Welcome to this week’s edition of the St. Louis Blues’ 3 Up, 3 Down, a weekly column released each week detailing ups and downs of the week that was.
The St. Louis Blues finally kicked off their regular season on Saturday, Oct. 15, taking on a dangerous, yet struggling team in the Columbus Blue Jackets (now 0-3-0). The Blue Jackets have gotten off to a rough start this season, losing their first two games by a combined score of 9-3. In doing so, they lost star winger Patrik Laine for the next 3-4 weeks due to an elbow sprain. The Blues took advantage of his absence and handed the Blue Jackets their third loss of the season.
Plus One: Blues Handle Blue Jackets
As I mentioned above, the Blues got their season off on the right foot with a solid 5-2 victory over the Blue Jackets. Vladimir Tarasenko scored two goals, while Pavel Buchnevich, Ivan Barbashev, and Jake Neighbours each contributed one goal apiece. Goaltender Jordan Binnington stopped 23 of 25 shots faced (.920 save percentage) en route to earning his first win of the season.
The second line (Buchnevich – Thomas – Tarasenko) and the third line (Neighbours – Brayden Schenn – Barbashev) contributed all of the scoring. Buchnevich got things going with a power play (PP) goal with 14:55 left in the first period. Tarasenko scored just 1:05 into the second period to make it 2-0. The Blue Jackets quickly tied it up at 2-2 shortly after. Barbashev scored what proved to be the game-winner (3-2) about halfway through the third period with a shot from the slot and Neighbours followed up shortly after with a nice backhander to make it 4-2. Tarasenko added a wrister late to seal the game at 5-2.
Minus One: No Points for Top Line
Granted it was only one game, but it was slightly disappointing to see the team’s top line of Brandon Saad, Ryan O’Reilly, and Jordan Kyrou fail to register a point between the three of them. In all, they combined for five total shots on goal (Kyrou: 3; Saad: 2; O’Reilly: 0) and had a combined plus/minus (+/-) of -4 (Kyrou: -2; Saad: -1; O’Reilly: -1). Yes, it’s a very small – almost minuscule – sample size of one game. The Blues are hopeful this unit can put it together here in the next few weeks before head coach Craig Berube has to think about shuffling the deck in search of production.
Plus Two: Toropchenko’s Remarkable Return
Forward Alexey Toropchenko had surgery on his shoulder in the offseason and was originally given an estimated return window of December. Up until about two weeks ago, although it had been mentioned that his recovery was ahead of schedule, the plan was still to have him begin the season on the injured reserve until he was medically cleared. Toropchenko had been hard at work rehabbing his shoulder all summer and remained with the team and its trainers all throughout the process.
He began testing his shoulder about a week ago in one-on-one drills with Brayden Schenn. After having no setbacks during training camp, even with zero preseason games under his belt, head coach Craig Berube felt comfortable enough inserting Toropchenko into the opening night lineup. Toropchenko did not disappoint, registering five hits in his 11:33 of ice time, and provided exactly what the Blues needed from him on their fourth line.
Minus Two: Brown Remains Down, Pitlick Around
In injury news, center Logan Brown remains sidelined with an upper-body injury. According to the team, his recovery is taking much more time than anticipated. The exact injury suffered and its extent remains a mystery to those outside of the club. Coach Berube had this to say about Brown’s recovery before the season opener:
“He had a great start to camp and it’s an unfortunate injury. He’ll be back, he’s just got to heal up. We’ll get him on the ice as soon as we can and get him working again and get him back up to speed,”(from ‘Blues notebook: Recovery from upper-body injury has been slow for Logan Brown’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/15/2022).
In what seems to be a looming move, forward Tyler Pitlick has been skating with the team. If you’ll remember, Pitlick was brought in on the basis of a professional tryout (PTO), but was injured in the preseason and subsequently released. But now it appears that, though nothing is official, an agreement is soon to be made between the veteran forward and the Blues that may put him on the active roster – if and when an injury designation is made for Logan Brown.
Plus Three: Blues Inaugural Hall of Fame Class
With as many great players as the Blues have had throughout their run as a franchise, it’s hard to believe that they haven’t had their Hall of Fame until now. With the team announcing the news, they introduced the fanbase to their inaugural class: Bernie Federko, Bob Gassoff, Brett Hull, Dan Kelly (voice of the Blues for 21 years), Al MacInnis, Barclay Plager, Bob Plager, Chris Pronger, Sid Solomon, Jr. & Sid Solomon III (Blues’ original owners), and Brian Sutter. All of these were deemed “automatic inductions” by the organization, with each of these players already having their numbers retired and honored in the rafters of the Enterprise Center.
Members of the Blues Hall of Fame Selection Committee also selected four more franchise legends to join those mentioned above: Red Berenson, Scotty Bowman, Glenn Hall, and Gary Unger. They’ll be honoring the 2022-23 class on Jan. 14, 2023, at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Minus Three: Just a Game
That’s it. Up to this point, the Blues have played a total of one game. When they take on the Kraken on Oct. 19 at 9:00 PM CST, the rest of the NHL will have combined to play 57 total games. No other team has played fewer than two games. While it’s true that in the end, this will not matter and every team will get in the same amount of games within the same window, but as a hockey fan it’s hard to watch the other 31 teams get so many games under their belt. Other teams are establishing who they’re going to be this season while the Blues have barely begun to scratch the surface.
On that note, we’ll wrap up this week’s edition of the Blues’ 3 Up, 3 Down. Here is the team’s upcoming schedule for the next seven days:
- Wednesday, Oct. 19 – at Seattle Kraken @ 9:00 PM CST
- Saturday, Oct. 22 – at Edmonton Oilers @ 3:00 PM CST
- Monday, Oct. 24 – at Winnipeg Jets @ 7:00 PM
As they embark on their first road trip of the season, the Blues will look to keep the good times rolling against the Seattle Kraken before they head to Edmonton to face Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Then a stop to visit the Winnipeg Jets and new head coach Rick Bowness will finish the six-day swing. We could be talking about the Blues having earned six to eight points by this time next week.
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Marcus Ashpaugh is a team writer at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues organization. He enjoys writing about the team at the NHL level as well as the prospects within the organization.