Bernie Bits: It’s O’Reilly’s Birthday; Will Blues Party? Plus, Free Agent Relievers, One-and-Done Super Bowl QBs

Here are a few fresh cups of Bernie Bits…

Served on Feb. 7, 2019 …

Ryan Reilly turns 28 today, and perhaps the Blues can help their centerpiece player celebrate his birthday by picking up a point or two in Thursday night’s road game against the ridiculously talented Tampa Bay Lightning.

This shall be a tough test. The TBL are 20-5-1 at home, lead the league in goals scored and have yielded the fifth-lowest number of goals against.

If the Blues have a chance to win this one, O’Reilly will be in the middle of everything. We knew that O’Reilly was good when the Blues acquired him from Buffalo last summer. We knew that he’s played very well all season, even as teammates struggled to find the ignition to turn on their engines during the first 35 percent of the schedule.

A closer look, however, reaffirms a pleasant realization: O’Reilly is playing at an elite level. This is why:

* O’Reilly leads the Blues with 20 goals, 33 assists and 53 points. He’s also owns the team’s best plus-minus rating at +18.

* O’Reilly is only one of 23 NHL forwards with a combination of 20+ goals and 30+ assists. And he’s one of only 13 full-time centers to reach the 20-30 standard.

* Among the 13 centers, O’Reilly is No. 1 in faceoff success (57.5%), second in defensive point shares, fourth in plus-minus rating, and ninth in even-strength goals (16.)

* Among 49 NHL centers that have clocked at least 735 minutes of ice time this season, O’Reilly is No. 1 in even-strength faceoff wins (58.7%), fifth in high-danger scoring chance ratio vs. opponents (57.6%) and 10th in overall scoring-chance ratio vs. opponents. He’s also sixth in even-strength takeaways, with 41. And 18th in penalty-kill time.

Let’s see…

O’Reilly scores a healthy number of goals, sets up teammates with plenty of assists, is the best faceoff man in the league, has an impressive set of possession metrics, gives his line a distinct advantage over opponents in possession and quality of scoring opportunities and has one of the highest defensive ratings among all centers. Oh, and he always gives an honest and spirited effort.

As a bonus, O’Reilly has teamed with Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko to form a wickedly capable top line.

Over the Blues’ last 10 games, the trio has played 47 minutes and 52 seconds as a unit during even-strength situations.

Compared to the lines they’re competing against O’Reilly-Schenn-Tarasenko have controlled 64.3 percent of the shots, 58 percent of the scoring chances and 72.7 percent of the high-danger chances. They’ve outscored the other side 5-0 when it’s 5-on-5 hockey, and 5-2 at even strength.

I guess this is the long way of telling Ryan O’Reilly a couple of things …

Happy Birthday.

We’re glad you’re a Blue.

READING TIME SEVEN MINUTES

By the way, it’s figures to be a challenging night (ahem) for the Blues special teams; the Tampa Bay power play is No. 1 in the league with a 29.14 percent success rate, and the PK ranks second with a kill rate of 84.3% …

Happy Birthday: former Cardinals infielder Bien Figueroa is 55. … former Cards pitcher Ralph Citarella is 61. … former Blues winger Dennis Chasse is 49. …former STL Rams tight end Dominique Byrd is 35. …

Born On This Day: The late Dan Quisenberry (in 1953.) He was an exceptional closer for the Kansas City Royals for 10 seasons before working out of the Cardinals bullpen in 1988 and ‘89. During his six-year career peak in Kansas City (1980-1985) Quisenberry averaged 35 saves, led the American League in saves five times, and had five top-five finishes in the annual league MVP voting. Quisenberry succumbed to a brain tumor on Sept. 30, 1998. He was 45.

Died On This Day: The immortal tennis star,  Arthur Ashe, the first African American player selected to the U.S. Davis Cup team and the only African American man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. Ashe retired in 1980 and passed away in 1993 after a lengthy ordeal that began when he contracting HIV through a blood transfusion administered during heart bypass surgery in the early 1980s. Ashe publicly disclosed his illness early in 1992, and founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS. Ashe was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by president Bill Clinton.  As a teen, Ashe moved to St. Louis in 1960 to have access to elite coaching and to get away from the segregation of his home town, Richmond Va. Ashe graduated from Sumner High School.

Trending Up: Discussions to add the designated hitter to the National League — the only only organized baseball league in the world that doesn’t use the DH. Real smart to have NL pitchers hitting considering that (1) all minor leagues use the DH so these pitchers have no training as hitters as they graduate to the big leagues; (2) offense is down, down, down, down, and strikeouts are up, up, up up; (3) NL pitchers batted .116 with a sickly .295 OPS and a preposterous 41.5% strikeout rate last season; (4) American League DH-men combined for 546 homers and 1,704 RBIs last season compared to NL pitchers who combined for 23 homers and 28 RBIs. Yeah, it’s such fantsastic entertainment watching pitchers flail and fail. They can’t even be counted on to to deliver a sucessful sacrifice bunt. Last season NL pitchers had the fewest number of successful sacrifice bunts in a season since 1973. Overall, the level of offense generated by NL pitchers in 2018 came in at 124 percent below the league average. Even at their best — in 1974 — NL pitchers were a combined 85 percent below league average offensively.

Trending Down: Football recruiting at Mizzou and Illinois. Illini coach Lovie Smith’s 2019 class was ranked at the bottom of the Big Ten and 66th nationally by ESPN. Barry Odom’s haul to CoMo came in 34th nationally — not bad — but only tied for 12th among the 14 SEC programs.

The Cardinals want a reliever at bargain prices, these free agents were still available as of noon Thursday: Tyler Clippard, Nick Vincent, Sergio Romo, Ryan Madson, Jim Johnson, Alex Wilson, Daniel Hudson, Erik Goeddel, and the underrated Adam Warren.

The Philadelphia Flyers finally dumped forward Jori Lehtera, placing him on waivers after he’d scored one goal in 27 games this season. Including last season Lehtera, 31, had four goals in 89 games for the Flyers. And Lehtera isn’t in a happy place of the ice; last summer police in his native Finland accused him of being part of a drug ring that distributed cocaine. Lehtera won’t be claimed by an NHL team because of his contract and remaining $4.7 million cap hit … umm, just a reminder that Blues president of hockey ops acquired Brayden Schenn from the Flyers in exchange for Lehtera and a first-round draft choice.

Another day, another mock draft for former Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock. Dave Brugler of The Athletic has Lock going at No. 15 overall, to the Washington Redskins. “With Alex Smith not expected to play in 2019, the Redskins have a large question mark atop their quarterback depth chart,” Brugler wrote. “Opinions are wide-ranging on this year’s quarterback class, but Lock has the arm talent, mobility and makeup that coaches will appreciate,” … in a related note ESPN’s Me Kiper has updated his positional draft ratings and ranks Kiper third among quarterbacks behind Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray.

This Day in Sports History: In 1908, Philadelphia A’s owner Connie Mack sold future Hall of Fame pitcher Rube Waddell to the St. Louis Browns for $5,000 … in 1949 NY Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio became the first MLB player to receive a $100,000 salary… in 1958, the transplanted Brooklyn Dodgers officially became the Los Angeles Dodgers … in 1970, LSU phenom “Pistol” Pete Maravich scored 69 points against Alabama but couldn’t prevent a 106-104 loss… in 1976 Toronto Maple Leafs center Darryl Sittler set an NHL record with 10 points in a game (including six goals) in a win over Boston … in 1991 Edwardsville native Harry Gallatin was elected to the NBA Hall of Fame. Gallatin, a dominating post player, was a seven-time NBA All-Star during his career with the New York Knicks. After graduating from Roxana High School and played collegiately at Truman State University (then known as Northeast Missouri State Teachers College.) Gallatin also coached the NBA St. Louis Hawks from 1962 through 1965 and won the NBA Coach of the Year award in 1963. Gallatin was part of a 1991 Basketball Hall of Fame Class that included Bob Knight, Dave Cowens and Tiny Archibald.

CLOSING TIME AT BERNIE’S PLACE

One more shot …

Drink up all of you friendly people…

I keep hearing how quarterback Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams will be just fine after losing the Super Bowl 13-3 to New England in a game largely determined by Goff’s confused, incompetent and shaky performance against the Patriots’ savvy defense. That’s OK, I’m told. Goff will learn from this. He’s talented. The Rams are talented. Coach Sean McVay is talented. The Rams will be great for a long time, and Goff will get another shot at the big game.

Or maybe not …

During the Super Bowl Era, here’s a list of NFL quarterbacks who went 0-1 in the Super Bowl and never returned. And I’ll put an asterisk next to those who won at least one league MVP award during their careers:

* Dan Marino (Hall of Famer)
* Steve McNair
* Matt Ryan
* Cam Newton
* Boomer Esiason
* Rich Gannon
* Daryle Lamonica
Donovan McNabb (played 13 seasons)
Colin Kaepernick
Matt Hasselbeck (17 seasons)
Kerry Collins (5th overall draft pick)
Ron Jaworski (15 seasons)
Tony Eason (15th overall draft pick)

Other quarterbacks started in one Super Bowl — won it — and never returned. That list includes Hall of Famer Joe Namath, an MVP … Drew Brees, 12-time Pro Bowl pick … Aaron Rodgers, the two-time MVP … Jim McMahon … Doug Williams.

And we’re supposed to believe that Goff will casually stroll back into a Super Bowl and win?

Thanks for reading …

-Bernie