The New York Islanders are on a 4-0-1 run that is somewhat shocking to most who have followed them this season and easy bait for snarkitudinal columnists to note has not removed them from their last-place dwelling.
The St. Louis Blues are likewise on a 4-0-1 run, though they are nervous about the amount of overtime (four times) in that stretch and how it will affect them on a road trip that begins tonight at Barclays Center and continues tomorrow in Newark.
(On the latter point, apparently there was some I AM OFFENDED reaction to a benign media note that the Blues were not doing a morning skate due to commuting congestion typical of New York City.
THIS IS NOT NEWS. It’s not like they got in the bus and then realized OMG THE TRAFFIC. They knew the plan, stayed in Manhattan (as several teams doing this swing do), and practiced Wednesday in St. Louis instead.)
I will note that in St. Louis it takes 15-20 minutes or less to get anywhere — like, even 20 miles across the county — so there is a natural aversion to minor traffic nuisance. Highways are good, congestion is navigable. Unless there’s snow.
I do know the Blues quite a bit, so you can hear me tell their fans what you already know about the Isles on this Blues Hockey Podcast, and perhaps learn a little about some of their players below.
Steen is Their Frans
I know, I know, Frans Nielsen isn’t here anymore and I need to get over it. But Alexander Steen reminds me of Nielsen in someways in that he’s quietly talented offensively, diligently conscientious defensively, and can do a bit of everything.
He’s more physical and has a harder shot than Nielsen — so when you see Steen on the point during a power play, you should respect his shot from there — but overall he’s just a smart, talented but not flashy player.
He can play center or wing too, though tonight he’ll be on the wing of a power line with Jaden Schwartz centered by Paul Stastny.
Kyle Brodziak is their Casey Cizikas, Kind of
Like the Islanders, the Blues believe in a strong fourth line, though they don’t roll it as often as the Islanders do. Still, they have a smart player centering the line in Kyle Brodziak.
Brodziak is 32, has over 700 NHL games under his belt, and doesn’t score much, but he’s no plodding scrub. He was a seventh-round pick by the Oilers, who underutilized him and traded him to Minnesota for scraps. He’s found a nice niche as a reliable fourth-line center.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Brodziak is “one of just two players in the NHL who has played 20 more games this season who has yet to be credited with a giveaway...”
Brodziak’s reaction is a familiar one:
“I guess it depends what building you're in, what their take is on [a stat],” Brodziak said. “Sometimes you feel like you have five hits and you have zero. But I'll take it.”
No, still though: Brodziak’s hockey smarts are legit.
Lehtera is their Strait
No, Jori Lehtera is not a defenseman like the ex-Isle Brian Strait. But no one takes more grief from Blues fans for his spot in the lineup (despite a recent scratch) than Lehtera, who is an old friend of Vladimir Tarasenko and enjoyed an extended time on his wing.
The Blues Lost Free Agents Too
The Blues are in a “win now” mode, yet they had to make difficult decisions in letting former captain-and-soul David Backes walk for big money (and term), and Troy Brouwer — whom they acquired for TJ Oshie knowing they had cap cuts coming — in the offseason.
They’re still a very good team despite those losses and a candidate to win the Central and go far, which is why they sound like they’ll hang on to Kevin Shattenkirk even though he’s destined to walk for big money in unrestricted free agency next season.
The Islanders will start Thomas Greiss, who does not have the haunted history of being dinged by his former teams the way Jaroslav Halak does. Not that this matters.
Johnny Boychuk was skating in the morning skate, so maybe he’s over what kept him from the last game. But hints of a bug going around the team should give one pause about projecting tonight’s lineup.
Check more Blues coverage at St. Louis Game Time.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here by game time, which is 7 p.m. EST.