Connor Watson, Staff Writer
It seems like only yesterday the Blues were hoisting the Lord Stanley’s Cup. In fact, it was quite recent: three months ago. Now, the preseason is right around the corner for the St. Louis Blues beginning on Sep. 16 with the regular season beginning on Oct. 2. During the short offseason, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong has been busy re-signing as many of last year’s core players as possible. Most recently signing Ivan Barbashev to a 2-year, $1,475,000 contract deal, and notably not signing local hero and locker room Patrick Maroon, who signed with the Tampa Lightning.
With the signing of Ivan Barbashev, the Blues have all the necessary pieces to make it back to the playoffs and make another run at the Stanley Cup. They should have no problem doing so under the leadership from new head coach Craig Berube. Don’t get too comfortable yet, though, because there are a few things the Blues need to improve:
Regular season play needs to improve
Last season the Blues got off to a rocky start, granted they were playing under a different head coach. They need to come out of the gate this season playing hard and playing consistently.
Power play needs to improve
During the playoffs and during the second half of last season, it was evident that the Blues suffered from a lack of consistency on the power play. A big change will come from keeping Colton Parayko out on the ice and having him set up on the blue line where he can rifle off shots.
One can attribute a lot of last season’s success to goalie Jordan Binnington. This season, it is a given that he has the starting position, and now we get to see how well Binnington will do with a full season. Can he repeat the excellence of last season? Perhaps, but he will not have to go through it alone because right behind him will be Jake Allen, who is still reliable and is still a top goalie.
With all of this in mind, confidence in the Blues reaching the playoffs again should be kept high. They do run the risk of a “championship hangover,” but I believe Berube will have the boys in shape and focused for the upcoming season.
The Cardinals have been a very tricky team this season. After starting off April with considerable force, they seemed to have fallen off the face of the Earth only to reemerge after the All-Star Break. What is the reason for this huge turn around? Pitching and defense.
The bats of been quite for the Cardinals this season, but the one thing keeping them in games is their stellar pitching/bullpen and their defense. In a rotation that was supposed to be anchored down by Miles Mikolas, pitcher, an ace has emerged in the form of Jack Flaherty, pitcher. He has seemed to hit his stride in August and since then he has had an ERA at 0.59.
It is not just Flaherty, though. The bullpen has been lights out, and that is due in part by Cardinals’ manager Mike Shildt. On the season, the Cardinals pitching has as team ERA of 3.88 which is second best in the National League behind the 3.44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have allowed only 1095 hits which is second-most, again, behind the Dodgers who have 1076. Cardinals pitchers have given up 530 ER runs, second in the National League, and have the second lowest runs allowed per game at 4.13. The pitching has been great and that is in part due to the defense and their lowest errors total in the National League with 59 errors.
The Cardinals are sitting at 2.5 games up from the Cubs who are still capable of taking the division away from the Cardinals. The odds of the Cardinals to win the division are at 58.2 percent and their odds to make the playoffs are at 88.6 percent. All of the pieces seem to be falling into place for the Cardinals. Key players Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna need to start heating up if they want to continue their current success.
With September starting and October coming right around the corner, it is an exciting time to be a St. Louis sports fan.