By Patrick Kelly
The first season for the St. Louis Blues coming off their Stanley Cup win had more hype than any season before it. The city was engaged with their new heroes and they were ready for the quest to repeat.
Like any road to the cup, there will be bumps and turns. The first for the Blues came early in the season when superstar Vladimir Tarasenko needed shoulder surgery that would put him out for the better part of the regular season. From the outside looking in, the rest of the NHL saw this as a big blow to the team’s forwards, and whether they would compete in such a tough division was being questioned. If anything, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. For the past year and a half, the Blues have had one of the best problems in the NHL: an abundance of forward talent. Going into the 2019-20 season, the Blues were 23-16-2 without Tarasenko in his career. Since he was injured this year, the Blues were 37-17-7 with 11 different skaters having 10 or more goals.
Another big question mark for those outside St. Louis was netminder Jordan Binnington. Although he had won the cup in his first year, there was still debate of how he would handle a full season workload. At the stoppage of play, Binnington was 30-13-7 through 50 games. He has the best winning percentage of any Blues goalie with 50 or more starts since Roman Turek in the 1999-2000 season. Binnington has proven that he is not a one-hit wonder, amd cemented himself as the franchise goalie fans have been yearning for their entire lives. He is a goalie that oozes confidence, doesn’t seem to let anything get to him, and who can be relied on night in and night out and give his team a chance to win every game.
While Binnington was a shining light through most of the season, there have been quite a few others that have stepped up with Tarasenko sidelined. With just 11 games left in the season, David Perron was six points away from his career high of 66 and three away from his career high in goals of 28.
While there have been several other injuries to Oskar Sundqvist, Sammy Blais and Colton Parayko, the main core of the forward group has stayed healthy and put up numbers they were expected to. The rest of the top six — Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn, Perron, and Jaden Schwartz — played all 71 games during the season along with defenseman Vince Dunn. Alex Pietrangelo missed only one game, but has already surpassed his career high in goals and is just two points away from tying the career total he set two years ago.
With the season now on hold, the Blues have time to get healthy, and by the look of Tarasenko’s instagram account, his shoulder appears healed.
Vladimir Tarasenko's shoulder looks good. 💪
🎥 (tarasenko.yana / IG) pic.twitter.com/5JLfQPM3XO
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) March 24, 2020
. Of course, every team is now getting the chance to get close to 100 percent health, including the Colorado Avalanche. If games begin being played again and the playoff format stays the same, the Blues and Avs will likely meet at some point and given the unique situation we are in it could be one of the best series of the 2020 playoffs.