Over the next few days Sean and I will do our best to help you learn more about our friends in St. Louis (probably more then you ever cared to) so you'll have some perspective on the names you'll hear and how they stack up against the Vancouver ranks. I'll roll these up into a comprehensive series preview before the drop of the puck on Wednesday.
Just two days to go...screw Christmas, this really is the best time of the year.
In the meantime, let's take a look at the St. Louis blueline:
St. Louis Pairings (based on EV stats from the last game)
We all know by now that part of what made the Blue's improbable run towards sixth place so impressive was they did it while suffering a slew of injuries, notably on the blueline to Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson. Brewer, part of the post-lockout Pronger deal, suffered a shoulder injury during a fight in the first game of the year. He's out all season following reconstructive surgery.
Johnson, the first overall pick of the 2006 draft (the same year we took Grabner at 14th) has an even better story: his right foot was caught between the accelerator and brake pedal of a golf cart at a team outing in September. This Mensa candidate has been out all season as well.
That leaves the following to patrol the blueline for St. Louis:
|2008 - Barret Jackman||82||4||17||21||-17||86||1||1||0||1||89||4.5|
A first round pick from 1999, Jackman is a combination of Ohlund and Mitchell. He can score, but better known for being a big guy who can deliver the huge hits. He's one of those blueliners who's not a pleasure to play against. He also has a history of shoulder injuries while others have questioned aloud what effect this hit will have on him long term healthwise. I don't put a bunch of faith in that: he's their rock who will eat up a ton of minutes, shadow (I'd assume) Sundin, Kesler or one the Sedins and will get plenty of time when they go short handed.
|2008 - Roman Polak||69||1||14||15||-15||45||0||0||1||0||73||1.4|
A 6th round pick from 2004, Polak is a decent-sized defensemen who is in his third year with the Blues and has career highs in points and assists this season. He and Jackman serve as good shutdown guys against the opposition's top lines. He reminds me a bit of a bigger Krajicek with a bit less of an offensive upside. Nothing spectacular, but gets the job done in his end of the rink.
|2008 - Carlo Colaiacovo||73||3||27||30||0||35||0||0||0||0||87||3.4|
I don't think these two teams have enough Toronto castaways; it'll be a mini reunion if Colaiacovo has to line up across from Sundin or Wellwood. Colaiacovo was brought over in a trade (along with Alex Steen) for Lee Stempniak back in November. Since then he's had a career year in points, 19 of which have been on the powerplay (which you should have you concerned Vancouver fans) and leads their defense in points. Such things are invaluable to a team beset with blueline injuries and the SLGT guys nominated him, not surprisingly, as their best defenseman of the year.
|2008 - Mike Weaver||58||0||7||7||-3||12||0||0||0||0||36||0.0|
Weaver was Vancouver's reserve defenseman last year and played the same role with the Blues this year. Though with the injuries, he's received far more icetime then what he was probably originally slated for. We know little Mike; he's not getting on the scoresheet but plays responsibly in his own end. If he ends up on the ice against Vancouver's second or third lines, he'll have some considerably larger bodies (Sundin, Bernier, Pyatt) to contend with down in the corners but he's been dealing with that his whole career.
|2008 - Jeff Woywitka||65||3||15||18||8||57||2||0||1||0||71||4.2|
Another part of the post lockout Pronger deal, Woywitka was drafted in the first round by the Flyers back in 2001. He's another guy having a career year for St. Louis and is a fixture on the power play as well. He sounds like a jack of all trades, an all-around type of defenseman.
|2008 - Jay McKee||69||1||7||8||11||44||0||0||1||0||43||2.3|
After a century or so in Buffalo, McKee joined St. Louis three years ago and plays similar to Mitchell or Vaananen in terms of being a shutdown, stay-at-home player. He's huge (6'4''), will knock people around and is definitely a guy you'll see when the Blues go short handed. Along with Jackman, this is a guy we'll learn to hate as the series goes on.
By The Numbers
STL Blueliners - 462
VAN Blueliners - 691
STL Blueliners - 110
VAN Blueliners - 166
STL Blueliners - 9
VAN Blueliners - 22
STL Blueliners - 317
VAN Blueliners - 594
2008-09 Blocked Shots
STL Blueliners - 737
VAN Blueliners - 566
STL Blueliners - 194
VAN Blueliners - 308
STL Blueliners - 132
VAN Blueliners - 175
STL Blueliners - 485
VAN Blueliners - 580