The Central Division series carries on today with the NHL's hottest team -- the St. Louis Blues.
St. Louis Blues
Record: 32-22-5, 69 points
Current Position: Third in Central Division, six points behind Nashville.
1. The Blues are the hottest team in hockey right now. Is their success really all on the hot streak of Jordan Binnington?
Voodoo. Craig Berube made a wish with a magical Zoltar fortune telling machine. Binnington sold is channeling Jacques Plante. Make no mistake, the entire Blues roster save for the nightly heroics of Ryan O'Reilly and the somewhat regular contributions of now concussed David Perron underperformed for the first half of the season. At least. And now they've figured it out, apparently. The shaky play of Jake Allen brought the entire team down. I think the frustration couldn't get worse. Put in Binnington and it was a breath of fresh air. Guys just started playing more free and easy. Vladimir Tarasenko got fired up. The defense stopped chasing puck carriers skating away from the net. Berube apparently brought the team together. They became a team. And all of a sudden they started playing like the team we thought they were in the offseason.
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2. Despite the great play lately, what are some weakness the Blues could try and address at the deadline?
The depth on defense isn't super great. After you get past Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson and Vince Dunn, it gets shakier. Jay Bouwmeester has resurrected his career as a stay at home defenseman, but he has been injury prone. Carl Gunnarsson is on IR. Robert Bortuzzo can't control his temper. Anyone else is an AHL journeyman or under-performing prospect. So having four good to solid defenseman is probably a common issue in the NHL, it seems like the only real area to shore up if possible.
3. With the Blues somehow within striking distance of the Predators for second in the division, are they suddenly inclined to buy at the trade deadline?
They won't for a couple reasons. They don't have salary cap room. And guys who will be gone in the summer that they could have traded at the deadline — Bouwmeester and Gunnarsson — are either needed for playing time or injured. They don't have a lot of wiggle room. And they also don't have a first-round pick at the draft this year assuming they don't finish in the top 10 of the draft because that's the only way it's not going to Buffalo in the O'Reilly deal.
[caption id=attachment_46901" align="alignnone" width="1398] via Sean Tierney, @ChartingHockey[/caption]
4. Should we expect anyone to go out of St. Louis before the deadline?
Some fans would say send Allen packing. He makes more than $4 million per year and has two years left. But Binnington still remains a 25-year-old rookie. And if Allen were traded and Binnington got hurt, the Blues would be left with the waiver wire, unproven AHL prospect Ville Husso or a local beer league goaltender affectionately known as Daddy Padre. No, they won't play Daddy Padre.
[caption id=attachment_46902" align="alignnone" width="1998] via Sean Tierney, @ChartingHockey[/caption]
5. What are your predictions for the Blues at the trade deadline?
They will stand pat. And then they will announced that Perron is coming back to the lineup and his return is just like making a trade at the deadline. It's kind of a Blues tradition when they don't do something important.