Health and salary cap space are key components for a successful NHL season. The St. Louis Blues are struggling to manage both in 2021-22. Before their Thursday night rematch against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blues were informed that their starting goaltender, Jordan Binnington, was ineligible to play due to COVID-19 but also one of their top defensemen, Justin Faulk.
Blues Juggling COVID & Injuries
In the first round of a COVID-19 infection, the Blues lost forward Brandon Saad and then Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Clifford, Ville Husso, Niko Mikkola, and Torey Krug. They are now facing round two, which has sidelined Tyler Bozak, Jordan Binnington, and Justin Faulk, the ninth player to be held out of the lineup this season due to COVID-19.
“It’s nothing new for us. Obviously, we just hope he’s feeling good and healthy and doesn’t have too many side effects or anything. Obviously, second to that, we’ve just got to prepare like we normally do. ‘Huus’ has been playing great this year and he’s going to step in and do the job for us and we’re going to play good in front of him. Just like another situation that we’ve got to face with, deal with.”–Torey Krug
The Blues are keeping a positive mindset in the locker room as COVID-19 and injuries are not new for this team or even worth worrying about right now. However, it is something general manager Doug Amstrong has to deal with since the team is close to the cap limit and forwards James Neal and Klim Kostin are already on long-term injured reserve (LTIR).
Without their starting goaltender, the club recalled Charlie Lindgren from their American Hockey League (AHL) squad in Springfield, MA. If it wasn’t bad enough they lost Binnington, the organization couldn’t add Lindgren because of salary cap constrictions. He had to wait an extra day to join the club, and the Blues were also forced to use the Lightning’s emergency backup goaltender, Kyle Konin, a 23-year-old goaltender whose most recent experience was playing college hockey for Grand Valley State in 2019-20. Though the Blues did not need to use him, it’s part of a series of unfortunate events that have plagued this season.
Blues’ Road Ahead
After the Blues’ 4-2 loss in Tampa Bay, they turn their sights to the NHL’s top team, the Florida Panthers. They have a home-and-home series beginning in Florida on Saturday before they return to St. Louis for a four-game homestand. The club will also play the Detroit Red Wings and have a set of back-to-back games next weekend against the Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks.
With so many games ahead, they will have their work cut out for them now that they have lost six players nine days due to either injury or COVID-19. They are also waiting for David Perron to return after he suffered an upper-body injury against the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 26.
The Blues have played their last few games with 11 forwards and seven defensemen — a strategy never used beyond one or two games. Normally, the coaching staff would lean on veteran players to pick up the slack and divide the ice time evenly, and since the loss of Perron, Ivan Barbashev, Pavel Buchnevich, Ryan O’Reilly, and Brayden Schenn have each played between 18-21 minutes per night; an average of two minutes of additional ice time. With the games piling on top of each other, head coach Craig Berube will need to work some magic to ensure the team comes out of this difficult stretch in one piece.
Mike is a lifelong fan and enthusiast of the St. Louis Blues. The love of the game was passed down to him by his father and he has never looked back. Since the creation of his personal hockey blog in 2016, Mike has enjoyed spinning his own personal take and love of the game for anyone who wants to read or talk about it. He has enjoyed over a decade of fantasy sports championship wins and the not so fun losing and rebuilding seasons in dynasty leagues. Mike is a longtime fan and follower of not only the Blues, but of the Central or “Norris” division as a whole.