (26-22) in the third period as well.
As you know I like to have fun with numbers so here I go again: In the last 20 games the Blues have scored only 43 percent of the first-period goals – and have overwhelmed opponents by scoring 63% of the regulation goals beyond the first 20 minutes.
The boys are closers. Hey, whatever works for them. Here’s another one of my favorite Blues Thing: The Blues are driving the analysts batty by outperforming their so-so metrics. Their “expected” goal share is much lower than their actual goal share, and the analysts continue to believe the Blues are having a flukish season. Those forecasting models are letting these people down, and their ensuing anxiety is hysterical.
SECOND LINE: It’s OK to say that Ville Husso should play more than Jordan Binnington. I’m not sure why some media folks are tip-toeing around the issue. We’re adults. It’s OK to speak the truth. A media pass does not require the credential holder to pledge undying loyalty to Binnington or decisions made by the team coach or GM. It’s proper to point to the statistics that show the obvious reality: Husso is having a much better season than Binnington so far. Write it, say it, and no one will take you into custody.
I don’t care about designations, and this compulsion to put the No. 1 tag on either goaltender, and the “backup” tag on the other. And it doesn’t matter how much money the Blues are paying Binnington – a lot – because all that matters is the performance in net. It was like this a few years back when Brian Elliott made a lot less jack than Jake Allen – and played more than Allen. Both received plenty of action; no one got caught up in this “He’s No. 1” and “He’s No. 2” nonsense. We witnessed a similar situation in the Stanley Cup season when Binnington – who was making the minimum – took over for the well-paid Allen and never wavered.
Binnington won a Stanley Cup and this great hockey town will always be grateful. But I shouldn’t have to write that. Just because you play a major role in winning the only Stanley Cup in franchise history, it doesn’t come with a lifetime guarantee for the starting job.
If 2011 postseason St. Louis Cardinal hero David Freese can be traded to the LA Angels two years after his epic World Series performance, then why are people in this town so nervous about saying Husso should play more than Binnington?
You’ll notice that I didn’t call for Binnington to be benched, or buried. That isn’t the point. He should play. Husso should play. Binnington is good but inconsistent. Husso is very good and more consistent. Both have value.
Sharing the goaltending job has been done before, and it can be done again. But for now Husso should play more often … until there’s a reason to play Binnington more than Husso.
This is rather simple, yes?
(Um, perhaps not … Husso can become an unrestricted free agent after the season. That’s another reason to play him. The Blues must gauge his value.)
Husso was very good (again) in Monday’s win over Nashville. For the season, among 51 NHL goaltenders that have played 590 or more minutes at all all strengths, Husso ranks second with a .933 save percentage. Binnington ranks 34th among the 51 with a .906 save percentage. And Husso is No. 1 among the 51 with a high-danger save rate of .879. Binnington is 25th with a HD save rate of .828.
In his last five games Husso has a .940 save percentage and the Blues are 3-0-1 in those starts. In Binnington’s last six games he has a .892 save percentage and the Blues are 3-3 in those starts.
THIRD LINE: How do you like Torey Krug now? His second season as a Blue has been helpful in understanding why Doug Armstrong signed Krug away from Boston on a free agent contract that will pay $45.5 million over seven seasons. The defenseman had a difficult first campaign as a Blue but has become comfortable and confident in Season Two.
In his 34 games this season Krug has 6 goals and 16 assists and is a plus 17. He’s been more productive on the power play with 11 points in 34 games compared to 13 points in 51 contests in his first STL season. And he’s really rolling as of late, with 12 points and a plus 16 in the last 15 games. That’s coincided with the Blues’ 11-3-1 record since Dec. 7.
But this really tells the story of Krug’s second–season surge as a Blue: among regular NHL defensemen Krug ranks third in Corsi For percentage (57.8.) When he’s been on the ice in all situations the Blues have scored 71.3% of the goals – 71-26. That’s bananas. And the 71.3 percent figure puts Krug No. 1 in the rankings among league defensemen. The performance is almost as strong at five-on-five, with the Blues outsourcing opponents 39-20 (66.1%) when Krug is out there. That goal-share percentage is fifth-best among regular NHL defensemen.
Krug leads all Blues with 10.1 Goals Above Replacement (GAR) this season. And he’s also No. 1 on the team with 1.8 Wins Above Replacement. His 12.3 score in total offense is No. 1 on the team. Those metrics are from Evolving Hockey. Krug was brought here to propel the offense. He’s doing just that in his second season in St. Louis.
FOURTH LINE: What a game by the Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly and Ivan Barbashev line. At five-on-five the trio had 69.2 percent of the shots on goal, and outscored the Predators 4-0. Wow. Overall Schenn and Barbashev each had two goals and two assists, with O’Reilly flicking for a goal and two assists.
– O’Reilly has four goals and four assists in his last five games. He had only five goals in his first 31 games.
– Schenn’s season has been interrupted by an injury and COVID protocols. But when he plays, he’s productive. In 23 games Schenn has 7 goals, 9 assists and is plus 10. His rate of 1.1 goals per 60 minutes equals his rate during the Blues’ Stanley Cup season. And his rate of 2.4 points per 60 minutes is in line with his previous levels. But Schenn’s all-around value and tenacity can be measured by this statistic, and I’ll have to use the pro-rated method to account for his time missed. When Schenn has been on the ice this season the Blues have scored 4.7 goals per 60 minutes, and allowed 2.1 goals per 60. That’s fantastic. And so far, that’s Schenn’s best ratio in a season during his NHL career.
– Barbashev is up to 15 goals now, the most he’s had in an NHL season. He’s a revelation. Add in his 19 assists, and Barbashev is hanging right there with Jordan Kyrou, Vladimir Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich with his rate of 3.13 points per 60 minutes. During the Blues’ 13-4-3 streak Barbashev has 11 goals and 13 assists in 19 games. Those 24 points tie Barbashev for seventh in the NHL since Nov. 26. And Barbashev has more goals this season than many notable NHL players including Patrice Bergeron, Gabriel Landeskog, Andre Burakovksy, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane and Logan Couture. This is why Doug Armstrong protected Barbashev in the Seattle expansion draft. Army knows best.
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 “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
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