GDHQNHL15_2pg-St. Louis Blues 1

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St. Louis BLUES WESTERN CONFERENCE Key Additions: C Paul Stastny, C Jori Lehtera, C Peter Mueller, D Carl Gunnarsson Key Subtractions: G Ryan Miller, C Vladimir Sobotka, C Derek Roy, LW Brendan Morrow, D Roman Polak Strengths: Superior special teams and depth throughout the lineup. Weaknesses: Goaltending competition is a minor question. Offense The Blues lay claim to one of the most physical groups of forwards in the entire NHL. This fearsome set of forwards that specialize in forechecking the opposition’s defense is led by captain David Backes. Backes set the tone on a number of occasions last season as he came away with 273 hits during the 2013-14 regular season, good enough to tie for third in the entire league. While the Blues captain is best known for his physical prowess, he is also relied upon to produce offensively. In 74 games played, he put up nearly 60 points (27 goals, 30 assists) and came away with a plus/minus of +12, showing that he is one of the better defensive players in the league as well. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises for the Blues last season was the play of Russian winger Vladimir Tarasenko. The 22-year old registered 43 points (21 goals, 22 assists) in 64 games played. While most youngsters falter under the pressure of the playoffs, Tarasenko thrived as he tallied four goals in six games for the Blues. Blessed with size and scoring ability, Tarasenko is primed for a breakout year. The Blues made a big splash in the free agent market as well by signing center Paul Stastny away from the division rival Colorado Avalanche. Stastny will slot in on the top line between Alexander Steen (33 goals, 29 assists) and T.J. Oshie (21 goals, 39 assists). You may remember Oshie from the U.S. Olympic team as he was called upon repeatedly to take the shootout attempts against Russia. He is a specialist in the area. The Blues hope Stastny’s (25 goals, 35 assists) arrival will free up Backes’ line to create more offensively. Defense With a top pair defense that rivals any in the league, the Blues have a sound group of players on the blue line. The conversation starts with Alex Pietrangelo when talking about the St. Louis defense corps. Pietrangelo finished fifth in the Norris Trophy race as he scored 51 points (8 goals, 43 assists) from the back-end. At just 24-years-old, his best years CENTRAL DIVISION David Backes Mark Buckner/NHL/Getty Images


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