This will be the final St. Louis Blues mailbag before their return to play on Sunday, Aug. 2 against the Colorado Avalanche. There are plenty of questions and thoughts to be had regarding the team’s status going into the Edmonton bubble and how they could look in the playoffs.
Who Will Be the X-factor for the Blues in the Playoffs? (@MatthewZatorSC on Twitter)
I have given this question a lot of thought, despite Vladimir Tarasenko returning, I think the X-factor of the team during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs is Ryan O’Reilly. The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner is a huge part of the two-way game for the Blues.
The defenders in St. Louis will be important too, but O’Reilly’s impact on the power play and penalty kill on top of his overall two-way game matters so much.
O’Reilly’s ability to score early goals during the Stanley Cup Final last year got the team going in many of those games.
All he has to do to make an impact for the club is playing his game, a great two-way player with a high hockey IQ. He scored 23 points over 26 games during last year’s run and had a solid regular season in 2019-20 with 61 points. Zach Sanford and David Perron will be big factors with O’Reilly on that second line.
Look for Colton Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, Robert Thomas, and others to make an impact on the team’s success in this playoffs.
How Important is Alexander Steen’s Leadership On and Off the Ice? (@BlainPotvin_THW on Twitter)
One of the most underrated aspects of the Blues roster is the leadership and it starts with the captain, Pietrangelo, and veteran Alexander Steen. Steen is the ultimate leader and teammate and that has been well documented during his 10-plus seasons in St. Louis.
Early in his Blues career, he was a 40-point two-way forward who did a lot for the team in all zones. He’s transitioned into a solid two-way player with great leadership.
An example of that leadership was shown during the 2018-19 season when coach Craig Berube went to Steen and told him that the team needs a fourth line with an identity and he wanted Steen to be the anchor of that. Berube revealed this story on the “Spittin’ Chiclets” podcast last month. The quote from Berube: “I talked to Steener and I said, listen our fourth line needs an identity. You need to go and give them an identity.”
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After that quick chat, Berube says Steen said “ok,” and went to do his job, and it worked. The Blues’ fourth line was paramount in their playoff success last year. A veteran leader making $5.75 million willingly dropped to the fourth line and helped give it an identity if that isn’t leadership I don’t know what is.
Can Ryan O’Reilly Replicate Last Year’s Success? (@JoshuaBellTHW on Twitter)
Being that O’Reilly is my team X-factor, I expect him to have another big playoff run. But can he replicate last year’s success? I’m not sure, after the way he played last year, he has the ability, but it will be hard.
A lot of what O’Reilly does offensively can depend on how his linemates Perron and Sanford play. They all played well last year and had lots of success.
I expect O’Reilly to have a bounce-back with his goal-scoring after having 12 of them in 71 games this season. Sanford and Perron had excellent regular seasons and despite the layoff, should continue that in the postseason.
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Things are looking up for the Blues headed into Sunday’s round-robin opener against the Colorado Avalanche. The goaltending looks sharp and hopefully, the two-play style can bounce back after their exhibition loss to the Blackhawks. This club is once again built to make a deep run.