Post halfway report, report
St. Louis Mo:
After a glass half full, glass half empty, half season report, the St. Louis Blues players all read it, and then... preceded to go on a 4 game losing streak. Was it depression from what they read? Or was it their true colours shining through. Well, GM Olsen was not impressed to say the least. He was on the phone to several GM's to mix up the line up, but no one was home. The one GM that was home, said, between laughs, no thanks. GM Olsen told his coach, Pat Burns that he could not make a trade, because no one wants their sorry asses. Burns apparently told the team, since then they have 4 wins in a row. Goalie Kari Takko is 4-1 in the last 5 games. Is he the starter now? Could be. But GM Olsen can not trade Ranford. Ranford is good, so why not? Is GM Olsen asking for the moon?
Well GM Olsen and the Blues have spent a lot of resources to make Ranford the goalie that he is. If that is the case, they may be asking for the moon. Is he a good fit in St. Louis? That is a more important question. He does not seem to be able to reach his full potential with the Blues. He just seems, not like he was in juniors. Does he need a new home? He could very well need a new home. But the Blues are giving him starting goaltending money and he can not string enough wins together to be classified as a starter. And, he still has 3 years on his contract. Was it a bad decision to sign him to that amount of money? Right now, it looks it. But if he turns it around, and becomes the player that the Blues believe that he can be... then it was worth it. But at this rate, he looks like another bad contract.
Lisa Bowes reporting.
Blues at the Half
This has been an interesting year for the St. Louis fans. The Blues were expected to be stagnant near the bottom of the league. But they are not. Lots of stories good and bad and even mediocre have come from the first half of the season. We will break it down for you. Starting in goal. Bill Ranford came into this season looking to take the number one job, and relegate Kari Takko to back up. However, Takko has out played Ranford, when he has been in the net. Takko has played in 30 games and has a 9-8-5 record with 2 shut outs. He has a 2.93 gaa and an .895 save %. While Ranford has been in 27 games and has posted a 10-10-3 record with 1 shut out. He has a 3.34 gaa and an .885 save %. So going into this season, Ranford was going to get the most starts. However with Takko playing so well, Ranford has been relegated to back up more often than not. How long will the Blues stay with a two goalie system? One has to wonder. How long do they put time an effort into Ranford? One has to wonder about that as well.
The defense, after many years, being the strong point of the team, now is the weakest link. Defensively, they are not too bad. They are definitely far more defensive minded than they are offensive. They sit a solid second in team defense allowing the second fewest goals against per game. That is on the goalies for stopping so many. But the Blues are allowing a lot of shots. The defense is allowing just over 27 shots per game. That is in the bottom half of the league, for shots allowed. Just imagine how much better they would be if they could cut those by two per game? The defense needs to be a little more defensive and stop the shots, yet be more offensive with getting the puck out of their end. Not an easy task. But GM Olsen is trying to solidify their defense.
The forwards are not doing well. The team takes the most amount of penalties in the league. They spend 24.7 minutes in the box per game. They have a terrible penalty kill at just a meager 79.5%, good enough for the fourth worst. Their powerplay is the worst in the league by a whole 1%. They have a powerplay % of 79.5. The next worst team has a powerplay % of 12.8. With the likes of Ronning, Fergus, Hull, Christian, Sundin, McKegney and Dahlin on the powerplay, one would think that they would be better. But, they are not. The reason behind this, is that they are not shooting enough. Hull came in on fire and then he went cold. Christian has been doing well, but he can not carry the load. Sundin has been a no show, most nights. McKegney has been playing well, but not spectacular.
So, is there any help along the way. Well, not for a few years. And with 7 teams all within 3 points and they are fighting for 4 spots, the Blues will need Ranford to step up, the forwards to shoot more and the defense to slow the shots to the net. Or they may be watching the playoffs from their living room.
Capitals Half-Season Review
It has been a successful season for the Capitals thus far. The additions of Stan Smyl and John Tonelli from free agency and Ville Siren from trade have excelled in Washington. Many thought the window had closed for the Capitals after last season when they lost Rick Middleton, Mike Bossy, and Bob Murray to retirement but the core is still intact and keeping the Capitals at the top of the Wales Conference. Goaltender Curtis Joseph is leading the RHL in wins with 22, Adam Oates coming off his Rocket Richard and Art Ross winning season is right back at the top of the points leaders currently sitting 4th, Stan Smyl is 1 goal behind the leaders for the Rocket Richard.
The only disappointing part of the season has been the development of their rookies. First round pick Dean McAmmond was supposed to come into the pro roster and provide the needed secondary scoring. So far Dean has only 4 goals and 8 points playing on the 4th line role and because of this lack of production the management team has decided that Dean need more seasoning and will be sending Dean to camp in hopes he can develop more scoring. Rookie Erin Ginnell, an over age prospect drafted in 1992 2nd round, has come in and been a pleasant surprise. He's played on that 4th line and has provided 11 points and played on the penalty kill which currently 13th (down from the best PK% last season) but has helped the Capitals achieve the 3rd best GAA and SAA.
It appears the Capitals will be seeing the playoffs for the 6th straight season but will GM Mike Engelberts look to add at the deadline to try for another cup is yet to be seen.
Hull Nets Two As Blues Defeat Islanders
After flying in and a couple of hours rest at the Strip Club Up the Street, Brett Hull donned his new number 42 jersey and skated for the first time, with his new team. With Tom Fergus and Jim Peplinski out, the team was forced to juggle the lines, a lot. But in this game, Hull was on the right side of the second line, with Stu Grimson and Cliff Ronning. Grimson gave the protection needed to allow Ronning to pass to Hull. Hull scored twice as the Blues defeated the Islanders 4-3. Ronning and defenseman Gord Kluzak, both had two assists. Could this be a sign of things to come?
"Well we are very proud to have Brett (Hull) on this team now," said coach Pat Burns. "It's better to play with him, than play against him. As for his line mates when we are back healthy, who knows. I know that Lorne (Bokshowan) has been playing really well since getting called up. Ronning seems to have an immediate gel with Brett. So maybe when Fergie (Tom Fergus) gets back, we will see if Mats (Sundin) can have the same gelling as Cliff (Ronning). Maybe that will be a line. Maybe not. Who knows."
Next up for the Blues will be the Philadelphia Flyers coming to town. The Flyers, much like the Islanders and Blues, all sit around the .500 level. So this will be another good game. Last night was almost a sell out. But with the announcement that Hull has joined the Blues, maybe tonight will be a sell out. Do not take the chance. Get your tickets now. Before it is too late.
Lisa Bowes reporting.