On Thursday, a new streak begins for Jay Bouwmeester.
Bouwmeester, who’s missed the last eight games with a groin ailment, will play for the first time since Nov. 22 when the Blues take on the Isles tonight in St. Louis.
Getting back is a big deal for the 31-year-old rearguard, who had his iron man streak snapped with his groin injury. Prior to getting hurt, Bouwmeester had played in 737 consecutive contests — at the time, it was the longest active streak among major professional sports, and the fifth-longest in NHL history.
In other Blues news, Thomas Steen will return to the lineup tonight after missing the last two games with an injury. Captain David Backes will play with a full shield after taking a puck to the face on Monday, and Carl Gunnarsson has been placed on IR with a concussion, stemming from the hit he took from New York’s Anders Lee.
Calling him “The Cal Ripken Jr. of Hockey” is a stretch, but Jay Bouwmeester’s run of 737 consecutive games played remains impressive. It also might end on Sunday.
The speedy blueliner suffered a lower-body injury on Saturday, and signs point to him missing the St. Louis Blues’ game against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. If that happens, it will end the longest active “Ironman” streak in professional sports, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The 31-year-old told the Post-Dispatch that he doesn’t want to play merely to keep the streak alive.
“I think if you’re ever at a point where you can’t play and you’re going to be a detriment out there, then you’re not going to play,” Bouwmeester said to the Post-Dispatch on Friday, the day before the injury.
“I’ve never really kept track what that streak is at … the number or anything like that. You don’t think about it. You just approach it like you want to play. Most guys, if they’re able to play, they’re going to play. But you’re not going to do anything that’s going to take away from the whole team thing.”
Perhaps Bouwmeester would actually be better off taking a breather?
The $5.4 million defenseman only has two points in 20 games so far in 2014-15, and his possession stats have sagged noticeably as well. His struggles haven’t derailed the Blues by any means, but considering the team’s ambitions to make a deep playoff run, wouldn’t it be best for Bouwmeester to get his game back together sooner rather than later?
The Post-Dispatch points out that Anaheim Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano has the second-longest games played streak in the NHL, as he hasn’t missed a contest in 561 games.
The St. Louis Blues ended a brief two-game losing skid with a win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, but the two points may come with a price.
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester didn’t play a shift for the final six minutes of the third period, but the Blues managed to hang on for a 3-2 victory. Alexander Steen scored the winner, and Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 12th of the season for St. Louis.
“I think he stepped on a crack on the ice. So he’s got a lower-body ailment. We’ll see how he is in the morning,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, as per Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Ian Cole was taken in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but his climb up the ranks has been gradual.
He spent three years in college and then another three seasons bouncing between the AHL and NHL before he stuck with the Blues in 2013-14. However, he still only ended up playing in 46 games and averaged just 15:05 minutes per contest when he did dress. That could change next season though.
“This is a real opportunity for Ian,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He’s paid his dues. He spent time in the minors. He’s spent time as the seventh defenseman. He’s matured as a person and as a player. It’s his time.
“There’s an open spot, a regular shift. There’s everything there waiting for him, just step up and grab it.”
Hitchcock will be looking for Cole to play a physical game and join the rush. He also expects him to find a balance between playing aggressively and not making “irrational decisions” defensively. That being said, the Blues bench boss is willing to live with some defensive mistakes as a trade off for his work with the puck.
At the same time, Cole’s been focused on improving his positioning as he gets ready to compete for a top-six spot during training camp. Even if the opportunity is there, it’s not a given that Cole will stay out of the press box in 2014-15. Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Barret Jackman are all expected to play regularly when healthy, so Cole will be fighting for one of two spots with Jordan Leopold, Carl Gunnarsson, and Chris Butler.
After talking about the Blues all day today, we know plenty about how disappointing things have been in St. Louis after three straight seasons with disappointing finishes.
Fortunately for Blues fans, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is looking on the bright side of life. Rather than dwelling on not reaching the ultimate goal and bringing the franchise its first Stanley Cup, he’s using those defeats as motivation as he told Chris Lomon at the NHLPA website.
“The one great thing about this group is that through the disappointments, team chemistry is through the roof,” noted Shattenkirk. “It’s a very close locker room and everyone sticks together. That’s something I learned from the moment I came to St. Louis. I think the guys we’ve added will experience the same thing. We know we haven’t done what we’ve set out to accomplish. We also know that’s the one thing we’re focused on.”
With the addition of Paul Stastny to the roster the Blues are truly in “go for it” mode. One area they don’t have to worry about is defense.
Shattenkirk’s play on the blue line has been a big reason why the Blues have been so strong on the back end. Teamed up with Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester, the Blues defense is a legitimate strength. Swapping the slow-footed but physical Roman Polak for sure-handed Carl Gunnarsson this summer was an under-the-radar move that could pay off handsomely as well.
It’s virtually the same team that they had last season. Chemistry shouldn’t be a problem with this club and neither should motivation.