Tag: stlblues

Hating the Cardinals doesn’t make you a better Blues fan

In case you lived under a rock shelter of Imos pizza boxes, you may have noticed the St. Louis Cardinals got eliminated by their bitter rival, the Chicago Cubs, this week in the NLDS. It wasn’t pretty, came too soon and I still haven’t completely shook it off yet. Apparently, some St. Louis writers love that the Cards are done, most notably Paul Friswold, the Arts and Culture editor for the Riverfront Times. He wrote this piece about his disdain for the Cards and why he is glad they are out of the playoffs. There are better methods to stating your opinion than spewing profanity in a derogatory manner that comes off like a four year whining about his toys. Maybe I am old fashioned.

The writer talks about the lack of coverage that the Blues get in relation to the Cards and how it’s not fair. This isn’t an invalid point. The Cards do get a lot of coverage throughout the year but they also produce a lot of collaborative work with the Blues and Rams. It isn’t their fault that the television networks and newspapers feature more of their team than the hockey team.

If this article was an attack on the networks or newspapers, it may have more juice and substance. This isn’t something new around St. Louis or other cities. There is always a team fanbase that wishes their team got as much attention as the other team. The Cards are definitely the big brother in the Lou, and this writer makes it seem as if they created this madness. That is inaccurate. The Cards didn’t step out onto Clark Avenue and scream, “We are kings and that is that.” They are a great franchise who works with local teams to better the city.

This isn’t a fluff piece. It isn’t good journalism. It is a hate piece that is unnecessary and brings a bad shade of black to Blues fans. I cover the Blues for St. Louis Game Time(yes, a Cardinals writer can also cover the Blues!) and our editor had this to say about the piece. A fair and measured rebuttal. In it, Laura Astorian says plainly, “When you’re a fan of a team that plays second fiddle, be it in your city or in that professional league, openly whining about it makes you seem petulant.” There isn’t a better way to hit the nail on the head. If you don’t like the Cardinals, that is one thing. Taking to your paper to openly complain and whine about “coverage” doesn’t make you seem any stronger.

Don’t get me wrong. RFT is a solid paper with good writers and a fair assortment of topics and a sharp edge, but this piece seemed out of touch and out of mind. I’ve read them for years and they have posted better pieces than this. It sounded more like a childish rant than a well thought out piece of commentary and all I do is write commentary, so I know where blunt ends and petulant begins.

Once again, if you hate the Cardinals, that is fine. Sports is a weird emotional chaotic ride of extremes and it brings out original reactions in people every year.  If you hate them because they get more coverage than the Blues, that is not fine. Hating the Cardinals doesn’t make anyone a better Blues fan. It gives the rest of Blues fans a bad name. That is it. There are better way to express an opinion.

Hate the game, not the player. Write about the networks uneven coverage or the paper’s improper usage of ink. Don’t hate the team for establishing themselves as a powerhouse in the city.

What do you think of the article? What was your reaction?

The 2015-16 Blues: Strengths and Weaknesses

You ever pick up an interesting looking book and want to flip to the end of the book and read the ending? Save the time, heartache and see what lies ahead. Well, that’s the Blues in a nutshell for fans.

It’s time for hockey in St. Louis, and that means a few things. Doom, gloom and the urge to flip to the end of the book and see what the last page reads. Let’s talk strengths, weaknesses and what to expect.


  • They have a guy named Vladimir Tarasenko. Yes, he exists as a single engine destroyer all by himself. A potential 40-50 goal scorer with talent that can make the opposing team look like cones on the ice instead of real bodies. Tarasenko scored 37 goals last season with Jori Lehtera dishing him pucks for a majority of the season, so what do you think he can do with Paul “The Hometown kid” Stastny and Alexander “The Nose” Steen setting him up? The sky is the limit for the Russian Martini. Tank is shaken and stirred, and the effect is equal on the fans. He is also the only Blue who can perform well in the playoffs, which gets me thinking more about cloning than practicing his ways on the other Blues. He’s a theme park ride folks and is the greatest weapon the Blues have in 2015-16. He turns 24 in December by the way.
  • Goaltending won’t be a problem any time soon. Sure, Jake Allen started hot and fizzled late in the playoffs this past spring, but on a team that couldn’t average more than 2 goals a game, it didn’t matter if Patrick Roy was in net. The Blues have the perfect setup if egos and emotions don’t come into play. Brian Elliott is the seasoned vet, a man who has spent enough time behind supposed #1 guys that he could stitch a jersey with a dull needle. Allen is the young sort of battle tested gun who is hungry for more action. Jordan Bennington and Phoenix Copley(who I think could be the future steal of the T.J. Oshie trade) wait behind these men. Allen and Elliott are great goaltenders and each are capable of leading this team. The question is gets set in motion as #1 and who is the guy in February? Good problems to have.
  • Youth is nice. Yes, the team lost a general in Barret Jackman but it helped the team get young on defense. Petteri Lindbolm gave the fans a sneak peek of something special late last season, and could win a spot this season as a full time guy. Colton Parayko is knocking on the door, especially with Robert Bortuzzo suffering a camp injury. Look at 18 year old Vince Dunn, a hungry kid who bounced his statistics from 36 points in 63 games to 56 points(18 goals) in 68 games in the OHL this past season. Sure, it’s the OHL but the point is the Blues are getting younger. Part of the greatness from the Oshie trade was clearing room for guys like Robby Fabbri, Ty Rattie and Dmitri Jaskin. The Blues are just getting younger and younger, unlike other teams.


  • Can Paul Stastny become the player his contract calls for? Yes, he started off 2014-15 injured and out of sync in a new system and found himself on the second line somehow. However, this year Stastny is getting first line minutes and will be paired with Tarasenko. Can he rise to the occasion? The dude is making some sweet cash for the next few years and the team needs more than 46 points in 74 games and definitely need more than the ONE point in the playoffs? Will Stastny be the next Paul Kariya and come to the team with promise and basically decline year after year or will he become an elite performer again? Maybe touch 70 points again for the first time in five years? We shall see. I feel like he is the X-Factor in this offense.
  • Steve Ott. The man who stole playoff minutes from more talented co-stars. The guy who I think is the most overrated useless chunk of redheaded madness in the world outside of Carrot Top. Okay, that was harsh but still I stay up late at night wondering how many minutes and games Ott’s presence will cost younger more integral players. He plays too much even on the third or fourth line and wish he wouldn’t have been resigned. I think Chris Porter can do his job and for a lot less money but that’s just me. Ott may slow the team down more than help it in 2015-16.
  • The head coach. Yes, I know Ken Hitchcock has a lot of wins, a Stanley Cup, and the tenure few coaches can hold onto as they near the end of the their career but can this team find traction under him after years of flops? What will make this season any different than the last? If so, why? Mention “buy-in” and the bunny gets it!(Con Air reference for the non film-addicts). Look, he has talked with his coaches about change and such but can the fans believe it? Will we see reckless play and a lack of goal production in the playoffs? Will he allow lines to get comfortable and link up or will he constantly change them due to a fear of losing his job? Will he finish the season or be asked to leave midseason like the last Blues coach or two? This is Hitch’s last hurrah in this city? What will come of it? Will his system hinder or help the Blues expand?

What Happened To The St. Louis Blues?

It’s official. The St. Louis Blues are in serious trouble. It was only 36 hours ago that I wrote a post on Arch City Sports about the team simply needing to find an energy and58f1c76bbe9b420ab3fcee80d69ddcec-bea9a0d12fd24044b2ddc20f22f06f68-5 get back to their winning ways before the playoffs started next week. I went to a movie and came out to find that the Blues had lost 4-1 in lackluster style to the Washington Capitals(minus Halak in net). Alexander Ovechkin came in and draped the net in red Russian fury, scoring once to start things off and assisting on another goal. The Blues were beaten again at Scottrade Center and have scored only four goals in their last 4 games there. Also, the Ducks hopped over the Blues tonight with 112 points to take over ownership of the Western Conference with 3 games to go.

What is going on with this team? Let me run down a quick list of potential issues and ideal remedies.

*GET A SHOT ON GOAL. Let’s not speak lightly here. The Blues defensemen and forwards are horrible at putting pucks on net. If it isn’t Alex Pietrangelo air mailing a slap shot from the point into the upper left boards or Alexander Steen unleashing a wildly inaccurate slap shot, the team simply isn’t hitting the targets. They are ranked 24th in the NHL when it comes to getting shots on net. We want to. We try. We simply can’t. Change that.

*It’s been a while since this team scored a lot of goals over a decent multi-game stretch. Sure, they have won a decent amount and risen to the top of the division via fine defense and goaltending, but the Blues aren’t scoring furiously anymore. As nice as it is to see T.J. Oshie make a fool out of a goalie in shootouts, it would be swell to see this team take charge this last week and put a few pucks in the net.

*When you have trouble beating teams like Buffalo, how do you expect to fare against Colorado and Chicago? The Blues peaked in the early part of the year, went to Sochi, came back half asleep, woke up briefly and have now fallen off a cliff into pure despicable solitude. If you know a way out, comment below. I’d love to hear it.


Ryan Miller Changes The Blues Outlook

hi-res-453667981-ryan-miller-of-the-buffalo-sabres-skates-off-the-ice-in_crop_northIn the immortal words of The Joker, Ryan Miller coming to the St. Louis Blues tonight in a blockbuster trade with the Buffalo Sabres changes things. A team that had the best win percentage in the league and ranked in the top five in goals per game, goals allowed per game, penalty kill and power play efficiency still had a small leak. Their goaltenders produced a save percentage that ranked 17th in the NHL. Sure, Wednesday night, Jaro Halak made 34 saves in a 1-0 loss on the road in Vancouver. However, that doesn’t mean there was consistency there or an ability to take over a series of games in net. In short, the Blues had a need that wasn’t glaring but utterly apparent from a short distance, so general manager Doug Armstrong made a move and pushed this team into Stanley Cup contention.

Blues fans have been frustrated by a strong regular season team the past few seasons but one that couldn’t excel in the playoffs. The last two times the Blues made it into the playoffs, they ran into a goaltender in Kings’ stopper Jonathan Quick who was a lot better than their guy. With no hard smack to the likes of Brian Elliot or Halak, they will never be Quick and that was the mountain the team could not climb. Halak and Elliot were serviceable goaltenders alone and strong as a duo but in order to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, a team needs one man in net who can be spectacular at any given moment. With this trade, Armstrong is telling his team, “Here is your guy, so please go win one for this city now”. The expectations have officially gone through the roof now. As I noted earlier, things have changed for the St. Louis Blues. That is the nature of the business of pro sports. One night you call a man a teammate. The next he is shipped to another team for a player who hopefully makes you a better team.

The official deal looks like this. Miller and Steve Ott come to the Blues in exchange for Chris Stewart, Halak, prospect William Carrier, a first round pick in 2015 and a third round pick in 2016. It’s a very good deal. Stewart, except for a few games in December, has been a huge disappointment for the Blues this season. A guy wearing the jersey because he can score and provide tenacity has done very little this year in terms of mere production. Carrier doesn’t rank too high on the upcoming depth chart train and the two draft picks aren’t easily offered but stand as unknown quantities at this current juncture.

Ott is a solid grinder, a 31 year old former first round draft pick and center who served as Captain of the Sabres and will provide more punch to the Blues depth. He isn’t going to light up the lamp but that wasn’t the Blues particular need. Once again. The Blues can score goals. They have maintained a goals per game average that ranked at the top of the NHL and have a lot of young talent. Ott is a guy who will give it all every single night and is a player other teams and their fanbases love to hate. Just ask Blues fans before 6 p.m. this evening how they felt about him. He will help this team currently struggling with injuries to key players.


Is Ryan Miller Worth The Squeeze?

It is that time of year where NHL trade rumors hit the highway and start to move at remarkable speeds, confounding fans and whipping teams’ faithful units into agitated frenzies.  Some say it’s good for fans to mix it up in the heat of the battle while others complain about blood pressures hitting the roof.   I prefer to observe, show restraint and wait  for the actual suits to make things happen.   With that said, I think we can still circle the situation and present our take.  Being faithful supporters of the St. Louis Blues, we owe ourselves that much.  So let’s look at it.

The million dollar question is quite simple.   Do the St. Louis Blues need to make a serious play for Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller?  The two parties have circled each imageedit_1_8180860284other like attractive parties at a ballroom dance session for years, so the hype isn’t premature.  Buffalo and St. Louis have talked about this before and part of me suggests Doug Armstrong had played out many scenarios in his head of how this could go down.  Let me weigh in here with my decent amount of knowledge on hockey and the Blues needs.

First, let me state that I am not completely for the deal or entirely against it.   I stand in the middle, contemplating each play here as the days pass.   My belief is that Jaro Halak and Brian Elliot are each pretty good goaltenders and make a solid duo but may not be able to stand alone during a time of need.   Neither has shown over a decent amount of time that they can handle the #1 job but have very solid stats to back up their cases.   If I had to choose one for the playoff run, I would stand with Halak.  It can’t be forgotten what he did in Montreal in 2010 during the playoffs.  He earned the 4 year deal with the Blues by playing that well in place of Carey Price.   Elliot can play well for a certain period of time but has come up short in back to back playoff appearances against the Blues new nemesis, the Los Angeles Kings.  Part of that was a result of overall team letdown, but Elliot self destructed when the rest of the team needed him to stand on his head.

The Blues also have a hot rookie waiting down with the Chicago Wolves, in Jake Allen.   About this time last year, Halak went down with an injury and Elliot self destructed during the season and Allen stepped into the net for the Blues.  For the better part of February, Allen was amazing in net, showing the hunger and ability that created the possibility that the Blues had in their own system a true #1 goaltender.

Allen is the biggest reason I think Ryan Miller isn’t needed.  I can see Halak or Elliot being moved before the deadline for talent, but I am not sure we need another goaltender.  If you have two pretty good goalies on your roster and another potential franchise stopper in your minor league system who got a taste of NHL action last season, why trade away valuable pieces for Miller?   Buffalo isn’t going to hand their premiere goalie away without prying draft picks, good established players and possibly the IMOS Pizza franchise from St. Louis.  In the immortal words of Timothy Olyphant in the underrated film Girl Next Door, “Is the juice worth the squeeze” here?


The Cost of Losing Your Captain

Sure the Blues are whipping the Canadians 3-1 right now after two periods but here is something I posted today on archcitysports.com.   Check it out.  Also I included some info at the bottom that I include on my Arch City posts.  Indulge me for a minute so that all of my email and subscribers can get to know me better.

Matt Duchene, Matt Hunwick, David Backes

If the loss of St. Louis Blues captain David Backes extends farther than a week or so, the Blues could be in serious trouble.   Think about it.   Backes scores goals, delivers the big hits, plays two way hockey and is a great leader.  If anyone deserves to be captain in this league, Backes is at the top of the list.   He lives and breathes authority on the ice every time he touches it and is more nifty with a puck than people give him credit for.

The captain has 16 goals and 14 assists this season and was lost in the Ottawa Senators game on Tuesday night after a collision involving his head.   When Blues fans think of head collisions, the mind immediately triggers memories of David Perron and Andy McDonald.  The two former Blues lost a heavy load of games due to concussions, and no one is even uttering that word right now around Scottrade Center.  Backes’ injury is almost under lockdown order, with the press not officially releasing the heavily feared “C” word in physical sports.   We all know what it is.  Watch the replay again and try not to grimace.  The big guy got clocked and went down hard.  He has been ruled out for a week at least.  All we know is he can skate with the team but that’s it.   If one of the FSN girls bumps into him in the hallway, the guy could be set back a few days probably for all we know.

Now that we know this is a higher than usual body injury, what are the Blues going to do without their leader?   Survive of course.  What did the Cards do without Yadi Molina in August?  They got by and tried to win as many games as possible without their rock.   The Rams have surprised people all over the league with their play after the loss of Sam Bradford.   The Blues are going to have to dig their feet in and win games on grit and supreme effort.

This a wakeup call to a big Swede named Patrik Berglund, who has TWO goals this season.   He doesn’t play good defense, makes lazy attempts at forechecking and wouldn’t be put on a penalty kill if Hitchcock was down to his coaching staff for options.   He is taking up space and only playing a decent amount of time because he is part of the original magic group of youth which once included Perron, T.J. Oshie and Erik Johnson.   Two of those guys are departed and while T.J. is having a quietly fine year, Bergie hasn’t done anything worth talking about in a positive tone.   How long are we going to wait for the player with the size to be great to produce?   The clock is ticking towards the trade deadline and it’s time for Berglund to step up.   Throw in another ghoulishly disgusting mustache if that’s what it takes.

Chris Stewart was on the same watch as Berglund until a recent surge of goals and pulse activity.    Stewart can languish and fight for points like other hollow bodied forwards, but he at least brings a tenacity and two way skill to the game.   When in doubt and you aren’t producing points, it’s time to be a little mean out there and Stewie can do that.   Both Berglund and Stewart need to step up and at least imitate Backes this weekend.  Do something useful or find yourself on the market in two months.

Losing Backes long term would be detrimental to the team.   Color it with shiny blue colors and pass the tasty kool aide around but if Backes misses 3 to 6 weeks because of a head injury, you can go ahead and drag this team down to the bottom of the conference.   We have 22 wins and are struggling to maintain position in the toughest Western conference in a decade.

When Ryan Reaves went down, that put the team in a decent bind.  Reaves makes the other team rethink their line strategy and fear the aggressiveness of Reaves unleashed on the ice on their big guys.   He can also dislocate someone’s jaw and score a goal and handle himself on the ice in a hockey sense.  He is much more than a goon.  Reaves was hard to lose, and it’s nice to see him skating again with the broken hand on then mend(he got that bashing some guy’s face in by the way).

If losing Reaves was tough, taking David Backes from this team would be crippling.   Backes is the Blues in one body.   Toughness, skill, smarts and fearlessness.   You can’t replace that with a trade or a backup option.  You can only imitate it for a few games.

Backes used to be the guy who scored 30 plus goals,had some ferocity and was a valuable young player.  He has grown into a leader in the community and takes the place at the forefront of this team every time he touches the ice.   He takes on the other team’s best, wins faceoffs with ease and has rediscovered his scoring touch after a lost partial season last year.

In comparison, Alex Steen play a great 2 way game and is scoring a ton and making a difference but he isn’t David Backes.   He isn’t the heart and soul of this team.   The rookies look up to Backes like he is a blend of Steve McQueen and Lee Marvin on ice skates.   They would follow him into a nuclear missile strike.  Without Backes, the Blues are a frail team leaking oil.   Take the engine out of a Dodge Charger and you have the Blues going against Montreal tonight at Scottrade.

This couldn’t happen at a worse time.   Vladimir Sobotka is out and Jaden Schwartz is returning after missing a couple games.   Reaves is only skating.   The Blues have a couple road games against inferior talent on Saturday and Monday but those aren’t sure fire wins.   This isn’t the time to slip down the mountain.   If you ask for anything this Christmas, ask for a healthy David Backes.   With him, we are deadly long term.   Sure, we have had an uneven past couple of weeks but with him we are deadly for teams every night.  Without him, in addition to the losses of Reaves and Sobotka, we are missing something out there.   Something vital.

Be well, Backes, please for the love of Cup Crazy explosive energy on Clark Avenue in June be healthy soon.   Your team’s chances depend on your health.

Also, the Blues play the Blackhawks next Saturday and I would love to see Backes kick the crap out of Jonathan Toews again.   Some things just don’t get old.




Dan Buffa writes for the local blog United Cardinal Bloggers in addition to Arch City Sports and also writes for his personal blog, http://www.doseofbuffa.com.   He is a STL born and raised writer with a need to inform and the ability to pound out 1,000-1,500 word pieces with ease.  He also runs and writes for a STL based movie website, film-addict.com.   When he isn’t writing or drinking coffee, he is spending time with his wife and son in South City.  Follow him at @buffa82 on Twitter and reach him for thoughts, comments and general feedback at buffa82@gmail.com.


A Tale Of Three Goaltenders


****UPDATED-Written before the Blues impressive road warrior like 4-3 overtime win last night in Columbus over former Blue goalie Mike McKenna and company.  The outcome fits into my piece below.  Jaro Halak, after getting rocked early due to some bad defensive turnovers and sharp home team play, recovered and made great saves in giving his team a chance to come back.   Halak came through big time last night.  Enjoy the piece, published yesterday afternoon.”****

The Blues are sitting pretty right now and are in no truly dire position to buy or sell parts.  Sure, there are a few leaks on the roster that could use sealing but there are no glaring holes.  For every letdown like Patrik Berglund there is a bright new light like Jaden Schwartz.   They are hustling their way through the ferociously competitive Western Conference and doing very well.   Before tonight’s game with the Columbus Blue Jackets, The Blues walk into the arena with a record of 21-6-3 with a goal differential of 106-70.   Sit on that as we continue.

Looking at that record, one would be hesitant to point out any problems.  Sure, that record leaves us tied for fifth in the Western Conference at 45 points but if we win tonight and the Kings/Sharks do not, we are suddenly in 3rd place.   That is how tightly wound the NHL is this year and how hard it will be to find your footing in the playoffs.   That is why it is important to enjoy the record yet keep your eyes on the future and the biggest prize.  Lord Stanley’s Cup.

As a Blues fan waiting for that first parade on Clark, that is all we think about.   Holding it high and standing taller than the rest.  Any Stanley Cup team lives or dies on their goaltending, which is why it’s important to point out the fine situation the Blues find themselves in as we cruise towards 2014.

Jaro Halak is the starter in his fourth and final year of his contract and is playing very well.   He is 15-5-2 with a save percentage of 91 percent and a goals against average of 2.24.  He has two shutouts and has shown moments of greatness  in net.   Some don’t like his style because upon first glance it is a laid back slow moving way of stopping shots.   It has always been Halak’s way and served him well in his career as a starting goaltender.

Halak isn’t perfect and has shown signs of instability, both mental and physically.  He has been pulled 3 times and shown the ability to not be mentally prepared for a game. Against the Ducks at Scottrade last weekend, Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said the team picked up on something in Halak’s pregame and exposed in with 4 first period goals in knocking out the Slovak.   Every goalie has these moments but how many more will Halak have.  He is the starter so he gets bigger smack when he has a bad game than the backup gets put through the ringer.  Same as a starter getting shelled as opposed to a reliever.  When people depend on you to be the #1 and you don’t perform, eyes are on you.  Right or wrong, that’s sports.

Brian Elliot has also done a very good job as the backup.  He is 6-1-1 with a shutout and a 93 % save percentage as well as a 2.14 goals against.   Sure, he has played less and doesn’t get as exposed as Halak, but in his role as a backup, Elliot has flourished.  He has been chased at least once himself and can sometimes look lost on simple straight shots but he has also rescued the team from potential blowouts.  His style is as different from Halak as it gets.  He is a hyper active goalie with quick movements and adjustments.  There are times where one thinks he simply moves too fast for his own good.

Elliot has done a fine job.  However, when pushed to being the starter, over a long period of time, has shown the ability to be solved by opposing teams and become less stellar as the consecutive starts piled on.  Like Halak, he can be had and the more games he plays in a row, the likelihood of that happening only grows.

Reading this, you may think I am shooting our goaltenders down.  I am not.  Here is the situation.  The Blues have two very capable goaltenders.  In my eyes, neither can be a clear cut starter and with a tandem like this, neither HAVE to be.  Head coach Ken Hitchcock can simply play the hot hand and when that goalie starts to fade, you insert the other.

As much as I want to see Jake Allen make an appearance soon, at this moment, he isn’t needed.  He is a fine insurance policy shall injury strike the Blues in the net, but right now let him flourish in the minors.  Allen is young, highly touted and hungry.  We saw what he could do last season.  In February of this year, Elliot wore down in the starter role after Halak’s 35th muscle pull, and Allen stepped in and took over while Elliot went to the minors to deal with his situation and regroup.  While he wasn’t perfect himself, Allen dominated games, craved the spotlight, never showed an ounce of fear and informed the Blues brass he was ready for the big stage.

As desirable as that is, right now, the Blues are fine.   They have a decent amount of money allocated to these two goalies on the roster and need to ride them while they are producing at this kind of level.   Halak may never be a clear cut #1 guy for a whole season due to his inability to stay healthy and suffer off breakdowns.  Elliot may never be able to handle the month long load of being a #1 goalie.   The good news is neither have to be and can come together a  two bodied force and propel this team towards the halfway mark and hopefully into the playoffs.

We all know Halak’s injury history and Elliot’s ability to be exposed, and get how that can affect the playoff hopes for this team.   As great as this team has been, we haven’t seen a truly deep playoff run in a long time.   We tossed out the Sharks two years ago and got swept by the Kings.  Last season, we got a 2-0 lead on the Kings and saw every facet of the team break down.  Both times, Elliot was in the spotlight and lost his way.   What will happen in the spring of 2014?  Nobody can tell at this point so it’s important to watch these two stoppers do their thing and push this team towards the glory hour.

Individually, Halak and Elliot aren’t perfect.  Together, as a tandem, they are nearly unbeatable.  The Blues have a good situation with their goaltending.  No friction or controversy.  Good old fashioned depth.  Enjoy it because other teams only envy it.

Thanks for reading.  Reach me at buffa82@gmail.com or @buffa82 on Twitter.  

Photo Credit-www.stltoday.com

Taking A Look At The Blues


Now that the sting of the Cards World Series loss has started to evaporate and the Rams are in decline mode this season, I can look at this hockey team up the street on 14th and Clark with 100 % focus.  Sure, we have heard these kind of bells and whistles before but once again the Note are riding high to start a season.   After disposing of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at Scottrade, the Blues are 11-2-2.   One of their best starts to a season in franchise history and something to make the sudden sourness of St. Louis sports fade away for a little while this month.   At the beginning of October things were rocking in St. Louis sports.  The Cards were headed to postseason play with a title in their vision and the Rams were looking decent so far in their season.   A month later, the Birds fell flat in Boston and lost a painful World Series and Sam Bradford tore up his knee and sent the Rams season spiraling downward into “Draft Watch’ oblivion.  However, the Blues have fired off a series of impressive wins this season and showed a resilience and full team ability to win games.   Let’s talk about a few things, including that Alex Steen guy.

Steen Breakout.  Suddenly, the NHL network knows this guy’s name along with the city of St. Louis.  The Canadian who came over to St. Louis in a trade for Lee Stempniak from Toronto right around Thanksgiving in 2008, Steen has been an energetic spark plug for the team on both ends of the ice since.   This year, though, he is becoming something else.  A goal scoring threat.  A legit net blaster.   Through 15 games, he has 14 goals.   In 40 games last season, he had 8.   His highest total in his career came in 2009-2010 with the Blues when he sunk 24 goals in 68 games.  It’s safe to say the man is something else this season and no it is not all luck.   Steen is more aggressive and getting his nose dirty in the forecheck every shift and battling for pucks.  The man with the crooked nose is letting it all go and it’s effort and the ability to shoot the puck that is making him find the back of the net.   A player can have all the talent and skill in the world but if they are timid with the puck, few goals will find their way back to their stick.  Steen is getting good feeds from David Backes and T.J. Oshie and firing on goal and looking pretty accurate.  While most of the team sends lawn darts to the back of the boards or off the post, Steen is showing more accuracy.  He won’t continue to score at this pace so don’t lose a best friend over a fantasy hockey trade just yet.   Appreciate it while it lasts and understand it is not blind luck.   Steen is coming into his own as a complete hockey player and a man I liked ever since he put the note on his chest.  It’s nice when success happens to a good guy and someone who has paid his NHL dues.

Steady As They Go In Net.  Going into the season, the Blues had goaltending depth unlike most NHL teams.   Carrying two goalies capable of playing well in the clutch in Jaro Halak and Brian Elliot, they also held the silver bullet down on the farm in Jake Allen.   The two vets know the team will eventually belong to the kid, so they aren’t wasting their time raising their stock this year.   Halak is 9-2-1 with a 2.19 goals against average and Elliot is 2-0-1 with a 2.05 goals against average.  Each goalie has a save percentage of 92 percent.   They don’t throw every game on their back and carry it home.  They support their fellow skaters, make decent saves, a few great ones and collect the W.  Each player is playing in a walk season so it’s the best possible situation for a team holding onto young blood while the older wolves duke it out in net.  Halak and Elliot are both 28 years older and looking for work next season so don’t expect them to settle down any time soon.  Each has a chip on their shoulder.  Halak’s is his easy ability to get hurt and miss a significant amount of time.  This is a talented Slovak who has only played a high of 57 games in a season in his time here in St. Louis.  Halak made his name with excellent play in the 2009-2010 Eastern Conference Finals when he took over for Carey Price and nearly carried the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup final.   As a Blue, he has been solid yet far too vulnerable.   Elliot is a great backup who can shine for periods of time as a starter yet runs into a wall in the playoffs and also can falter easily.  Two goalies with different styles holding the fort this season will be interesting.  So far, so good.

The Slow Developing Big Guys.  We can only hope Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund find their footing and begin to pitch in this season.  They have 3 goals and 10 points between them after 15 games and while that is a small sample size, the icebreaking fact is these two players can go very cold for a long stretch.  Stewart can get aggressive and be a table setter at times and Bergie is a big body around the net, but these two well paid lads have to kick it up a notch.   Straighten out the shots and put them in the net.   Be the goal scorers this team pays you to be.   You two saw what happened to David Perron right?   We traded him for a guy whose name no one knows or can properly pronounce.  Just an alert section.

The Reaves Sessions.  It’s been a long time since this team had an enforcer who could actually play and handle a puck.   Ryan Reaves is a fine 4th line grinder who can smash someone’s teeth in and finish a beautiful play in front of the net.  Tonight, after picking a fight and winning against the Penguins tough guy, Reaves crashed the net all night and pulled off the most wicked tip in I have seen this year.   A goal that gave the Blues a 1-0 lead.   First, Reaves supplied the team with a pair of testicles and finished it with a go ahead goal.  Cam Janssen, Tony Twist, Kelly Chase, Reed Low and D.J. King weren’t known for touching the puck much less handling it.   Reaves is impressing me every night.  I have always had a soft spot for enforcers.   This guy is making my stand easy to make.

What To Make Of This Start?  The same as you do with Steen’s fast start.  Appreciate it while preparing for reality to hit soon enough.  The Blues have a problem of taking bad penalties in their offensive zone and can take periods of hockey off and leave their goalie hanging out to dry.   Like every great team, the Blues will hit a wall.  It’s how they react to that fall and move on from it that will determine their spot in the standings come April.   Hockey is so different than baseball or football.   You don’t play every day but there are areas where you play 3 games in 5 nights and need to sustain a level of play.   As head coach Ken Hitchcock(in his first full season as the skipper) pointed out, the Blues can’t afford to have too many passengers on their team.  Free loaders failing to make a dent and do their part(hello Stewie and Bergie).   Everyone on this team has to be ready to go and contribute.  Tonight, David Backes and T.J. Oshie may not have shown up in the goals or assists column but they played their asses off.   Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester had a great game and took Sidney Crosby out of the equation.   Sidney remains scoreless against the Blues in his tremendous career.  Vladimir Sobotka continues to build his versatile legend around Scottrade by being a man who can kill a penalty or fill in on the second line and put together an offensive rush while throwing his 170 pounds into any size opposing player.  The Blues are made or broken by players like Sobotka.   Role players.  How long will this last?   That depends on health, scheduling and this team’s ability to trade the #1 star of the night each game.   One thing is for sure.  Once again, as the holidays near, the St. Louis Blues will be a force to reckon with in the Western Conference and have the roster to make a serious run at a Stanley Cup championship.  Hold off on giving Steen the Hart Trophy and making the Conference Champions shirts for now.  Let’s just enjoy this fine stretch of hockey that the Blues are playing.

Thanks for staying,

Dan Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter

Photo Credit-www.timesunion.com




A Stream of Unfiltered Prose

Now that the Cards blog is out, the gym is done, food is down and the body has been rebooted, allow me to fire out a random dose of material.  I can spin yarn about a various amount of topics and dig a little deep when required so consider this your afternoon dose of Buffa.   First, a little baseball news.

*The decision to start Lance Lynn in Game 4 is peculiar and makes me question Mike Matheny’s motives for Shelby Miller in the NLCS.   Lynn threw 29 pitches last night in 2 innings and got the win and now will be asked to head back to the mound on Tuesday for Game 4 when Miller is completely rested and ready to roll.   Let’s look at it this way.  Lance Lynn has worked out of the pen and as we saw last night, can do well there.  Miller has never been asked to come out of the pen on a regular basis and is a much more effective starter.  When Lynn worked last night, I figured Miller was set for Game 4.   If this is an innings limit matter, save me the analysis.   Miller has plenty left in the gas tank and doesn’t need to be shut down or limited.  You see how that went for Strasburg after his Tommy John Surgery.   Why rest and limit young pitchers?  Michael Wacha seems to be doing just fine.  Is there a problem with Miller that we don’t know of or is Matheny showing tough love or what the hell is happening?   Lynn coming out in relief and starting four days later isn’t arm threatening but makes me wonder further about Miller’s status.  He pitched one inning in Game 2 against Pittsburgh a week ago and hasn’t pitched since.  Why do managers always like to play mind games and withhold reasons?  We’ve followed your team for 6 months and deserve a reason.  If Matheny is so loyal to his young players, what is wrong with Shelby Miller?  Don’t answer too quick.  Matheny takes his thoughts one word at a time.  I’ve supported Matheny and defended him for months.  Just want to know what’s going on in his head.

*Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez, the last two men to beat Manny Pacquaio, step into the ring tonight to wage war on each other.  Classic boxing match between two guys on an emotional high but still seeking more.   Bradley won a ridiculous decision over Pacquiao but impressed me and fight pundits more when he survived a vicious battle with Russian power punching machine Ruslan Provodnikov.  After getting knocked down and wobbled, Bradley recovered, exchanged blows and fired at will and won a controversial decision.   We all know what Marquez did last.   A little less than a year ago, Marquez went toe to toe with long time nemesis Pac-Man and scored a one punch knockout win.   After three close fights, Marquez left nothing to chance and knocked out Pac cold with one punch.   He saved himself in that fight because Manny was bloodying Juan’s face and busted his nose open.   In my mind, those two men deserve to fight again because of how well Pacquaio was fighting before getting stupid and because they produce such great fights.  That’s for later discussion.   Who wins the fight tonight?  You have two counter punchers who have been to war and made it out alive.   Marquez is 40 years old but fighting like he’s 30.   Bradley is still undefeated(wrongfully) and hungry.   I am going with Marquez because he is too smart and so agile in the ring these days that I think he will be able to control the action in the ring.   Both men can dish and receive and keep coming but JMM is the better boxer and can bang in the middle if needed.  Bradley will be overly aggressive and try to hunt Marquez down and we know what happens there.   I don’t expect a knockout but I think Marquez wins on 2 cards and takes Bradley’s belt.  If Pacquiao defeats Brandon Rios next month, he more than likely gets the winner of this match.  This will be a spirited, action packed and entertaining fight tonight.

*I am eager to see Captain Phillips and will do so this coming week.   The true story starring Tom Hanks as a ship captain who sees his rig overtaken by Somali Pirates is supposed to be one of the better films of the year and I want to see what’s really there.  First, I will address something about the movie’s director, the great Paul Greengrass(who helmed the last two Bourne films), taking some liberty with the true story.   Certain ship mates of Phillips have come out and said the movie paints him as a hero too much.   Well, to that, I say this, loud and clear….IT’S A FREAKING MOVIE.  Make believe, full of actors and made with a budget.  Why do people fail to recognize that just because a film says based on a true story does it mean every little detail will be flushed out perfectly on the big screen.   It’s called creative freedom and a cinematic process of taking something real(actors, story) and turning it into a watchable film.   No one wants to watch something boring.  This is NOT a documentary with interviews and flashbacks(like a movie that opened this weekend called The Summit, about 18 mountain climbers taking on the K2 mountain).  It is a movie, pure and simple.   Phillips wrote a book about his experience and the movie takes its cue from that point of view.  If the crew doesn’t like it, they can get their own movie funded and produced.   Until then, I will watch and enjoy the captain’s version of the story and not worry about fact checking.

*The Blues are 3-0 but don’t get excited.  Chastise me for saying this but last season we opened fast out of the gate and then hit a brick wall.    I like this Blues team and I like Jaro Halak getting the reins this season in a walk year but I will not lose my view of the past.  You got a talented bunch of people here.   Tarasenko is back.   Alexander Steen and Chris Stewart.  David Backes already has two goals.   Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester are a solid defensive duo.   New guys Derek Roy and Brendan Morrow are fine veteran additions.   Brian Elliot is ready to go and will start soon.  Ken Hitchcock isn’t satisfied and who would be in their first full season?  My point is take it easy and go game to game.   Hockey is a brutally inconsistent game and can snap a good mood with one bad bounce.  A few quick thoughts on the Zig Zag Kings.

-I like Halak as the starter bc when healthy he is a great goaltender. Most shutouts, playoff able and a true gamer.

-The Bou-Pietro combo on defense is one of the best in the NHL. Smart stretch passer and a competent leader on the other side.

-When he is on, the baby jesus smooth hands of Chris Stewart are as efficient as any winger in the league.

-Big fan of Ryan Reaves. He can skate, play, exist on the ice for a role AND…pound the shit out of players.

-TJ Oshie is still a Blue because he’s cheap, versatile and is capable of wow plays and doesn’t flop like Perron.

The Blues are once again built to contend and are as talented up and down the roster as Chicago, who they beat in a brutal and exciting final second battle on Wednesday.   They can have a great regular season but won’t have everybody’s belief until they prove to be as strong in the playoffs.   Touche Note!

*This just in.  Hanley Rameriz is sitting out today due to his ribs being sore from Joe Kelly drilling him last night.   Oh poor little Hanley.  Roy Hobbs played with a bullet lodged in his rib cage in the Natural.   Come on baby Hanley.   I wonder if we can get Chris Carpenter to make him piss his pants again.  Skip Schumacher is in for Andre Ethier so the Dodgers look a little naked today.  Go Cards!

*Charlie Hunman, who is great on FX’s Sons of Anarchy as Jax Teller, has abruptly pulled out of Fifty Shades of Grey, a highly erotic and wildly popular sex novel that is being brought to the big screen.   The controversial role of Christian Grey, who liked to spice things up in the bedroom and started dating a young innocent woman, wasn’t for just ANY actor.   Hunman took it on, but dropped it today apparently due to his overloaded TV schedule.  He also could be doing Pacific Rim 2, a monster blockbuster which propelled his name this past summer above the ranks of television stars.   I like Charlie but find myself happy for him and his future for pulling out of a role that may have twisted his career up.  No offense to the guy who does play Grey, but he needs to be more of a nobody to fully inhabit the role.  Just my three cents.

*Music to listen to.   The Heavy, the British band that put out the well known and frequently used track, “How Do You Like Me Now”.   They have a solid collection of bluesy rocking tunes that carry a shade of pop and jazz.   Look for their song Short Change Hero.  Good stuff.

*The Rams scored an ugly layup victory over the hapless Jaguars on Sunday.   Great, now they must go on the road and deal with a pissed off Houston Texans team.   Good luck.  Another test for a team that is 2-3 yet showing as many signs of ugly as they do of progress.   What will Bradford do this week and if he is healthy I think Zac Stacy deserves 20 carries.  Against a bad defense, he rushed 14 times for 78 yards but shows more promise than Darryl Richardson.   The defense will need to find a way to stop Andre Johnson, who is a gametime decision but even at 75 percent a decent threat.

What else?  That’s all I got.  It’s almost time for Game 2 of the National League Championship series and for my Cardinals to go up 2-0 in the series before heading west.   It’s time to take in a little baseball.

Thanks for staying,

Dan Buffa