Laura, from St. Louis Game Time, answered some Blues questions in preparation for Wednesday's game.
Q: Can you give us a scouting report on the Blues and what's been good and bad this season?
A: Good: Goaltending has been outstanding. Both Mason and Conklin have nearly identical stats, and really deserve a few more wins than what they have. We're very fortunate to have been able to sign Conklin over the summer, as back-up goaltending was a hole that we needed to fill -- we filled it with probably the best in the league from a skill level. Defensively, despite a different player being sat every night (no clue what's going on with Pietrangelo), the Blues are pretty set, and are getting some scoring depth back there on the blueline too.
The bad part, obviously, has been the offense. I'm not sure what's going on with Backes and Berglund, though there has been speculation that Berglund isn't really sure how to deal with Andy Murray's style of coaching, and he's playing snakebit. Oshie's been much improved since his time off for that appendectomy, and Perron's been outstanding -- he's proving himself to be the next superstar of the team. Kariya, though, is not playing up to his ginormous salary, and McDonald's been a little slumping recently. Tkachuk's been lacking in production mostly because of a shift away from the grinding, crash the crease system. Walt was in front of the goal last night, and lo -- he scored. Once the Blues shift back to their previous style of play, he should pick it up a lot.
Q: Brett Hull will be honored before the game. Talk about what a big deal it was in St. Louis when Hull went into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
A: Very big deal. There are a lot of mixed feelings surrounding Hull, but honestly, about 95% of those need to be directed at Mike Keenan and his mismanagement/lack of understanding.
Hull helped bring down the old Arena to make room for Scottrade. He drew a sell-out crowd for his jersey retirement during a God-awful year. In St. Louis' past, there are few athletes that can get the kind of reaction that Hull can, be it through childhood memories, catching a great play on TV, seeing him score an unreal goal ... there have been a lot of outstanding Blues since him, but no one can ever touch Hull. He's our hockey's Ozzie Smith.
Q: David Perron leads the team in goals. What makes him such a good scorer?
A: He's fast -- he's the most amazing puck-handler I have ever seen in person, and his command of the puck is outstanding. I really don't think that people can keep up with him on a good day. He's still young and learning, but right now, he's very focused and might be on a little bit of a streak.
Q: Talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the Blues blue line. Erik Johnson looks like an assists machine.
A: EJ's going to be our next franchise defenseman, no doubt -- once Pietrangelo gets to be a little more seasoned, watch out. If they're ever put on the top defensive pairing, there are going to be lots of sore goalies and broken sections of arena glass. Weaknesses ... most Blues fans will point a finger at Brewer -- he's a major focus of contempt because of the Pronger deal a while ago, and the fact that occasionally he doesn't look like he belongs out there. He can be slow and lumbering sometimes and completely misread plays, but he really isn't the massive liability people think that he is. Our defensive corps is pretty solid, so if Brewer's the weakest link, I'm OK with it.
Q: The Blues' power play is last in the NHL. Why? What's been wrong with it?
A: From last season to this season, the PP's taken a major drop ... I'm thinking that it's just disorganized in general. No one seems to be in position, and cycling the puck is a disaster. People get spooked and pass too easily. Too much passing eats up too much time. The plays are predictable and are getting pretty easy to read, too.
Q: St. Louis' penalty kill is very good. Why? Who makes it click?
A: I don't think that there's one person on the PK who is responsible for it being so solid -- I think it's a return to defensive, shutdown hockey that helps. That's how we play generally -- rough and tumble -- so this is where we excel.
Q: Who will start in goal for the Blues on Wednesday? Tell us about his season so far.
A: Probably Chris Mason. Masonry (as we call him) is fifth in the league with a .921 SV% and 10th in the league with a 2.29 GAA. And he only has six wins to his seven losses. For a goalie to have stats like that, and a record like the one that he has ... well ... clearly the major malfunction isn't with him. He's coming into his own as a starter, which is something that he was never sure of in Nashville, and he's excelling. We're extremely fortunate to have him in net.
Q: Can you give us some players that Stars fans should watch on Wednesday?
A: Keep an eye on Perron, Erik Johnson, Mason, and I would say keep your eyes peeled for Andy McDonald. He hasn't scored in a while, so this could be the game for him. He's had some big pushes recently, so his drought isn't for lack of trying, that's for sure.
Q: Anything else Stars fans should know about the Blues?
A: We're slumping right now, but as everyone caught last season, never count us out. We tend to play solid games out of nowhere, and we thrive on being the underdogs. That might be the problem with us this season -- everyone has expectations. It's a lot more fun to prove someone wrong than it is to prove them right.