Are the Blues missing crucial pieces of the Stanley Cup puzzle?

Blues lose

No one likes knee-jerk analysis during a best-of-seven playoff series, especially when the home team has won the first four games of said series. Regardless, it’s hard not to make alarming observations about the St. Louis Blues, who have now blown a 2-0 series lead in the first round for the second consecutive season.

This team has been my 2014 Stanley Cup pick since last summer and still is, yet I can’t help but remember the questions raised in the THN war room last summer when we were yelling working out a consensus title pick.

1. Do the Blues have a real superstar to rely on with the game on the line?
2. Do the Blues have a money goaltender who can steal games in the playoffs?
3. Do the Blues have enough veteran experience to guide them through adversity?

As for the first question, look at what Chicago has done the last two games. Captain Jonathan Toews scored the winner in Game 3 and it was Patrick Kane’s turn to take over in Game 4. He scored twice, including this laser to clinch it in overtime:

When in doubt, Chicago can lean on its megastars. In Game 4, Toews had no equal on the forecheck and Kane elevated every Blues fan’s blood pressure every single time he had the puck, terrorizing Ryan Miller. His winner was more of an inevitability than a surprise. Duncan Keith dazzled on the back end with his wheels, too,skating the puck out of trouble repeatedly.

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Rare footage shows pre-Mad Men Jon Hamm talking Blues – and talking smack about Blackhawks

Adam Proteau
Jon Hamm (Vera Anderson/WireImage)

Film and TV star Jon Hamm – best known for his iconic role as Don Draper in the AMC series “Mad Men” – is also famous for being a fan of his hometown St. Louis Blues. And in newly-unveiled footage of a little-seen movie made long before he became known worldwide, Hamm got the chance to talk some smack about the rival Chicago Blackhawks while pumping the tires of his favorite NHL team.

In the movie “Cheese And Crackers”, a black-and-white film shot in St. Louis in 1997, the characters played by Hamm and fellow actor Jason Newman have a spirited debate about the merits of the Blues and Hawks. The language isn’t safe for work or children, but if you can get past that, it’s a neat look into the past – and the absence of color footage makes Hamm look like a star from the golden age of Hollywood. Read more

Clarkson, Weiss among NHL’s biggest free-agent flops

David Clarkson (Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)

The NHL’s unrestricted free agency period is a crapshoot and sometimes the emphasis is on the crap. For every savvy signing – say, Tampa Bay’s five-year contract with Valtteri Filppula, or Boston’s one-year deal with Jarome Iginla – there is at least one free agent deal that sends fans screaming for the weeping tissues. Here are the worst free agent deals signed last summer:

10. Damian Brunner, Devils, two years, $5 million. Some devout Red Wings fans were sad to see Brunner depart the organization after a rookie NHL campaign that included 12 goals and 26 points in 44 games last season. They were less sad after watching him score just 11 times in 60 games this year while averaging only 13:32 of ice time.

9. Derek Roy, Blues, one year, $4 million. Yes, Roy only signed a one-year contract with St. Louis, but it hardly could’ve gone worse for him. The onetime 32-goal-scorer had only nine goals in 75 games as a Blue and was a regular-season and playoff healthy scratch. There’s no chance the 30-year-old returns to the team or makes nearly as much money next season.

8. Daniel Briere, Canadiens, two years, $8 million. Briere is renowned as one of the league’s good guys and seeing the Montreal native head home to play for the Canadiens made for a nice off-season story. It didn’t translate on the ice, though: he had only 13 goals and 25 points in 69 games – nearly one-third of the totals he posted for Philadelphia in 2010-11 (34 goals and 68 points in 77 games). Read more

Seabrook suspended 3 games. Would it be more in regular season?

Jason Kay
Chicago Blackhawks v St. Louis Blues - Game Two

We sure hope the time of year had nothing to do with the length of suspension the NHL handed Brent Seabrook.

The Chicago defenseman got three games for charging and interference, not to mention knocking David Backes into a different dimension during Game 2 of the St. Louis-Chicago game the other night.

Fair enough. The NHL department of player safety explains its decision in the video below. That Seabrook is not a repeat offender factors into the punishment.

But too often we hear that because it’s the playoffs, when more is on the line, disciplinarians modify the suspension. That is, one playoff game equals two or three regular season games, giving the offender, ostensbily, a lighter sentence..

The problem with that thinking is the same holds true for the victim – in this instance, Backes and Blues.

Time of year should not matter. When the stakes are higher, so are the consequences and the perpetrators should be held fully accountable.

Top 10 clutch performers in the playoffs

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Sport)

Come crunch time, these are guys who find that extra gear when the pressure gets ramped up in the 
post-season. Here are the top 10 skaters you can count on to come through in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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Bruins, Avs dominate my NHL Awards picks

Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Once again, I’m privileged enough to receive a ballot for the NHL’s annual individual player awards. It’s a huge honor for any hockey journalist and one I think deserves the respect of full transparency to the public. If we’re supposed to represent the fans, we owe it to them to reveal and stand behind our choices – choices I make after numerous discussions with NHL executives and players.

So here are my picks, along with some brief thoughts on why I chose the players I did for the five awards. You probably won’t agree with all of them, but the last thing these honors are about is pure consensus.

HART TROPHY (“to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”) — Five selections.

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
3. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
5. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

The Rationale: As I’ve noted in the past, I’ve come to see the Hart as a most valuable player award, if only because the concept of “value” is so nebulous. But certainly, Crosby’s value to the Penguins – especially during Pittsburgh’s injury-plagued season – cannot be questioned. Nor can his status as the game’s best all-around individual force. Getzlaf was a very close second, while Giroux got the nod over Bergeron because he was the catalyst in Philadelphia’s remarkable season-saving turnaround. Read more

Alex Steen scores in third overtime, but Ryan Miller saves the day

Alex Steen

St. Louis’ Alex Steen has had a rewarding season. He set a career high with 33 goals and 62 points in 68 games, gained some traction as a Selke candidate and signed a three-year extension worth north of $17 million. In Game 1 against Chicago, he put another egg in his basket.

The Blues-Blackhawks series is going to be a brutal one…in a good way. With so many banged up stars and gruff bruisers battling for pride and glory, the immense skill and ruthless carnage mix for a perfect playoff painting. The opening game of this series was physical, full of offensive chances, great saves and was a test of endurance.

The Blues and Blackhawks were on their way to playing two games Thursday night, but Steen put the game, and everyone watching it, to bed, only 26 seconds into 3OT. Read more