|In his first visit to St. Louis since 2005, Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby said he was impressed with the Blues' speed and skill. (Photo by Mark Buckner). |
If someone were to write a book explaining the ins-and-outs of building a team through the draft, it might end up being a biography of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
From 2001-2006, the Penguins hovered near the bottom of the NHL standings and benefited from several high draft picks, including Sidney Crosby (2005), Evgeni Malkin (2004), Jordan Staal (2006) and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (2003).
“It’s not every day you get a Sidney Crosby or (Evgeni) Malkin, that helps out a lot,” said Blues forward Cam Janssen about the Penguins and their quick rise to success. “They’re doing it right. They’ve got a great nucleus and a great crop of guys that help out their skilled guys. They’ve got it all.”
But the Blues have taken a page out of the Penguins’ book, recently drafting T.J. Oshie
(2005), Patrik Berglund
(2006), Erik Johnson (2006), David Perron
(2007) and Alex Pietrangelo
(2008) with its first round choices.
Crosby said he was impressed with what he saw from the Blues on Saturday.
"They're a good team. They have some dangerous players and they showed they can strike pretty quick," Crosby said. "A lot of speed, a lot of skill and their power play is dangerous."
The Penguins' captain said the key to rebuilding through the draft is giving young players a chance to play in key situations.
"We were thrown into the mix pretty quickly, thrown a lot of responsibility early. That's only going to help," Crosby said. "We have a lot of younger guys who've gotten pretty big roles pretty early on, so that alone makes you better."HURTING IN GOAL
It’s not easy being a Blues' goaltender these days.
Manny Legace suffered a lower body injury when he slipped on a piece of carpet before the Oct. 24 game vs. Los Angeles and rookie Ben Bishop was injured making a save in his second NHL appearance the very next day. Just a week earlier, Blues backup Chris Mason underwent emergency appendectomy surgery.
|Blues goalie Manny Legace slipped before the Oct. 24 game vs. Los Angeles and is considered day-to-day. Legace said after the game that he didn't consider his injury to be serious. (Getty Images). |
As a result, the Blues have been forced to use four different goalies in net less than 10 games into the 2008-09 schedule.
“I was hurting pretty good,” Legace said after slipping on Oct. 24. He played 20 minutes before coming out of the game after the first period. “When you’re a goalie, if you’re hurt at all you should just come out.”
Legace is considered day-to-day but has yet to begin skating since the injury.
As a result, the Blues added depth between the pipes with the signing of Chris Holt, who spent the last three seasons in the New York Rangers’ system. He was drafted by the Rangers in the sixth round in 2003.
Holt was called up from Peoria on Friday to back up Mason, who returned to action for the first time on Thursday and was stellar in a 1-0 loss to Carolina, stopping 28 Hurricanes’ shots.
“After the (first two minutes), I settled down and I felt really good,” Mason said.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Blues coach Andy Murray said after the game. “The one thing we talked about here in St. Louis was needing a second goaltender that could give us a chance to win. He certainly did more than that.”
During the 2002-03 season, injuries forced the Blues to use seven different goalies (Chris Osgood, Brent Johnson, Fred Brathwaite, Curtis Sanford, Tom Barrasso, Reinhard Divis and Cody Rudkowsky), the most the team has ever used in one year.
As per a new league rule, clubs are not required to reveal the extent of a player’s injury. There’s no official word on how soon Legace or Bishop will be ready to play.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
After seven consecutive home games in which the team went 3-4, the Blues will start a 5-game road trip next week that includes meetings with the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks.
“It’s going to be a tough trip,” said Mason. “If we’re going to make the playoffs, we’re going to have to battle those guys all year. It’ll be a great test to see where we’re really at right now.”
The Blues also meet the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres.
“Obviously, we want to win every game, but we definitely want to be over .500,” said Janssen. “Good teams play good on the road, and we’ve got to be one of those teams. If not, we’ll be the middle of the pack everywhere we go.
“We have to find a way to win on the road, and we’ve got the capability to do it.”
As of Nov. 1, the Blues are 1-1 on the road.