Game Day Preview #50, St. Louis Blues @ Los Angeles Kings
Oh, hey, the Blues have started winning again. Cool cool cool cool cool.
HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 1:00 PM Pacific
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: St. Louis Game Time
Good news everyone! We’re 60% of the way through the NHL season! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, even though it looks pretty far away right now. We’re inching closer to the finish line, and even though some of our favorite Kings faces may not be with us when we get there, April will be here before we know it and then we can put this season firmly in the rear-view mirror.
But there are still thirty-some games, and here we are.
The St. Louis Blues have been playing better hockey as of late. Strange, I know, given that at various points in the season, the Kings had actually passed them in the standings. They’ve won six of their last 10, a swing that coincides with the callup of goaltender Jordan Binnington. Binnington, who helped turn around the San Antonio Rampage’s season after a terrible start—they lost eight of their first 10 games this season— was called up on January 5, after shutting out his old AHL team, the Chicago Wolves. It was a masterful performance from a Blues prospect who seemed all but forgotten by the organization, spending six seasons in the minors with only a few scattered appearances in the NHL over the years.
He’s been lights out since then for the Blues; he’s played five games since his call-up and has won four and lost one in overtime.
Darcy Kuemper (5-0-2) of the @ArizonaCoyotes is one of four NHL goaltenders without a regulation loss since New Year’s Day (min. 5 GP).— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 21, 2019
Tuukka Rask (5-0-1)
David Rittich (5-0-1)
Jordan Binnington (4-0-1)#NHLStats #ARIvsTOR pic.twitter.com/VkJcmoUHU1
ake Allen, ostensibly the Blues’ starting goaltender, has struggled to really take that last step to play a consistent game. When the Blues have needed a goalie win, Allen hasn’t always been able to make it happen for them. Allen’s played three games since Binnington’s call-up and won just one of them. Time will tell if Binnington is the goalie of the future for the Blues or just the goalie of right now—Allen still has two more years on his contract—but it seems like the crease is Binnington’s to lose at the moment.
For the Kings, they reshuffle a few deck chairs of their own, sending Matt Luff back to the Ontario Reign today. Which is—fine, whatever, I guess. If Desjardins isn’t going to make room in the lineup for him, it’s better to have him be an everyday player in Ontario, which has shown some signs of life lately despite their losing record, than to be a healthy scratch with the Kings. With the trade deadline looming, it’s a safe bet that players like Luff and Mike Amadio (who’s easily one of the best players on the ice when he plays with the Reign) will be back up with the Kings again soon.
Of course what’s more important than the shuffling around of bubble roster players is a response—any kind of response—to yet another embarrassing loss for the team. Players like Drew Doughty say the right things and show the right amount of fire and passion when asked to account for the team’s performance in Colorado, but at the end of the day, words are just that: words.
It’s clear that this team doesn’t have what it takes to compete with the top teams in the league. Whether “it” is because of a lack of chemistry in the room, checked-out players, a lack of skill, poor coaching, or, most likely all of the above—it doesn’t matter. What matters is that at least there’s an effort and a response. I’d rather see the team try hard and come up just short than let a game snowball completely out of control with no push-back.
You know, for just a second there, I kind of missed Darryl Sutter.