Five Questions Facing the Blues

Stastny's impact and goaltending among the questions facing St. Louis

Thursday, 08.14.2014 / 8:00 AM CT / St Louis Blues - News
By Louie Korac  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Five Questions Facing the Blues
How will the arrival of center Paul Stastny and the turnover in goal affect the St. Louis Blues? The answers could determine their hopes of winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in club history.

The St. Louis Blues have had to stand by helplessly and watch the Los Angeles Kings (twice) and Chicago Blackhawks hoist the Stanley Cup the past three seasons.

After first-round losses to the Kings in 2012 and '13 and to the Blackhawks last spring, the Blues knew they couldn't stand pat. They had to upgrade in positions that the Kings and Blackhawks used as strengths in order to expose the Blues' weaknesses.

Here are five questions facing the Blues as they try to challenge for a Stanley Cup:

1. What impact will newcomer Paul Stastny have? -- The Blues needed an upgrade in the middle, and landing the biggest unrestricted free-agent center on the market was worth what they will have to pay Stastny over the next four seasons.

Stastny, 28, scored 25 goals and had 60 points in 71 games last season with the Colorado Avalanche. He gives the Blues a bona fide No. 1 playmaking center.

"We're getting Paul right in the prime of his career and I have little doubt that he'll be a very, very confident player over these four years," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said.

Coming to a Stanley Cup contender and returning to the place where he grew up, Stastny saw the opportunity as a no-brainer.

"I look at St. Louis and their window to win a Cup is now," Stastny said.


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The Blues made several changes this summer, including signing St. Louis native Paul Stastny and 2008 draft pick Jori Lehtera.
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2. Can the Blues compete for the Cup with their revamped goaltending? The Blues allowed Ryan Miller to leave via free agency and will confidently turn to veteran Brian Elliott and rookie Jake Allen, who has 15 games of NHL experience under his belt.

The Blues feel like Elliott, who signed a three-year contract, earned the right to go into the season as the No. 1.

"[Ellliott's] watched two other guys [Miller and Jaroslav Halak] get the ball," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Now he feels like it's his turn. There's still going to be competition, but I think Brian's going to start as the incumbent based on experience and all the work he's put in."

3. Will the additional depth at center pay off? Adding Stastny, Jori Lehtera, Peter Mueller and Joakim Lindstrom to a group that includes David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Steve Ott and Maxim Lapierre gives the Blues strong reinforcement despite losing Vladimir Sobotka to the Kontinental Hockey League.

"We wanted to add depth, we wanted to add competitive depth, we wanted to strengthen the middle of the ice and that's what we've done," Hitchcock said. "We've added scoring depth and we added real definitive depth at the center ice position."

4. Are the Blues physically vulnerable on the blue line? St. Louis is going with the formula of 'You can't hit what you can't catch.' The Blues traded physical defenseman Roman Polak to the Toronto Maple Leafs for puck-mover Carl Gunnarsson and added free agents Chris Butler and Nate Prosser to a mix of Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk and Ian Cole to go with more rugged guys like Barret Jackman and Jordan Leopold, meaning that they're going with a more conventional puck-moving style on the back line.

"We're less physical but better transitionally," Hitchcock said.

5. Are Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko ready for larger roles? The 2010 first-round picks made their presence felt throughout the season and certainly against the Blackhawks in the playoffs. Each is 22 and coming off impressive point-producing second seasons in the League.

Schwartz had 25 goals and 56 points in 81 games. Tarasenko had 21 goals and 43 points in 64 games. They'll be given significant roles moving forward.

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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - ANA 77 48 22 7 225 215 103
2 x - NSH 76 47 21 8 218 183 102
3 STL 75 46 22 7 228 186 99
4 MIN 76 44 25 7 219 186 95
5 CHI 74 44 24 6 209 172 94
6 VAN 75 43 27 5 215 203 91
7 WPG 75 39 24 12 212 197 90
8 LAK 75 37 24 14 200 188 88
9 CGY 75 40 28 7 219 199 87
10 DAL 76 37 29 10 236 243 84
11 SJS 75 37 30 8 210 212 82
12 COL 75 35 28 12 205 209 82
13 EDM 75 22 40 13 181 254 57
14 ARI 76 23 45 8 160 252 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
V. Tarasenko 75 36 35 26 71
A. Steen 73 24 38 6 62
J. Schwartz 68 24 32 14 56
D. Backes 74 25 29 6 54
T. Oshie 66 19 32 13 51
P. Stastny 67 14 29 5 43
A. Pietrangelo 75 6 36 -4 42
J. Lehtera 68 11 29 18 40
K. Shattenkirk 50 8 32 17 40
P. Berglund 70 9 13 -5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
B. Elliott 24 13 3 .920 2.18
J. Allen 19 6 4 .906 2.45

 
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