When the St. Louis Blues signed Paul Stastny to a four-year, $28 million deal on July 1, many believed it to be the best signing of free agency. After all, who else can say they bagged a No. 1 center just by plunking down money?
The Blues have tried to keep the hype down regarding the 28-year-old former Colorado Avalanche pivot saying they don’t want him to be “Superman”, but when you look back the Blues’ recent playoff failures the pressure to do well offensively is plain to see.
Check out how the Blues offense has ranked out in goals per-game in the postseason the past three seasons:
2013-14: 2.33 (14th out of 16 teams)
2012-13: 1.67 (15th)
2011-12: 2.22 (7th)
Safe to say 2011-12 was an odd year if scoring just over two goals per game was good, but the point here is St. Louis’ offense has not gotten it done. Part of the blame there is thanks to Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings for the two times they bumped out the Blues. Corey Crawford looked to be very beatable in the most recent playoffs for Chicago, but Ryan Miller managed to be worse.
Call it excuses or point at other issues that have come up in recent years, but there’s no doubt adding Stastny to the lineup should help alleviate some of the goal production questions.
In his last three full seasons (lockout-shortened season excepted), he’s been a 70+ point per-season player. He’s good for 20-30 goals on his own and sets up others. That should work great for St. Louis’ goal scorers Alex Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko, and David Backes.
In last season’s playoffs, Stastny was a beast for the Avalanche with 10 points in the seven game series loss to the Minnesota Wild. While facing Ilya Bryzgalov is a bit different than facing Quick or Crawford, the Blues would be giddy to see that kind of performance in the playoffs. At $7 million per season, they’re counting on it.
The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the San Jose Sharks in the first period of Game 1, no doubt about it.
Even so, the Sharks entered the middle frame down 2-0, and responded rather than shriveling up. They basically switched roles with the Penguins in the second period, ultimately tying things up 2-2.
The first goal was one Matt Murray would probably like back (even more than a goalie would want any goal back, mind you), as Tomas Hertl beat him five-hole for a power-play goal.
Witness the Sharks’ first-ever goal in a Stanley Cup Final:
Fittingly, a grizzled veteran and longtime face of the Sharks’ franchise tied it up, as Patrick Marleau made it 2-2 with a clever wraparound:
Which team will win the third period? Could we see overtime? Find out on NBC.
Yes, the St. Louis Blues fell short of the Stanley Cup Final, but they still broke some playoff hexes in 2015-16. Apparently Blues management saw enough to bring back Ken Hitchcock.
That’s the word from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos, who report that the Blues are expected to announce a one-year deal with the veteran head coach on Tuesday.
Friedman wonders if these one-year pacts (Hitchcock was on one for 2015-16 as well) may chase away other staffers:
When asked about these scenarios, Hitchcock seemed like he was in favor of experiencing a perpetual “contract year.”
“I scare myself because I think if I take long-term deal, I’m gonna get sloppy,” Hitchcock told Hockey Central at Noon and Sportsnet back in mid-May. “I want to stay on one-year deals.
For plenty of fans, it makes perfect sense to bring Hitchcock back after the Blues took steps forward.
Others wonder if Hitchcock’s style (which leans toward dump-and-chase and “gritty” hockey more than some other teams) may leave the Blues in the dust, however.
That’s a debate for a bar or a message board, yet one can see deeper logic in giving Hitchcock one more shot.
While the Blues have decisions to make – including what to do with free agent captain David Backes – the team is also structured to make another run. Brian Elliott, Jake Allen, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko all have deals that will expire after 2016-17, and each contract is a bargain.
If St. Louis believes that Hitchcock is the right fit for that personnel group, then it makes sense to give him another go.
Generally speaking, the strategic talk heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final focused on the San Jose Sharks’ deeper defense vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins’ blinding speed.
It’s very early, but so far: advantage Penguins.
Pittsburgh came roaring out of the gate in front of a boisterous Consol Energy Center crowd, but it took them a while to break through.
Once the Penguins did, they raced ahead to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals just 1:02 apart.
First, Bryan Rust kept his red-hot streak going with the 1-0 tally.
Moments later, Sidney Crosby made a beautiful pass to Conor Sheary to put the Penguins up two.
There were a few other moments in which the Sharks looked like they were really struggling with the Penguins’ speed, but Martin Jones made some saves that could be big if San Jose can gather its wits.
Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.
Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”
In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.
The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.
One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.