Seven games into the 2021-22 season, the St. Louis Blues are 6-1 and hold first place in the Central division. The team has looked like one of the league’s best throughout the first month of the season, but its depth, which is the supposed strength of this hockey club, is starting to be tested. Forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Brandon Saad, as well as goaltender Ville Husso have been placed on the team’s non-roster COVID protocol list. Without 2/3 of their top line, the Blues have had to shuffle up each line, including calling up center Dakota Joshua from the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL. While Saad and O’Reilly have missed the past couple of games, Husso was added to the protocol list after the team’s last game on Saturday. Joel Hofer was subsequently called up from Springfield and is expected to backup Jordan Binnington while Husso remains sidelined.
With the team facing adversity early, they were able to go 2-1 on the week, including a shutout by each goaltender. On Monday, Vladimir Tarasenko netted two goals, showing why he should stay in St.Louis and Husso stopped all 34 shots in a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings. The Blues then suffered their first loss of the season on Thursday in an entertaining 4-3 tilt against the Colorado Avalanche. The team then wrapped up the week with a 1-0 win over the rival Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night which saw Torey Krug net his first goal of the year and Binnington record his first shutout of the season.
Stories of the Week
With both teams looking like serious Stanley Cup contenders in the Western Conference yet again, the rivalry between the Blues and Avalanche is starting to heat up early this season. After the Avalanche swept the Blues in the first round of the playoffs last season, a series in which Avs forward Nazem Kadri delivered a dangerous and illegal hit to Blues defenseman Justin Faulk, the two teams squared off twice in the month of October. On opening night, Brayden Schenn squared off with Kadri off the opening face-off and on Thursday night, it was Faulk himself who stepped up and fought Kadri. Add in a post-whistle confrontation between Kadri and Binnington, who swung his stick towards Kadri, and this feels like one of the budding rivalries in the NHL that is only going to ramp up even more.
The biggest question mark for the Blues heading into the season was the defence. What was considered a strength of the club for several years became the team’s weakness down the stretch last season. While the team has given up garbage time goals in a few games this year, they have been impressive overall and especially this week with the two shutouts.
Player of the Month
While there are many worthy candidates for the Blues’ best player in October, the honour has to go to Vladimir Tarasenko. The subject of trade talks all offseason long, on top of having a questionable bill of health with his lingering shoulder injury, Tarasenko has looked like his old self through the first month of the season. Tied with David Perron and Jordan Kyrou for the team lead in points with nine, Tarasenko has scored four goals and has driven play offensively for the first time since the 2019 playoffs. It seems all trade discussions regarding the Russian winger have gone by the wayside and the “Tarasenko-show” appears to be back in St. Louis.
Other worthy candidates for player of the month include the aforementioned Perron, who leads the team in goals with six, as well as Kyrou who is pacing the club with seven assists in October. This team is built to win by scoring by committee, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen from them early on this season.
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