Buchnevich, absence updates, defense and more

The St. Louis Blues end this week with a 1-2-1 record, with three straight losses to end the week. The team lost some of its luster after a hot start, and the schedule only got tougher. COVID injuries and absences have caught up with the Blues, and the team just aren’t playing very well. That said, there are also some positives to consider.

Buchnevich finding his game

Since my arrival of the New York Rangers, Pavel Buchnevich has had some ups and downs in his tenure with the Blues, but things have changed. Since joining Jordan Kyrou, he has been part of the elite in all phases of the match.

Pavel Buchnevich, New York Rangers (Amy irvin / The writers of hockey)

He now has up to four goals and four assists in 12 games, including five points this week. He scored two points against the Winnipeg Jets, one against the Carolina Hurricanes and two against the Edmonton Oilers. Turns out when you end up with Kyrou and Ryan O’Reilly you start to play better, which he did.

This trade still looks like a heist for the Blues, as Buchnevich is a complete player compared to Sammy Blais. However, you can’t blame the Rangers for trading him in, as that seemed like their plan from the start in their revamped roster. Regardless, the Blues’ current front row with these three has been excellent and has boosted play for them, even though the team is struggling.

Thomas finally has fun

Last season was supposed to bust Robert Thomas, and while it didn’t happen then, it does happen now. Thomas has been a two-way street horse with excellent vision and the ability to overtake. He easily became the team’s second best cross, overtaking injured Brayden Schenn.

Related: Robert Thomas of St. Louis Blues quietly exits

Thomas finished his week with three straight games with multiple assists, totaling seven assists in those games. He’s struggling to score goals, but he’s had plenty of chances so hopefully that will happen soon.

Robert Thomas now has several assists in 3 consecutive games. Thomas is the 1st Blues player with 2 assists in 3 consecutive games since Andy McDonald (October 10 to October 13, 2008). #stlblues

Thomas now has more than one point per game this season, with one goal and 14 assists for 15 points in 14 games. If he can stay healthy, which has been a problem, he should easily surpass his career high with 42 points he had in 2019-20.

His chemistry with Vladimir Tarasenko was great, as Tarasenko now has seven goals this season, including a few major goals in the third period. A healthy Thomas is huge for the Blues and it has been this season, no doubt about it.

Husso, Clifford, Mikkola and Krug remain on COVID list

Blues have three players on COVID roster, goalkeeper Ville Husso has been there since Halloween, but lately has been skating. Joel Hofer has been solid in Husso’s absence which is great news for Jordan Binnington. The list keeps growing every week this season, which is not good for a fully vaccinated team.

Kyle Clifford has been on the roster since November 2 and may have lost his spot in the Blues roster because of it, they have too much depth up front for him to play on his return.

Kyle Clifford St. Louis Blues
Kyle Clifford, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Bob Kupbens / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Torey Krug and Niko Mikkola have been on the list since Nov. 5, missing a total of five games, which is particularly unfortunate for Krug. Krug had emerged as a beast in the back with Justin Faulk, he was dominant in his penultimate game against the Los Angeles Kings. The most recent report for Krug and Mikkola is good, with the hope that they can return as soon as possible.

Berube says Krug and Mikkola will skate tomorrow. #stlblues

The Blues defense needs them in the worst possible way, as I will point out later in this article, it has become a major problem. This is a problem which is partly due to absences and a general lack of consistency.

Injury Updates

The two main players who have missed out on time due to injuries this season are Schenn and Oskar Sundqvist. Schenn was injured in the Blues game against the Chicago Blackhawks and again got worse trying to cross it in the next game.

The Blues have avoided a major injury with Schenn, and he’s set to come back but still listed as day to day. He was playing long before his injury and has become a major leader for this team, so they need his presence in the middle of the six. He should be available to play by next week, barring a hitch.

For Sundqvist, he’s been sidelined with a ripped ACL since last season in April, when he fell. He’s set to return, and Blues general manager (GM) Doug Armstrong says he could be back “a week or two.” He’s been skating for a few weeks now, so I think it’s a safe bet we will see him before the end of the calendar year.

They could use his courage and skills in the middle of the six, as his chemistry over the past few seasons with Ivan Barbashev is formidable. Maybe we’ll see Barbashev, Tarasenko, and Sundqvist together.

The defensive unit is in trouble

It’s more of an eye test issue than anything else, but the notable absences and bad play stand out for the Blues defense. Colton Parayko and Marco Scandella are no longer able to play well together because they’ve been awful lately.

Colton Parayko St. Louis Blues
Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues (Jess starr/ The writers of hockey)

They clearly miss Krug in the back-end and their cap issues don’t allow them to call Scott Perunovich. For the other players, Faulk remained strong, while Calle Rosen probably struggled. Jake Walman and Robert Bortuzzo have been decent, but still not enough for a Blues team that has allowed 14 goals in their last four games.

The biggest problem for the Blues is defense, but that can improve with a few changes. Mikkola is expected to return to the lineup upon his return, as is Krug. I think Perunovich will be here soon, which makes a much better six than they have now. The second biggest problem is the scandella contract, who looks lost there, and it’s not totally his fault either.

The coming week

  • Tuesday: vs. Arizona Coyotes, 7 p.m.
  • Thursday: vs. San Jose Sharks, 7 p.m.
  • Saturday: at the Dallas Stars, 7 p.m.

While you can’t take any opponent lightly in the NHL, the schedule is certainly more favorable compared to last week. Rather than playing the top two teams in the league, they will face the statistically worst team with the Coyotes. The Blues need to get together and it’s a perfect week to get back on track.




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