It was an excellent week of hockey for the St. Louis Blues, going 3-0-0 over three teams that they should always beat. Their February schedule has come to a close, and they finished 6-1-1 during the month.
They are now 32-14-6, which is good for 70 points and second overall in the Western Conference. They only trail the Colorado Avalanche in the conference, who have an incredible 82 points. Either way, last week marked the regained confidence for many of the Blues’ most important players.
Binnington Bounces Back with Two Wins
It was great to see Jordan Binnington get two bounce-back victories this week, despite the competition, he was fantastic. He got his second shutout of the season, both of them coming against the Chicago Blackhawks, as the Blues finished the season with a 3-0-1 record over their rival.
He made 55 saves on 56 shots this week, including four shorthanded saves in those games behind a lethal Blues penalty kill. He had given up 18 goals, and made 84 saves in the three games before these two, so this signals his return to confident play. The competition wasn’t all that great, but there are plenty of quality playmakers and goal scorers on both the Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers. It’s always been a tough game for the Blues with the Flyers, but they took care of business on the back of Binnington.
Another huge factor is that these were two road games, which is where the Blues have had some struggles this season, but they got points in all of their February road games. If Ville Husso can keep up his level of play this season with a save percentage (SV%) of .935, this should make both of them better and they can feed off of the competition. It was a great week for Binnington, and it will be interesting to see head coach Craig Berube handle his goaltending choices moving forward.
Thomas Sets Career High in Assists
What a season it has been for Robert Thomas, whose playmaking ability continues to drive a lot of offense in every game for this team. He’s the perfect top-six center for the Blues behind Ryan O’Reilly, he’s a terrific passer and solid skater with the ability to be a two-way forward. He’s come along nicely this season and hasn’t had many injury issues, which is different from the past few seasons.
He now has 34 assists and 41 points in 45 games, his previous career-high in assists was 32 during the 2019-20 season. He had 42 points in 66 games in 2019-20, so he will soon get his career-high in points, in fewer games as well. His chemistry with Vladimir Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich has been off the charts, they seem to produce goals in every game.
Related: Blues Weekly: Armstrong, Tarasenko, Perunovich & More
The current quality of the Blues’ players under the age of 25 is nearing an all-time high. Players like Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Klim Kostin, and even Scott Perunovich have given hope for the future of this franchise. Thomas and Kyrou have been stars, while Kostin and Perunovich have been solid and show flashes of potential brilliance. The breakout season of Thomas continues as the Blues continue to play well.
Sundqvist Injured Against the Sabres
Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist suffered a lower-body injury in the win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night at the Enterprise Center. There is always major concern with a lower-body injury for him, coming off of a 2020-21 season cut short due to a torn ACL.
It sure seemed like Sundqvist would play in their Sunday matchup with the Blackhawks, but he did not suit up despite the quote from Berube above. The MRI was good though, which means this should not be a long-term injury and he could likely be ready to play in a game this week.
Sundqvist has continued to be a key part of the bottom-six forward group for the Blues, with 15 points in 35 games this season. He and Tyler Bozak combined with Kostin on that fourth line have been solid for quite some time. He’s a massive part of the penalty kill and will always have a spot in this lineup.
Possible Trade Target in Seattle
With the trade deadline approaching and happening on March 21, the Blues need to fix their defense, which has been a nagging issue for most of the season. An ideal scenario is a veteran defenseman with a salary cap hit that isn’t outrageous. I think Seattle Kraken captain Mark Giordano could be a perfect fit for the right price.
His production has been solid this season for the expectations on a poor Kraken team, with 23 points in 48 games. He’s still only three seasons removed from a Norris trophy campaign when he was with the Calgary Flames in 2018-19. He is exactly the type of steady defenseman and leader that could fit with this current group in St. Louis.
The price to acquire him could use some salary cap gymnastics from Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, but he has struck surprising deals before. A couple of picks combined with a prospect and the contract of Marco Scandella could get the wheels moving on this one. They could use other avenues with draft picks for retained salary with the Kraken, but that would surprise me given the Blues’ recent success in the middle round drafting. Either way, Giordano is a perfect fit for the Blues, and there is no doubt about it.
The Week Ahead
- Wednesday: at New York Rangers, 6:30 PM
- Saturday: at New York Islanders, 11:30 AM
- Sunday: at New Jersey Devils, 12 PM
It’s a trip to the tri-state area on the east coast for the Blues, with stops in New York City, the gateway to Long Island, and New Jersey. The Blues are 0-1-0 against the Devils this season and have yet to see the Islanders or Rangers this season. They visit Madison Square Garden on TNT in a huge national television game against one of the league’s best in Igor Shesterkin and the Rangers. The Islanders have had a down season, but they are always tough to play against. It’s a huge week with more tests for the Blues as they kick off the month of March.