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The Puck Stops Here

The First Place Team

Currently the first place team in the NHL is the St Louis Blues.  They have a 43-25 record with seven regulation tie points.  This gives them 93 points, which is a one point lead over the Vancouver Canucks.

St Louis is a surprise first place team.  They started off poorly enough that after thirteen games they changed coaches.  At that point St Louis was second last in the West Conference.  The turnaround under Ken Hitchcock has been tremendous.  That is why I pick him as the coach of the year so far.

When we look at the Blues overall talent, they may be a playoff team, but they are not the most talented team in the league.  Their goaltending has been very strong this season with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.  Both are having career best seasons.  Elliott is exceeding his past level of play significantly.  He had almost played himself out of the league before his shot in St Louis

Their goaltending numbers have been improved by strong team defensive play.  This is a hallmark of any Ken Hitchcock coached team.  Alex Pietrangelo is a good young defenceman who is well on his way to becoming an NHL star, but he is yet to appear in an All Star Game or be a contender for any NHL awards.  He has the potential that he may get to that level but isn’t there yet.  Kevin Shattenkirk and Barret Jackman are good defencemen, but they too are not stars.  St Louis has had very good success on their defence this season, but they are not the most talented group of players around.  Their young stars show potential, but several teams have better groups of defencemen.

Dave Backes and TJ Oshie are their top scoring forwards.  They have 47 points each.  They are solid two-way players, but as top scorers on a team they are lacking.  Sixty-two players in the league have more points than they do. 

St Louis is a disciplined team playing a strong defensive system.  The system has been brought in by coach Ken Hitchcock.  He has turned this team around this season and is the main reason they are in first place right now.  The Blues do not have the talent of a typical first place team.  As such, they might be prone for an upset come playoff time.

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Comments

Avatar

I think you’re underrating the Blues’ talent. Last time Andy McDonald had a healthy season, he hit 70 points. Oshie, Perron, and Backes are all good bets for 50 given health, and Berglund probably is, too. Stewart and Steen are 20-goal types given good ice time (which they’re not necessarily getting because St. Louis has plenty of forwards).

I think you’re also underrating Pietrangelo. He’s the second-best D from 2008 right now, I think. He’ll get to 40 points and, with a hot streak, 50. Jackman and Polak are extremely sound in their own end.

They may not have stars (though I’d say Pietrangelo is only missing the reputation), but they’re deep and disciplined.

Posted by Ralph on 03/09/12 at 04:25 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

St Louis has depth.  They are a playoff calibre team.  They do not have the talent of a first place team.  First place teams have depth and frontline all star calibre talent.  St Louis lacks the frontline all star calibre talent.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/09/12 at 04:28 PM ET

DrewBehr's avatar

If they “don’t have the talent of a first place team”, then why are they in first place in their division, conference and league?

They are undoubtedly surprising team, but just because they don’t have 1 big name up front doesn’t discredit them. It’s a TEAM sport. They play an aggressive game and produce offense on all 4 lines, in addition to having veteran presence in the locker room that they did not have last season. With the injury to Raask in Boston, their goaltending duo is second to none in my opinion.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them make a deep playoff run.

Posted by DrewBehr from The Mitten on 03/09/12 at 06:46 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Drew

The standings do not always represent the talent levels of teams.  Some teams overachieve and others underachieve.  St Louis is overachieving.  Better teams exist in the NHL today.  These teams may be behind them in the standings, but they are still better teams.

It seems your argument against my claim about how good the Blues are is look at the standings, they are in first.  I don’t deny that.  I just argue the standings are not always the brest representation of how good a team is.  Last year’s St Louis team had largely the same roster and missed the playoffs.  Ken Hitchcock gets a lot of credit for their improvement, but there is no way this is the best team in the NHL in terms of talent.  Several other teams exist that are better hockey teams and should eliminate them in the playoffs.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/09/12 at 06:54 PM ET

tuxedoTshirt's avatar

True, Puck.  But they have been remarkably consistent for over-acheivers.

Posted by tuxedoTshirt from the Home of the 1937 World Champions on 03/09/12 at 06:56 PM ET

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No, the blues don’t have any players that are constantly making headlines or leading the league…except their goalies. However, that has nothing to do with it. Look at Tampa Bay, for example. They have the hottest goal scorer in the league but odds are against them making the playoffs. What makes the Blues so good is the fact that every single player goes out to win and play his ass off every night. And on that note, who do the Rangers have that is out there blowing away the competition other than their goalie? They win because they play as a team just like the Blues. I would take depth over another all-star any day. The fact is, it’s late in the season and the Blues are still winning. To say they don’t deserve to be where they are is asinine.

Posted by Chad from Kansas City on 03/09/12 at 06:56 PM ET

Avatar

To say they don’t have star caliber players is ridiculous! The only reason people don’t talk about the blues players is because they aren’t a hugely popular team. Everyone talks about the goalies from Boston and Nashville and Detroit, but why no focus on the best goal tending duo in the league? Both of the Blues goalies have 6 shutouts!

Posted by Richie on 03/09/12 at 07:01 PM ET

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Who are these teams that are supposedly better in your mind? Detroit and Vancouver? The games between the two have been close and if you saw the last game in Vancouver, you would know that the Canucks had a tough time beating the Blues even though the Blues were playing the 6th of a 7 game road trip and had played the night before in Edmonton.

Posted by Brendano on 03/09/12 at 07:05 PM ET

tuxedoTshirt's avatar

I’m a Nucks fan and I think we could beat the Blues in 7 games, by the skin of our teeth, with 4 or 5 injuries.  And I sure would love home ice.  Pretty scary team here.

Posted by tuxedoTshirt from the Home of the 1937 World Champions on 03/09/12 at 07:11 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Who are these teams that are supposedly better in your mind? Detroit and Vancouver?

Yes Detroit and Vancouver are teams that are better than St Louis.  I wouldn’t want to judge which of two teams is better by looking at one regular season game the two teams play against each other.  Anything can happen in one game.  After all, yesterday we saw Columbus beat Los Angeles and Ottawa beat the New York Rangers.  Nobody should be arguing that the teams that won are better than the teams they beat and neither of those two games were partcularly close ones.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/09/12 at 07:28 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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