Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.
You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.
Added: Derek Roy, Magnus Pajaarvi, Maxim Lapierre
Subtracted: David Perron, Kris Russell, Andy McDonald
The Blues are going to be good
I don’t know how the defense corps is on your favourite team, but unless that team is Chicago, I doubt it’s as good as Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk, Jackman, Leopold and Polak. And even then, I’m not sure. The Blues have the perfect style group for today’s NHL – puck-movers who can skate that also happen to be strong enough to play in their own end. And, they’ll be so good at breaking the puck out, that’ll mean a lot more opportunities for their group of forwards, which is one of the deeper groups around themselves.
Playing the Blues isn’t going to be easy. One of their best offensive players, David Backes, is an absolute beast. As is another scorer, TJ Oshie. As is another scorer, Chris Stewart. That’s not fun to play. Their depth is pretty ridiculous – guys like Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund, and Derek Roy can help put pucks in nets to go with elite-offensive talent Vladimir Tarasenko (and Jaden Schwartz ain’t no slouch either). They’re just quality thoughout the whole lineup, even as you get down to names like Sobotka and new additions Paajarvi and Morrow.
All of that talent stacks up in front of one of the best goaltending duos in the NHL in Jaroslav Halak And Brian Elliot. This team is going to win a ton of hockey games.
The Blues are going to be bad
There is zero “elite” offensive talent on this team. It’s a bunch of 2nd and 3rd-liners masquerading as skill, so good luck when you need offense. I’ve often written about the need for “game-breakers” when things get tight in playoffs, and not having any more-or-less explains their inability to go deep in playoffs. They’re getting so desperate they’re trying to resurrect the careers of guys like Brenden Morrow and Derek Roy (who did nothing to help their respective teams in playoffs last year). They gave Vanilla McBeige (Jay Bouwmeester) a huge extension, and we’ve seen how much he’s helped his teams go deep in the playoffs in the past. It’s just another year and ho-hum finish for this group ahead.
Flippant barstool prediction
Home ice in playoffs with the potential to make a run at President and Stanley Cups.
It’s amazing how mid-pack they were at everything, which means there’s room to improve. The only they excelled at: 2nd in the league in shots given up per game (24.2). Other than that, they were 7th in goals-against-per-game (2.38), and 7th in penalty killing (84.7%). They were 17th in the league in goals-for-per-game (2.58), so it is a bit of a problem area for a good team.
Okay, but seriously:
That d-corps is going to make the forwards and goaltenders look great. It’s so nice to play with d-men that can move the puck and skate. A lot rides on how well the supporting scoring produces – does Tarasenko take a step, can Roy meet expectations, can Steen keep producing, etc. It’s all about the offense for them (Hitchcock, that D, and those goalies will keep the goals down), so it’s all about their ability to generate at the other end.
Your NHL.com preview: