The St. Louis Blues went 2-1-0 in their final week of games prior to the Christmas break, sit at 17-9-5, and won’t play again until at least Dec. 27 due to the COVID outbreaks in the NHL.
The team is playing as solid as it has played all year, which is impressive considering the number of lineup changes it has made due to injuries, as well as COVID issues. I expect them to get more healthy over the next seven days off, and it could be more than seven days if the NHL wants to break until the New Year.
Lindgren Stays Hot
The Charlie Lindgren story may be the best in the league this season, he came into the organization as the number four goaltender and has been fantastic in all of his opportunities in both the American Hockey League (AHL) and NHL this season.
Since becoming the starter due to Jordan Binnington being on the COVID list, Lindgren is 5-0-0 with a save percentage (SV%) of .958. He has fully taken advantage of this opportunity, and could find himself in a bigger role next season unless the Blues change their plans to keep him around over Ville Husso, which I just don’t see happening.
Either way, I couldn’t be more thrilled for Lindgren, considering he was let go by the Montreal Canadiens and the Blues appear to have struck gold with him as of now.
Toropchenko Makes NHL Debut
Alexei Toropchenko, who was the Blues’ fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft, made his NHL debut in a victory over the Dallas Stars. He has now played in three games and hasn’t registered a point, but his potential has shown. He’s a brilliant skater with lots of size, he has nine hits in his first three games. He’s another Blues prospect that debuts and shows that he belongs.
I’m not sure how long he will stay in St. Louis, but he’s certainly a solid depth piece for this organization. He fits the style with that size, and has shown some skill with 10 goals in two shortened AHL seasons. Despite being drafted multiple years ago, he is only 22 years old and has room to continue to develop, as he will likely be moved back to the AHL when the Blues get healthier.
Faulk, Bozak, and Binnington All Return
Faulk picked up right where he left off prior to his COVID absence, and is still the best defenseman on this team. He’s played heavy minutes and has further built his chemistry with Torey Krug in his return. It’s safe to say that Krug and Faulk are the most complete and dynamic defensive pairing that this team has.
Bozak continues to be a solid center for this team, he plays defensive minutes and kills penalties, the Blues have killed off 18 of their last 19 penalties. He may not be much of a point producer anymore, but he is worthy of being in the lineup with his defensively based, two-way game.
Binnington was solid and shaky at the same time in his return against the Winnipeg Jets, which ended in a 4-2 loss. He took a late delay of game penalty for taking his mask off, and that ended up as a power-play goal to give the Jets the 4-2 lead. I would have ridden the hot hand with Lindgren and continued to give Binnington rest, but head coach Craig Berube went a different way. My guess is that Lindgren could start in the Blues next game, but it’s unknown at this point.
Injured Players Close to Returning
Even though the road trip was cut short after one game, the Blues had five injured players on it. This obviously indicates that they are close to returning and we could see at least one of them back in the lineup soon.
I would assume that Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and Robert Thomas will all return within a few games of each other, as they seem to be on similar timelines. It will be interesting to see how the Blues handle their defensive unit and goaltending situation when Jake Walman and Ville Husso return.
My guess is that Walman will be a scratch when he returns, the Blues defensive unit is solid right now. As for Husso, they could have to make the difficult decision of sending Lindgren back to the Springfield Thunderbirds. Either way, getting healthy is the top priority for most teams and it’s no different for the Blues.
Sundqvist to COVID List
After playing 16 games in his return from his major knee injury, Sundqvist was placed on the COVID list and has missed one game to this point. He’s had some inconsistencies in his return, but he remains an important piece on this team.
I truly believe that some of the issues that Sundqvist has had in his return is the fact that he isn’t playing with Ivan Barbashev, those two had been inseparable prior to this season. I don’t blame Berube for this, as Barbashev is having a breakout season with 25 points in 31 games. Sundqvist has struggled with inconsistent linemates, which isn’t surprising, but he will be fine.
Blues Done Until After Christmas
The Blues now have at least seven days off after their 4-2 loss to the Jets, they are scheduled to play the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 27. There won’t be a Blues Weekly piece next week as I take a break for the holidays unless there is major Blues-related news, Happy Holidays, everyone.
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Ethan Carter has been writing at The Hockey Writers for over three years now. He also co-hosts The Blue Note Podcast for the Bleav Network, which covers the Blues and the NHL multiple times per week.