The St. Louis Blues have been on the ice for 3 days.
Training camp has been shortened due to the COVID-19 protocols and the compressed season. Head coach Craig Berube needed a way to simulate the game day experience, so on Van McCoy’s birthday, he had the Blues hustling and held a scrimmage at the Centene Community Ice Center. The team held two-morning practices and at 7 PM held a fun and feisty simulated game.
The Blues were not the only ones trying to tune-up for the season. The radio voices Alex Ferrario, Chris Kerber, and Joe Vitale broadcast the scrimmage on ESPN 101 FM while the action was happing on the ice.
The three of them talked about the upcoming season and some of the prep work they have accomplished.
Ferrario tweeted a video of the Zambonis going around the rink, “I could cry just getting to see the Zambonis in person. Is that bad? #stlblues @101espn” he remarked.
Minor league sharing again!!
One of the biggest concerns the three radio broadcasters have is the fact that the Blues minor league affiliate the Springfield Thunderbirds have opted out of the 2021 season.
General Manager Doug Armstrong released a statement on Stlblues.com. “All professional sports have been impacted by the inability to open arenas and facilities to their fans.” He commented. “That is particularly true at the minor professional level where fan attendance is the lifeblood of business operations. We look forward to working with Springfield in the 2021-22 season.” He then continued “In the meantime, we have reached a working agreement with Utica where our prospects will continue to develop for the 2020-21 season.” What to do in this situation was a large part of the scrimmage broadcast.
It is that sharing of the Utica team with the Vancouver Canucks that caused the concern. This is not an unprecedented situation for the Blues. When the Vegas Golden Knights came into the league in 2017-2018 they were able to corral the Chicago Wolfs, who was the Blues AHL affiliate. During that season, the Blues shared the Wolves with the Knights. Jorden Binnington was famously loaned to the Bruins affiliate.
How this is going to shake out with the added complication of the Taxi squad is one of the unknown x-factors this season. The Taxi Squad are players that can practice with the team and allows them to be called up to play.
The Boys of Winter Hustle during Scrimmage.
The players and coaches simulated a normal game day by having a morning skate, the player going home to nap, or do their normal routine. They returned to the practice facility in Maryland Heights, MO, had team meetings, and a warmup before they got ready to play the scrimmage.
Torey Krug, the newest defenseman, wasted little time letting his teammates and coaches know that he was ready to play. 35 seconds into the game, Team White entered the zone and forced the puck down low. Jaden Schwartz stickhandled the puck near the net, created space, and fired a pass to Krug at the blueline. Krug was ready and snapped a hard shot towards the net that appeared to deflect off Robert Thomas.
White was now up 1-0 and would finish the 1st up 2-0 after Austin Poganski scored. Both teams took a bit to find their legs but find them they did. While the game was not live-streamed, the Blues Tweeted out goals.
New addition Kyle Clifford, whose’ signing I glanced over, may just be the steal of the free-agent period. Clifford the second-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2009, also has two championship rings from the Kings runs in 2012 and 2014 Signed a 2-year deal with an AAV of 1 million according to cap friendly.
Clifford showed he plays tough and tenacious on the fourth line. He is fitting in nicely replacing Alexander Steen who retired this year with degenerative disks in his back. While playing fast and hard he is also mentoring the Blues younger players and prospects, like 2020 first-round pick Jake Neighbors.
Neighbors, who was playing in Juniors needed a place to play due to the uncertainty created by the pandemic. Neighbors’ Junior team leagues have suspended play, had to leave the ice after taking a puck to his mug, earlier during the morning skate.
Team Blue gets on the scoreboard
The second period saw the Blue team find the back of the net for the first time. The White team failed to clear the zone, Jorden Kyrou took the puck down low on the wing and caught a hustling Zach Stanford for a one-timer.
What looked to be a play that was extremely close to being offsides, Hugh McGing and Noland Stevens flew through the neutral zone. McGing coming down the right-wing got to the red line and found Stevens cutting across the center to the wing. Sammy Blais skating along the blue line could have been offsides.
The new offsides rule states that both of the players’ skates must break the plane of the Blue Line to be considered offsides. In the picture below it appears that happened, but the angle could be misleading.
Blais and Stevens, the puck carrier, both streaked into the zone as Blais crashed the net Stevens centered the puck and Blais buried it into the twine.
Goalie Joel Hoffer made the biggest of goalie gaffs when he went behind the net to play the puck and à la Brian Elliot in the 2016 playoffs past the puck right to Kyrou who got a late Christmas gift according to STLblues Twitter.
With the score now 3-2 Blue, the new captain Ryan O’Reilly got into the act with a nifty backhander to increase the lead to two. Coast-to-coast during the scrimmage and it is buried.
Nikko Mikkola, who many in the fanbase and media are excited to see get a chance, surprised everyone during three-on-three action. Team Blue worked on cycling the puck in and out of the zone. Brayden Schenn placed the puck on Mikkola’s tape on the left side just above the blue line. Mikkola made a semi-circle towards the right-wing entered the zone and as soon as he hit the point, snapped off a wrister that had both benches cheering.
Team Blue finished the tilt the victors in the 5-2 final. Berube was impressed with the energy shown. On Blues Twitter, he was quoted “It’s not easy to be competitive against your own teammates, but I thought it was real competitive. A lot of structure. That’s what you like to see.”
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-dispatch released an interesting tweet about Binnington, “I think Jordan Binnington is finished answering questions about what went wrong in Edmonton:” “If we’re looking back, I’m probably looking at the Cup, the all-star game, 30 wins. You know how far our team’s come over just a year and [a] half. I’m living in the present moment. . . .” Binnington stated. Answering questions about his bubble collapse.
Lou Korac was able to talk to Thomas and ask him about Hoffman and how it was skating with him. “Thomas on skating with Hoffman: “I thought we moved it well together and started to figure out each other’s tendencies. I missed him a couple [of] times today, but it’s all about feeling out and getting to know the person. Next time, I’ll try and put it on his stick.” #stlblues “
The Blues are singing the right notes today.
Even from 4200 miles away, my view from afar was full of quality information, players who hustled, and exciting hockey talk. The Blues will take Thursday off and get right back to it on Friday at Enterprise center for the first time in the new year and season. one more Scrimmage is slated before the season opener.
Till next time Hockey FANS.
Do not forget to drop me a comment or three
Remember by a fan, for the fans, and most definitely About YOU the FAN.
Guy “Hawaii Blues Fan” Bensing