As we get closer to a hopeful return of the 2020 NHL playoffs, we have time to sit down and answer some St. Louis Blues questions from everyone around the hockey world.
Prospect talk to playoff talk and a whole lot more featured in this mailbag article.
What are your thoughts on Scott Perunovich? Is he ready for the big club? (@JoshuaBellTHW on Twitter)
I think that Scott Perunovich is one of the best offensively gifted defensemen in the Blues’ system in a long time. You look at what he did at Minnesota-Duluth, winning titles and the Hobey Baker in 2019-20, he’s a special player.
He scored 20 goals in three seasons for Minnesota-Duluth and added 85 assists – elite numbers for a defenseman.
As for him being ready for the big club, I think he is, especially for the 2020-21 season. With the uncertainty surrounding next season, maybe that changes something for him, but I doubt it.
His offensive ability is at an NHL level already. He could play a Quinn Hughes-type role for the Blues: an offensive horse, and a good-enough defensive player.
Even if the Blues can retain captain Alex Pietrangelo, I think Perunovich makes it into the lineup next season.
Who on the team do you think will most benefit from the long layoff headed into the playoffs? And who do you think might struggle returning to form? (@TwoGuysOneCup on Twitter)
The player that could benefit the most from the layoff is Vladimir Tarasenko, for multiple reasons. I know that he hasn’t played since October, but that should not be a long-term issue, he will likely be rusty at first.
But Tarasenko’s body is well rested now, and with the delay of the playoffs, he has had more than enough time to rest and recover. It isn’t like Tarasenko would be coming back into a situation where he is unfamiliar with the system – his return to form will depend on his durability.
I expect him to be at 100 percent when the playoffs begin. If he can give the Blues offense a boost with his goal scoring and overall skill, that makes this already elite team that much better.
As for the player that could struggle to return to form, I would go with David Perron, sadly. I believe in Perron and think he is one of the best forwards on the team, but I have a weird feeling about him.
He was at a rapid pace to lead the team in scoring by a lot, up until January or so. From Feb. 1 to the last game of the season, March 11, he scored two goals and five assists for seven points over a 19-game period. He still ended up with 60 points in 71 games, but that last month and a half of the season was not good.
So with those stats being presented, I believe Perron could be prone to struggling in the playoffs. I hope I’m wrong, but I could see this being the case with him. He was not himself for the last 19 games of the season and it could be even harder to return to form when there haven’t been games in a very long time.
Robert Thomas or Tarasenko in the playoffs, who ya got? (@ChrisHaddadSD on Twitter)
As much as I would like to go with Tarasenko here, based on my answer above, I will take Robert Thomas. Thomas is set up to get revenge for not getting to finish the 2019 Stanley Cup Final after injury issues.
Thomas scored six points in 21 playoff games last year, and I would be shocked if he doesn’t have a better point-per-game pace this year. The growth we saw from him in the 2019-20 season was incredible, his chemistry with Jordan Kyrou, Tyler Bozak, and others was tremendous.
It does not matter what line he’s on, but I’d bet he will play with Bozak, which usually means lots of scoring chances for both. Thomas is the ultimate scoring chance creator, he will tally over 10 assists in the 2020 playoffs, book it.
In your opinion, who is the most underrated Blues player heading into the playoffs? (@AidanBatt on Twitter)
For this one, I will pick someone who had a very good season, Zach Sanford. Sanford scored 16 goals and 14 assists over 58 games in the 2019-20 season, a career year by far for the 25-year-old winger.
Even last season, he showed a lot of promise during the playoff run, scoring a goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final that solidified the victory. He had great chemistry with Perron and Ryan O’Reilly in parts of this season and last year’s postseason.
It’s unclear whether head coach Craig Berube will put Sanford with Perron and O’Reilly, but I think it would be smart to start the playoffs that way. He made some key passes to O’Reilly to score big goals in the Cup Final of 2019.
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I could truly see Sanford being a key goal scorer for the Blues if they want to make another big run. They would need him to be that guy, especially if he’s in a top-six role during the run.