Blues Weekly: COVID List Grows, Brown, Cap Issues & More

The St. Louis Blues finished with a record of 1-1-1 in a tough week against two of the best teams in the NHL. Their record is now 12-8-4, giving them 28 points, remaining in a playoff spot for now. The Central Division is heating up now, and teams are coming alive, so the Blues must continue to get points.

St. Louis Blues Weekly Ryan O'Reilly David Perron
Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron (The Hockey Writers)

The adversity continued this week for the Blues, as they are without more starters, including their starting goaltender. Nothing on that front is new, as COVID issues have been rampant all season for this team. They have to battle through it and get points, which they did a solid job of this week.

Three Players Placed on the COVID-19 List

This time, it’s Tyler Bozak, Jordan Binnington, and Justin Faulk hitting the COVID list for the club. Three key players who do different things for this squad. Faulk has been the clear-cut best defenseman on the team this season, while Bozak has been a key two-way forward. It’s been up-and-down for Binnington, as Ville Husso has outplayed him, but he remains a key player for this team.

Related: Blues’ Injuries and COVID Situation Force Team to Search for Answers

Bozak went on the COVID list on Nov. 30, while Binnington and Faulk were listed on Dec. 2. It’s possible that these three players are out until the third week of December, as they’ll have to each miss 10 days total. The Blues have had trouble with COVID issues this season; players like Ryan O’Reilly, Brandon Saad, Torey Krug, and others have all been on the list and missed games. They’ll need players like Jake Walman and Dakota Joshua to step up in the absence of Bozak and Faulk.

They currently have a goaltending duo of Husso and Charlie Lindgren, who they called up from the American Hockey League (AHL). Lindgren had a record of 8-1-1 with a .925 save percentage (SV%); those are elite numbers. The Blues weren’t able to call Lindgren up for their second game with the Tampa Bay Lightning this week, so they enlisted the services of emergency goaltender Kyle Konin to serve as their backup.

Konin owns a goalie mask design business, lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and hasn’t played high-level hockey since 2018-19 with the Vermont Lumberjacks in the Eastern Hockey League (EHL). He never got to play for the Blues in this game, but it was a significant moment for Konin to suit up and be ready to go.

Logan Brown Scores in First Game as a Blue

St. Louis native Logan Brown made his first appearance as a Blue in their first game of the week against the Lightning. As a former first-round pick, he obviously has a lot of talent, and it’s been on display in his three games to start.

Logan Brown St. Louis Blues
Logan Brown, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

He’s been playing as a fourth-liner alongside Joshua and three defensemen since they’re playing with an extra defenseman due to cap issues and the injury to David Perron. Brown and Joshua have been really solid together; they were the duo for the Blues’ first goal against the Florida Panthers. I wonder if the Blues will separate them to reward Brown for his play, as he now has two goals in three games and has a plus/minus of plus-1.

He’s been playing extreme fourth-line minutes, which is under 10 minutes per game, but he is making a major impact. He could be here to stay, which would be a great sign for a player who has lacked confidence in his game throughout his short NHL career.

Salary Cap Issues Limiting Blues Roster

Despite being fully vaccinated, the Blues can’t get cap relief when players go onto the COVID list. This was agreed upon by both the league and players association. But with the number of players that have gone on the COVID list for them this season, you would think that they could get some help from the league, but they haven’t.

Right now, the Blues are playing 11 forwards and seven defensemen in each game with three players on the COVID list. They currently have zero cap space to call anybody up with Klim Kostin and James Neal on long-term injured reserve, which clears up about $1.6 million in space.

Klim Kostin St. Louis Blues
Klim Kostin, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images),

The bottom line is that the league needs to re-visit these policies and try to incentivize vaccinations. When a team is fully vaccinated and has issues with positive tests, they should get some form of cap relief (from ‘Blues Notebook: NHL says no emergency cap relief forthcoming,’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 6, 2021)

Two Blues Prospects on Preliminary U.S. WJC Roster

The 2022 World Junior Championships (WJC) will take place in Sweden in late December into the New Year. The Blues could have multiple prospects playing in them this year. Two prospects made the United States’ preliminary camp roster for the event, Tanner Dickinson and Dylan Peterson.

I had discussed the possibility of Dickinson making the U.S. roster with his phenomenal start in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), where he has 29 points in 22 games. A crafty center that produces points at a high level in junior hockey, he was the Blues’ fourth-round selection in the 2020 draft. He has a legitimate shot to make the final roster for the U.S., and I actually expect him to at this point.

As for Peterson, it’s not that big of a surprise to see him on this camp roster. He is a big, powerful center standing at 6-foot-4. He’s off to a solid start for Boston University, with 12 points in 16 games. He had six points in 16 games last season for BU, so he’s doubled both his goals and assists this season. He was the 86th overall pick in the 2020 draft for the Blues, so both of these prospects were drafted last year.

As for other Blues’ prospects in the WJC, it’s likely that Jake Neighbours is on Team Canada, and Simon Robertsson plays for the Swedish team. The Blues should have a solid presence in the WJC this year, which is different than in years past.

The Week Ahead

  • Tuesday: vs. Florida Panthers, 7 PM
  • Thursday: vs. Detroit Red Wings, 7 PM
  • Saturday: vs. Montreal Canadiens, 6 PM
  • Sunday: vs. Anaheim Ducks, 6 PM

This is a week where the Blues should get some points. They have a big challenge with the Panthers again and an Anaheim Ducks team that has given them issues over the last couple of seasons, but they need to get at least six points out of a possible eight this week. We’ll see if the Blues can find a way to improve their defensive coverage, as that has been a glaring issue in the past month.

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