Singing The Blues: Breaking Down The Minnesota Wild – St. Louis Blues Series With Kate Cimini


As we look towards the Minnesota Wild’s match-up with the Chicago Blackhawks, we must first close the door on round one. To do that, I sat down with Kate Cimini, the editor of Bleedin’ Blue to talk about the St. Louis Blues. Bleedin’ Blue is a member of the FanSided network, just like Gone Puck Wild, and they put out some great articles, so show them some love. Anyway, on to the questions.

GPW: Another season, another early playoff exit from a team that looks like it could win it all. Is there ONE thing you can attribute to the loss from A Blues perspective?

KC: I’ve done a decent amount of research stats-wise, and have to come to the conclusion that the Blues simply didn’t bring their effort to the party. They had an improved Corsi rating, but were taking bad shots to get that rating and in general, refused to take control of the neutral zone. The only time they focused on possessing the puck through the neutral zone was Game 4, and we all know how that ended. That was kind of game I expected to see out of St. Louis, and it was hugely disappointing to see that kind of forward momentum end.

GPW: Is this the end of the road for Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis?  How about (Blues GM) Doug Armstrong?

KC: Armstrong’s done a great job drafting players and the development from their AHL team (the Chicago Wolves) to the NHL team is tremendous. I don’t think Armstrong will be dispatched, but I do think Hitchcock is facing a lot of uncertainty in his job, particularly in light of yesterday’s words with the media.

I personally don’t like Hitch’s idea of how a top-tier team is supposed to play so I can’t say I’d be very upset if he ended up leaving St. Louis, but I don’t think it’s a given at this point in time.

GPW: Jake Allen was clutch in the regular season and was actually quite good for most of this series but Brian Elliott is longer in the tooth and is great against the Wild. Why do you think they went with Allen?

KC: Allen was playing better. It’s that simple. I was against the decision at first, but clearly Hitchcock and Corsi saw something (in practice, maybe) in Allen that I didn’t. Elliott is a middling-to-fair goalie and Allen will be a better goalie overall. He may not have been the best goalie this season, but Allen will certainly outstrip Elliott in the long-term, and it was good to see what he could do in a playoffs situation.

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I don’t think Allen was the reason the Blues lost (a bad goal or two does not a series make), so getting to see Allen in his first postseason series was really interesting, especially as he’s due a new contract this summer.

GPW: What do you think of Steve Ott?

KC:I don’t love him; I don’t hate him. His style of play is not my preferred, but I like that he goes hard on every play. If I were a GM I wouldn’t trade for him, but since I don’t have that kind of power I have to find something to enjoy in his play. And sometimes his antics make me laugh.

GPW: What was your favorite goal by the Blues during this series?

KC: Tarasenko’s MSG goal repeat, by far.

GPW: How about by the Wild?

KC: Don’t ask me questions you don’t want the answer to.

GPW: The Minnesota Wild has opened the trade doors and you can snag any player EXCEPT Devan Dubnyk. How do you take and why?

KC: Wow. This is horrendously tempting. So I can take another player PLUS Dubnyk, right? I kid, I kid. Um…I think I’d actually take Yeo. I like his style, I like his bald little head, and I really like how invested he is in his team’s future. His  screaming fit actually endeared him more to me; it showed he was as frustrated with his team as the fans were and he truly believed they could do better, that it was a problem, in his eyes, that was fixable. And a few months later, we can see that it really, truly was.

Since coaches weren’t exactly on the table, though, I’ll answer the question in the spirit it was intended. I was going to go with a defender, since STL is going to need some fresh ones, and soon, but I think Nino Neiderreiter is just too tempting to pass up. Like AmeriCone Dream.

I’m kidding; I hate AmeriCone Dream.

But not about Neiderreiter. His positioning is brilliant; he sees the ice differently than half the players on it with him. He’s a smart mind who ends up with too many “lucky” breaks to truly be lucky. He’s good, and he’s exactly what the Blues will need once they sell Oshie to the highest bidder.

GPW:  Vladimir Tarasenko looks like one of the best players in the NHL right now. Is this just the beginning, or will we see the youngster come back down to earth a bit?

KC: According to my cowriter, A.P. Andes, we’ll see this and more out of him. I tend to agree with Andes; he gets a little wild-eyed whenever someone doubts Tarasenko’s abilities as an NHL superstar. That, and Tarasenko’s stats agree with me. He’s on an upward trend overall and I don’t think it will be many seasons before he emerges as a point-per-game player.

GPW: Is there a restructure coming with the Blues roster soon? Are there any faces you expect to see traded?

KC: Who don’t I expect to be traded? More to the point: who would I be surprised if they were traded? To answer that question I say: Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo. And maybe Jori Lehtera. I don’t want to see Patrik Berglund go (he’s a wonder at supporting his linemates and improves their performances) but his points themselves are pretty low and I’m not sure he’ll be around next season.

GPW: Who is your Blues season MVP and why?

KC:Jake Allen. He stepped up during the regular season, dealt with horrendous uncertainty when the Blues added Martin Brodeur to the roster in December and settled into a strong role in the postseason that I didn’t expect to see out of him.  I was highly impressed with his entire season and hope to see him around in the next.

GPW: St. Louis has been great for almost the entirety of its existence in the NHL, yet ticket prices are so dang cheap. Why?

KC: I think we can answer this by asking how many Cups the Blues have won. That, and the team is currently owned by 17 people, all of whom are locals and appear committed to keeping prices affordable for St. Louis and the surrounding population.

GPW: What do you Think of St. Louis’ alternate sweater? It’s not hard-hitting journalism, but those things are gorgeous!

KC: Oh, the alternate sweater. I do not like the other two; if they exclusively wore their third jersey I’d be a happy camper. They’re just so darn attractive.

Next: A Wild Thought: Dissecting the Blues-Wild Series With Alex Trembley

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