Bernie Bits: 10 Snapshots On the Blues, Ryan Dempster Waffling On “Boring” St. Louis

The Bernie Bits for Monday, Feb. 18 …

Let’s begin with10 quick snapshots in honor of the Blues’ astonishing 10-game winning streak:

1. Of course, this is more than just a 10-game winning streak. It’s a reversal of fortune. It’s the raising of the Titanic. It’s a validation of the roster assembled by Blues president of hockey operations Doug Armstrong. It’s a fabulous surprise that’s given this team a clean, fresh start in the aftermath of a horrible start that left a stench at Enterprise Center. It’s about discoveries (Jordan Binnington) and recoveries (Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko.) It’s about a new St. Louis sports star, Ryan O’Reilly. It’s about young guys (Robert Thomas, Vince Dunn) playing with the wisdom of old minds — and an old body, Jay Bouwmeester, playing like he’s young again.

2. Slice the record any way you’d like; it’s all good. But for those tracking the Blues’ rise, here you go:

  • The Blues are 24-13-2 since Craig Berube took command as the interim coach. That .641 points percentage is 7th overall in the NHL since Nov. 21, and No. 3 in the Western Conference.
  • After needing some time to put a fallen team back together, Berube is 21-8-1 since Dec. 11 for a points percentage that ranks 4th overall and 2nd in the West.
  • Since the calendar flipped to 2019, the Blues have the NHL’s best record at 16-4-1 for a points percentage of .786. Since the start of the new year, the Blues have outscored opponents 61-29 at even strength. Their goals-scored percentage (even strength) of 67.8 percent ranks No. 1 overall since Dec. 11.

And of course, there’s the current full-on assault that’s produced 10 consecutive wins without a scratch — with the last three victories coming via shutouts.

And a road record of 11-2-1 since the start of the new year … and a 13-3-1 road mark since Dec. 11.

3. And how about that newest STL star, Mr. O’Reilly? The Cardinals can only hope that their top offseason acquisition, Paul Goldschmidt, can be as impactful for the Redbirds as O’Reilly has been for the Note.

4. During the 10-game win streak, the Blues’ top line of O’Reilly, Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn has outscored opponents 16-3 overall including 12-3 at even strength. And the top line has controlled 63.2 percent of the shots overall, and 60 percent of the shots at even strength. And how about this one from the last 10 games? The Blues’ No. 1 line has controlled 77.8 percent of the high-danger scoring chances overall, including 63 percent at even strength.

5. Here’s the latest update of the Jordan Binnington toteboard. Since making his first start on Jan. 7, Binnington:

+ Has a record of 12-1-1 as a starter and has won his last eight starts.

+ Has a .944 save percentage overall, which ranks first among NHL goaltenders that have played at least 500 minutes since Jan. 3.

+ Has a 1.42 goals-against average as a starter, which ranks No. 1 among NHL goalies. He’s also No. in the Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) metric at plus 12.61 goals saved.

+ Has a sensational .957 save percentage at even strength, a 1.07 goals-against average at even strength and is plus 12.83 goals above average at even strength. That ranks No. 1 in the league in all three categories.

6. Should we rip Armstrong for not giving Binnington a chance sooner in his career? Binnington is, after all, a 25-year-old rookie who didn’t make his first NHL start until 47 days ago? Look, everyone has their own view of this. But this is hardly a new development; all teams in all four major-league sports can cite examples of having players who exceeded expectations … players that the teams underestimated in the evaluation process. The Cardinals, for example, never would have signed Dexter Fowler to a five-year $82.5 million deal if they knew what they really had in Harrison Bader — or, before that, Tommy Pham. Remember, Pham spent nine years in the minors before making his big-league debut with the Cardinals in 2015. And current Cardinal Jose Martinez crushed minor-league pitching for nearly 11 seasons (for multiple organizations) before the Cardinals brought him to majors late in 2016. When Binnington got the call he was ready. This doesn’t mean, however, that he would have been year two years ago, or a year ago.

7. The Blues defensemen are rolling, and Alex Pietrangelo has has been phenomenal. During the team’s 16-4-1 zoom into third place in the NHL Central, Blues defensemen have 17 goals and 34 assists for 41 points in the 21 games. In the 21 games team captain Pietrangelo has four goals and 11 assists for 15 points and is a plus 13. Colton Parayko 2-6-8 with a plus 13. Dunn is has five goals and nine points and is a plus 9.  Carl Gunnarson has three goals and is plus 9.

8. As of late, the best combination is Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester. Over the last 21 games, they’ve logged 351 minutes and 16 seconds (even strength) as a tandem. And when Bouwmeester and Parayko have teamed up in a defensive pairing at 5-on-5, the Blues have outscored opponents 10-3, controlled 52 percent of the overall shots, and controlled 62.5% of the high-danger scoring chances.

9. Tarasenko is money. In the 10-game winning streak, he has 10 goals and 10 assists and has a handsome plus 13 rating. Since Dec. 11, Tarasenko has 17 goals and 31 points with a plus 12.  But let’s focus in on Tarasaenko’s last 20 games, going back to Jan. 5. (He didn’t play on Jan. 3, the start of the Blues’ 16-4-1 stretch.)  Since Jan. 5, Tarasenko us tied for the NHL lead with 15 goals, and has 29 points to rank second to Chicago’s Patrick Kane (36 points.) But the gap is narrower in even strength production with Kane leading the NHL (25 points) and Tarasenko a close second (22 points.)

9a. Timely goals separate Tarasenko from the rest. In his last 20 games Tarasenko is thriving in one-goal scenarios — in situations where the Blues are up by a goal, or trailing by a goal. In those close contests since Jan. 5, Tarasenko leads the NHL with 13 goals and is tied for first with 22 points.  Here’s the breakdown of the 13 goals scored by No. 91 in tight-game situations:

  • 5 goals with the score tied that put the Blues ahead.
  • 2 goals to tie the game when the Blues were down by one.
  • 6 goals when the Blues were clinging to a one-goal lead; Tarasenko gave his team added security by increasing the advantage to two goals.

10. According to Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic, the Blues should have an estimated $5.2 million of salary cap space at the trade deadline. Even though the defensemen have been strong as a group, Gunnarson has struggled to stay in the lineup because of injuries. For that reason — and because the Blues could use a so-called “quarterback” to boost the power play — esteemed Fox Sports Midwest play-by-play voice John Kelly believes the Blues should try to add a defenseman at the Feb. 25 deadline. Kelly was a guest on Monday’s “Bernie Show.”

READING TIME  5 MINUTES: 

Happy 80th birthday to Dal Maxvill, starting shortstop for the 1967 World Series champion Cardinals and the ’68 NL champion Cardinals. “Maxie” later served as the Cardinals’ GM during the mid-late 1980s …

And happy 66th birthday to ABA Spirits of St. Louis legend Fly Williams. One of a kind …

This day in sports, 1984: Crystal City, Mo. native Bill Bradley had his New York Knicks’ number 24 retired in a ceremony at Madison Square Garden…

Trending Up: Missouri State men’s basketball team, which beat Loyola-Chicago on the road Sunday to take a share of first place in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bears are tied with Loyola-Chicago and Drake atop the MVC at 9-5. Missouri State has won four in a row and seven of the last eight … And a shoutout to Illinois, which has won four in a row to get within range of .500 (now 6-8) in the Big Ten.

Trending Down: The Chicago Cubs; in the latest PECOTA projections at Baseball Prospectus, the forecast has the North Siders finishing last in the NL Central at 80-82. PECOTA projects that Milwaukee and St. Louis will win the most games (87) in the NL Central. But the projections will change. Always do. The Cardinals, by the way, have exceeded the PECOTA projections in each of the past six seasons.

Speaking of projections … Steamer has Miles Mikolas finishing the 2019 season with 2.7 WAR; that would be down a good bit from last season’s actual 4.3 WAR … Jedd Gyorko as the backup shortstop? Um, OK …. Marcell Ozuna had 2.7 WAR for the 2018 Cardinals; Steamer projects 3.6 WAR for Ozuna in 2019 so that would be a nice improvement for the Cards. … Steamer has Harrison Bader dropping to 2.1 WAR, down from last season’s 3.5 (if the drop actually happens.)

Finally…

Retired Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster says he was just kidding about his “St. Louis is boring” comedy (ahem) act with partner Kris Bryant during the Cub’ annual fan convention. Dempster is angling for a gig with the Cubs’ network, which is scheduled to launch in 2020.

Here’s a sampling of Dempster’s comments, courtesy of The Athletic:

“I blacked out during that whole thing. Cubs Convention, room full of Cub fans having a little bit of fun. That’s all it was. There’s tons of really fun things to do in St. Louis.”

When asked to name one thing, Dempster said, “The Arch. A Cardinal game, Mike Shannon’s, go to his restaurant. I don’t know, is that still open?”

When asked about Yadier Molina’s vociferous response, Dempster … well, Dempster didn’t want any piece of Molina: “I know that there was some stuff said by Yadi,” Dempster said. “But, listen, anybody who’s ever talked to me about St. Louis and the Cardinals knows that I’ve always said that I thought they were one of the best franchises in all of baseball. They play the game the right way. St. Louis Cardinal fans are amazing fans and that’s never changed. (But) when you’re in a comedy setting, a late-night talk-show setting, in a room full of about 3,000 Cub fans, you’re allowed to have a little bit of fun. Just the same way I poked a little fun at the White Sox. I poked a little fun at the Dodgers. If I was doing a Cardinals show, I would poke a little fun at Cubs fans. That’s just how it is.”

This is what Dempster said last month during his TV-host audition at the Cubs Convention:

“I remember when I was getting traded and they’re like, ‘Hey, how about St. Louis?’” And I’m like, ‘Zero chance, pal. No way. Won’t even go there as a free agent. Yeah, not happening.’ ”

Dempster says that Molina is “welcome anytime” to appear on a Dempster Show that doesn’t actually exist.

Thanks for reading.

–Bernie