Bozak, O’Reilly, Thunderbirds, goalie and more

The St. Louis Blues went 1-2-0 this week with a loss to the Calgary Flames and an embarrassing home loss to the Winnipeg Jets. They played some of the worst hockey games of the season in their two losses, but some of their best games in their win over Calgary.

Related: St. Louis Blues: 3 Trading Deadline Goals

There are still plenty of positives to take away from this week, whether it’s the fact that they are healthy again or the chemistry that is building.

Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron (The Hockey Writers)

The Blues are now 26-13-5 with 57 points and sit third in the Central Division behind only the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators. Despite an overreaction from the fanbase, which is perfectly normal, this team is heading into the All-Star break in a great place.

Bozak is playing his 800th NHL game

In the Blues’ 5-1 win over the Flames, Tyler Bozak played in his 800th NHL game. He has played 594 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and 207 games with the Blues since joining them in free agency ahead of the 2018-19 season. He was a hard-hitting center for the Blues and an important part of their Stanley Cup victory in 2019.

He doesn’t produce a ton of points, but his impact on his line is significant. He’s clearly in good shape at St. Louis as he was re-signed prior to this season to a one-year contract to stay and play on the fourth line. Congratulations to Bozak on a great achievement that cannot be taken away from him.

O’Reilly plays 900th NHL game

In their loss to the Jets at home, the Blues achieved another milestone as captain Ryan O’Reilly played his 900th NHL game. He was a model of consistency as he played over 70 games in 10 of his 13 NHL seasons, some of which were cut short.

Ryan O'Reilly St. Louis Blues Winter Classic
Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues Winter Classic (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

He was one of the most influential players in franchise history in just four seasons. He scored 221 points in 249 games for the Blues and was a consistent player in all three areas. He obviously won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his playoff performance in 2019. He added a Selke Trophy for his dominant two-way prowess during that same 2018-19 season.

O’Reilly’s trade to the Buffalo Sabers is sure to go down in franchise history as one of the greatest moves of all time. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong had a lot of good trades, but this one is by far the best, which is saying a lot.

Springfield Thunderbirds Report

The Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League (AHL) had a terrific season, ranking sixth in the AHL. The Blues’ farm system and minor league players have been great this season; this system doesn’t have super high-end talent, but it’s deep with quality players.

They are 21-13-4 with 47 points in 39 games, even after their recent struggles, as their early season dominance kept them afloat. Leading the Thunderbirds is Sam Anas, who has 33 points in 33 games, including 14 goals. Nathan Walker has the special stat of a hat trick at the NHL and AHL levels this season. He’s been fantastic for Springfield, scoring 30 points in 28 games.

Nathan Walker San Antonio Rampage
Nathan Walker, San Antonio Rampage (Jenae Anderson/The Hockey Writers)

With their goalie, there were inconsistencies from Charlie Lindgren and Joel Hofer, but they both had their moments. Lindgren is 10-2-1 with a .917 save percentage (SV%) and Hofer is 10-8-2 with a .901 SV%. It’s encouraging to see a fantastic season for the Blues AHL affiliate; it feels like we’ve finally settled into a home with their affiliate.

Assessing the Goalkeeper Situation

The discussion surrounding the Blues’ goaltending situation has been fascinating. It became one side against the other side, which is obviously Ville Husso against Jordan Binnington. The Blues committed long-term money to Binnington with the six-year extension he got last season, while Husso was a marginal replacement at the start of this season.

Jordan Binnington St. Louis Blues
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While Husso has certainly dominated Binnington this season, the Blues’ defensive unit is the biggest downfall for these two goaltenders; they can win with either one in the net. But the defense didn’t step up in any way; two examples of this were their losses this week.

Goalkeeper (Record) SV% Goals against average (GAA) Goals scored above average (GSAA)
Binington (11-9-3) .901 3.27 -6.1
Husso (9-3-1) .941 1.90 14.4

Source: Hockey Reference (Binnington Stats + Husso Stats)

There is an obvious discrepancy in the stats between the two keepers, but that doesn’t say it all. The defense struggled in front of them, but there were times when they didn’t make big saves when they could have. It’s clear the Blues have had a hot hand with Husso and could continue to do so until he slows down, but that’s Binnington’s job for the foreseeable future.

Whoever gets the nod when the Blues return to play Feb. 10 against the New Jersey Devils will be fascinating, but I guess it would be Binnington. Either way, it will be an interesting decision for head coach Craig Berube to make.

The Week Ahead (All-Star Break)

As previously mentioned, NHL All-Star Weekend takes place in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena on Feb. 5, so the Blues are out until Feb. 10. Jordan Kyrou will be the sole representative of the Blues and is expected to put his speed and skills on display for fans who don’t yet know how good he is. The Blues are well placed now and can come back even better.



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