St. Louis Blues Mid-Season Report

Halfway through the 2003-2004 season and the Blues seem to be where the always are come the All-Star break,closely behind the Detroit RedWings. They are once again one of the top teams when it comes to points and once again are expected to go far in the playoffs.But this season is very different from previous seasons, they have the strong goaltending they so badly wanted and had a lot less injury problems (albeit not less enough)
than in previous seasons.
The Blues lost their first game of the season but have only lost 10 since then. They went on a tear with a 9 game unbeaten streak while only beating teams by one or two goals. Each aspect of the team has been strong ie. offense, defense, goaltending, and coaching. The Blues are currently going through their one down point. But the biggest down
point would have to be the loss of Blues defenseman Al Macinnis, who is most likely out for the season with a detached retina. Some other major injuries the Blues have suffered include Eric Bogeniecki (severely bruised shoulder), Barret Jackman (bruised shoulder), Scott Mellanby (ribs), and Petr Cajanek (severe neck strain). Another sour note is the Blues suspension problems, Keith Tkachuk (3 games for hit) and Doug Weight (4 games for slash on Daniel Sedin). The last thing the Blues need is for them to be suspended again and go down as repeat offenders.

Player Grades

Forwards – Centers

Weight, Doug (A-): (37 pts) Doug has finally shown to the St. Louis Blues fans and the organization that he can play like he did
in Edmonton. Key of Powerplay as he plays the point and sets up plays for the Blues top ranked PP unit. The suspension is the
minus so far this season. Good defensive forward.

Demitra, Pavol (B+): (33 pts) Played extremely well early in the season but has since fallen off in production. The Blues need him
to play like he is capable of playing especially when it comes to even strength play. Less passing and more shooting from him would
be nice from him as well.

Cajanek, Petr (B-): (12 pts) Missed many games due to injury. But has played well the games he has been healthy, again though, Blues need more production from their more talented players, and Petr is one of those.

Danton, Mike , Martins, Steve, Johnson, Ryan (A-): (14 pts combined) Each of these three players share the role of 4th line center
so I will grade them together. These three have possibly played the hardest out of the Blues lineup, and have chipped in goals
on occasion. They give it their all every game, and do a lot of hitting as well.

Forwards – Right Wing

Mellanby, Scott (C): (12 pts) Also missed many games due to injury, but since he has been back hasn’t produced much. Also hasn’t been
that big force in front of the net like he was last season. Needs to be that force once again.

Drake, Dallas (A-): (19 pts) Once again having another strong season. Plays extremely well on the Penalty Kill and also provides
a physical edge to the Blues in the absence of Reed Lowe. Plays hard night in and night out, and has stayed away from injuries which
is a good break from last season.

Mayers, Jamal (D+): (5 pts) A big dissapointment so far this season. Hasn’t played up to his level at all. Seems to be lacking
in the physical department as well. Points have been taken a drastic cut as well. His play needs to get better if the Blues want
to catch Detroit.

Nickulas, Eric , Rycroft, Mark (B+): (30 pts combined) Two of the Blues rookies this season. Both have played extremely well for the
Blues after being called up from Worcester to fill the injury void. Have added much speed to the Blues lineup which helps the team a lot
on transition play.

* Bogeniecki not graded due to the fact that he has only played 3 games

Forwards – Left Wing

Tkachuk, Keith (A): (38 pts) The Blues best played thus far in the season. Has finally lived up to the hype after coming over from Phoenix.

Always seems to be in the right spot. Plays well on the Power Play by clogging up the front of the net. Point production up from last season.

Needs to be a little more cautious although, the Blues do not need him suspended again.

Hereema, Jeff (C): (3 pts) Has played well although can play better. Would be better if he played on a more aggressive line but nonetheless has
filled a void due to the Blues early season injuries.


Pronger, Chris (A): (29 pts) I’m not the biggest Chris Pronger fan but he has played up to his level. Another key to the Blues high ranked PP, great
passer and another key physical force in the Blues lineup. Has eaten up a lot of ice time in the absence of Al Macinnis. Also plays extremely well on
the PK.

Jackman, Barret (B): (3pts) Has had injury problems throughout the half season but when he has been playing has played well. Physical prensence as well, plays well
on the PK, but needs to produce a little more on offense. Getting him healthy although is the main problem.

Baron, Murray (B+): (5 pts) Has filled a lot of the void with the absence of Macinnis. Great penalty killer, but needs to get a little more physical as the Blues lack
the traditional enforcer. A stay at home defenseman which is good because Pronger has the tendency to move up in the play.

Khavanov, Alexander (C-): (5 pts) Good offensive defenseman but hasn’t shown that this year. Needs to be more aggressive. Take more shots on the PP. His offensive
production has taken a serious hit since last season. A solid penalty killer and a strong defenseman. More offense.

Finley, Jeff (C+): (1 pt) Great stay at home defenseman. Won’t get you a lot of goals or a lot of points for that matter. Can play better though on the penalty kill, he has
the tendency to leave his man alone in front of the net. Solid though.

Backman, Christian (B-): (6 pts) Brought up from Worcester this season. The exact opposite of Jackman, he is more of an offensive defenseman, although the stats won’t show
that. He needs to increase that point total. Great skater as well, needs to be more aggressive.


Osgood, Chris (A+): (GAA: 2.00) Is finally showing people that he is a good goaltender and that it wasn’t a fluke that he won a cup in Detroit. Has played beyond expectation
and has played consistent as well, which Blues fans know has been a problem. Lately has been a little shaky but hopefully that will end as the playoffs approach . He has
playoff experience and has won a cup, so hopefully that will help the team.

Johnson, Brent (D): (GAA: 2.43) Has played in numerous games and has proven that he will never be a starter. Plays very inconsistent and lets in many weak goals which
frequently lose games for the Blues. I don’t know how long the Blues will hold on to him. Hopefully for not much longer.

Coaching Staff (A-): They have the kept the Blues as one of the top teams in the NHL after frequent injuries and frequent suspensions. They play Johnson in important games in which
the Blues could use points and have lost them due to his play. PP and PK have been good, but the PK has been weak of late maybe due to lack of effort which may or may not be the
coaching staffs fault.

Not much changing should take place with one exception. I belive it’s time to let Brent Johnson go. Maybe make a trade for a solid forward. After his play although I don’t know what team
would be interested in taking him. Other changes that are needed are more discipline, what I mean by this is that the Blues cannot have anymore suspensions. The Blues can’t afford to lose
anymore games with their best players. Also they need more work on their PK, which started off great but has weakened.

So what should fans expect from the Blues the rest of the way? I think they should expect the Blues to play the way they did through the first 42 games. A hard playing team with great special teams
and great team defense. I would expect them to catch Detroit and surpass them in the Central Division race. I would also expect for Osgood make a push for the Vezina. And for the team to possibly win
the Presidents Cup. And then hopefully the Stanley Cup.