St. Louis Blues

TJ Oshie will have a big season and help lead the Blues back to the playoffs.
TJ Oshie will have a big season and help lead the Blues back to the playoffs.

The St. Louis Blues made a strong run late last season to capture the sixth seed in the playoffs, all while playing in arguably the best division and having one of the younger rosters in the NHL. The Blues were also missing one of their key veteran leaders, Paul Kariya. Thanks to the youngsters stepping up, and goalie Chris Mason standing on his head, they exceeded all expectations. This season, the Blues look to build on their success and prove last year was no fluke.

Returning to the lineup this season will be Keith Tkachuk, back for his 18th NHL season and 9th with the Blues. He signed a one year deal in the off-season worth $2.15 million. He certainly wont be as productive as he was earlier in his career, but Tkachuk should still be capable of a 25 goal and 50 point campaign. He’ll be an excellent source of leadership for a young Blues squad as well.

The Blues will also be relying on TJ Oshie to provide some scoring depth for the team. At 22 years old, Oshie proved last season he could be an effective NHL player while tallying 14 goals, 25 assists and a plus 16 rating in 57 games played. The summer should have provided ample time to add some strength, which will help Oshie improve production.

Elsewhere on offense, you’ll find Brad Boyes, David Backes and David Perron all proving useful. Andy McDonald will find his way to the top of the point leaders as well, providing he can stay healthy.

Defensively, we’re excited to see the return of highly touted defenseman Erik Johnson. He spent all of last season recovering from a knee injury and surgery, but was excellent in 2007-08 as a rookie. As a 20 year old, in his only NHL season thus far, Johnson contributed 5 goals and 28 assists on a struggling St. Louis Blues team. He might be a little rusty to start the season, but the Blues definitely have high expectations for Johnson.

Back between the pipes, Chris Mason looks to build off of a strong ending to the 2008-09 season. He finished the season with a record of 27-21-7 with a .916 save percentage and 2.41 goals against average, along with 6 shutouts. His stellar play down the stretch was a huge part of the Blues return to the playoffs. If they have any hope of making it back this season, Mason will have to step up his game once again.

Backing up Mason will be a new face to the locker room, Ty Conklin. Conklin was signed as a two-year deal as a free agent after helping lead the Detroit Red Wings to a very successful season. As Chris Osgood struggled in Detroit, Ty really stepped up with a 25-11-2 record, .909 save percentage and 2.51 goals against average. He delivered 6 shutouts for the Red Wings as well. Conklin was an excellent signing for the Blues and you can bet he’s going to fight for a starting spot. He had no problem splitting time with Osgood and certainly outplayed him for much of the regular season.

Playing in one of the best divisions in the NHL isn’t going to have much of an effect on the Blues this season. They should find a way to pound their way back to another low seeded playoff spot.


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