The first game back from the All-Star break was an unimpressive one for the Blues, but they managed to pull out a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night in the Air Canada Center in Toronto.
Keith Tkachuk scored two goals in the first 5:48 of the first period, and David Backes scored a goal of his own in the second period to lift the Blues to the win, and in the process, snapping their season-long seven-game losing streak.
Even though the Blues won, it wasn't a moral victory to say the least. The Blues were very sloppy with the puck and turned it over in their own zone way too many times. The first five minutes of each period were pleasing for Blues fans like myself to watch. They came out strong, worked hard in the corners for loose pucks, made crisp, clean passes, and did a lot of forechecking. After that time had elapsed, though, the Leafs dominated the rest of the periods. A lot of that had to do with lackadasical play on the Blues' part, and giving the puck up in their own end. One turnover by Blues defenseman Steve Wagner should've lead to a Maple Leafs' goal. Given, Wagner just got called up from Peoria for defensive help, but you do not under any circumstances try to pass the puck up the middle in your own end when there's opponents in the zone. He did, but thanks to Manny Legace, the door was shut on the Leafs.
Speaking of the before-mentioned Legace, the man stood on his head in the game. The Blues can thank those goalie pads of Manny's that got lost in transit while arriving in Toronto for coming on-time, or else Blues fans would've had to watch another edition of the head case known as one Hannu Toivonen in goal. Legace made save after remarkable save to keep the Leafs at bay, including one in particular on Pavel Kubina that Legace made while on his stomach. Kubina took a shot from inside the left faceoff circle after a bad rebound given up by Legace. Manny, out of position, reached out and made an unbelievable glove save to keep the game from being tied at two at the time. Legace also had some amazing glove saves on Nik Antropov and David Tlusty that mesmorized the Toronto faithful. Again, if it wasn't for Manny Legace's performance in goal for the Blues, they would've been going home Friday night with another loss under their belts.
And now, what all Blues fans have been waiting for. With the February 26th trade deadline looming on the horizon, who should the Blues try to acquire? The Note have roughly $6.5 million to spend for next season, which is going to make a big difference in whether or not the player we acquire is going to re-sign with the club in the offseason. Team President John Davidson and General Manager Larry Pleau have been working the phones with potential suitors, all the while selling their city as to why it's a great place to play. The Blues are looking for a top-six forward that can help in the scoring and power play departments. In order to properly analyze if a certain player is a possibility for the team, I have adopted a ratings system. The system goes from 1-10, one being no chance on happening, and 10 being it's practically a done deal or already is done. Some of these names you may be surprised actually have a chance on playing in St. Louis. Let's get on with the show, shall we?
Olli Jokinen - This is an interesting scenario. The Panthers will be asking for a ton in return for this highly-skilled superstar. They'll probably ask for something in the vicinity of picks, prospects, and/or one or two roster players in return. The Blues certainly have the prospects and picks needed to get this deal done. In terms of roster players, though, the question you have to ask is whether the Blues have somebody on their roster that the Panthers want? My guess is no. Although Jokinen would be a solid addition to the first or second line, and would make for a good mentor to such young players as Lee Stempniak, David Backes, and David Perron, I don't see the Blues putting enough on the table to pull off this trade. Before the deadline is over, Jokinen will probably end up in Montreal or Calgary.
My Rating: 3
Mats Sundin - The possibility of Sundin coming to St. Louis may all depend on how the Blues fare these next three weeks. If the Blues fall further and further out of the playoff race as they have shown with their recent seven-game losing skid, then there will be no chance that Sundin comes to St. Louis. But, if the Blues are able to put together a good string of wins and look like viable contenders, then we could possibly see Mats Sundin in a Bluenote by February 26th. Sundin would take that leadership role that the Blues so sorely need, and would be a great mentor to fellow countryman Patrik Berglund when he arrives in the NHL for the Blues next season. Here's the thing with Mats: He wants to play for a contender. Even though his heartstrings are tied to the Maple Leafs and the city of Toronto, the fact of the matter is they're in a process of rebuilding. Toronto is near dead-last in the Eastern Conference, they have already fired GM John Ferguson Jr. and brought in Cliff Fletcher on an interim basis, and it's a well-known fact that a lot of the veteran leadership of the team is going to be shipped elsewhere at or before the deadline. I think Sundin realizes this, along with knowing his career will be ending soon, so he wants a chance to raise the Stanley Cup. It's not going to happen anytime soon in Toronto, so if Mats gets that chance with another organization, he'll waive his no-trade clause and take the opportunity that presents itself. I see it as a 50/50 situation with Mats and the Blues, although Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, and Calgary are all gunning for the veteran center as well.
My rating: 5
Marian Hossa - As of this moment, the Atlanta Thrashers are four points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. That doesn't seem to matter to GM/Head Coach Don Waddell, though. He has made numerous efforts to try to get Hossa to re-sign with Atlanta for a price lower than what Hossa is expected to receive in the free agent market next season, but Hossa won't budge. The question isn't when Hossa will be dealt, but to whom? There are many possible suitors for the services of Hossa, including Detroit, San Jose, Colorado, Anaheim, and Pittsburgh. St. Louis could very well jump in this thing as well, and a deal could easily be pulled off considering what the Blues have to offer and what the Thrashers are looking for in return. Atlanta wants prospects and picks...the Blues have that in hand. Hossa would fit in perfectly on the first line with Boyes and Kariya, and would provide much help on the power play. Don't be surprised if the Blues pull the trigger on this much-needed talent.
My Rating: 7
J.P. Dumont - He would be a nice addition, but would the Predators be willing to trade within the division? That seems to be a cardinal sin these days, as teams in the same division as the team they trade with are in fear that player will come back to haunt them. Dumont would like to stay in Nashville, but if they keep falling out of the race, then he's gonna be dealt. He's a streaky scorer and a power play specialist, but if anything, he'll be traded to an Eastern Conference team.
My Rating: 4
Ladislav Nagy - This guy can never seem to find a home. He signed a pretty hefty contract with the Kings in the offseason, but with the way Los Angeles' season has gone down the tubes, they are a team that is going to be selling off their stars at discount prices. Fans forget that Nagy started out with the Blues, and was a good talent to have around. He is a capable 20+goal scorer, and is a sniper around the net. The Blues had interest in him in the offseason. Could they have interest in him again? I don't see why not.
My Rating: 6
Michal Handzus - Here's another guy thar signed a good-sized contract in LA but is bound to be shipped elsewhere as well. His career has been marred by injuries, but when he's healthy, he's an immediate producer on the ice. Could Handzus be on a second go-around with the Blues?
My Rating: 6
Vaclav Prospal - Prospal is a guy that thrives around playing with talent. Some of his best years in the NHL were with talented individuals around him. Tampa Bay is going to be a seller, so it's no secret that Prospal is one of those guys that's bound to be traded. A capable 30 goal scorer, he would once again revive his career around guys like Paul Kariya, Keith Takchuk, Brad Boyes, and Andy MacDonald. This is a guy that the Blues could very well have for a small price.
My Rating: 7
More to come soon.....