It Was a Good Day for The Blues: Trade For a Defenseman, Then End the Losing Streak

Blue Notes!

1. Tuesday’s 3-0 over New Jersey was Part II of what we saw from the Blues on Sunday night in Nashville. The Blues had rediscovered their necessary style of game in the 2-1 loss in Music City. All agreed that the Blues played very well but didn’t come away with a just result. That’s life. It happens. And it works both ways; the Blues have won a share of games this season when they probably deserved to lose. But Tuesday the Blues brought their lost-and-found aggressiveness home from Nashville, put the hammer on the visiting  Devils and got the result to put a halt to their 2-7-3 skid. And now the Blues must repeat this performance Thursday when Arizona comes to Enterprise Center.

2. Looking at the numbers at Natural Stat Trick, the Blues’ domination at 5-on-5 was absurd. Stifling. Smothering. The Blues controlled 65 percent of the overall shot attempts (50-27) … and 74.5% of the shots on goal (35-12) … and 70% of the scoring chances (28-12.) And in the category of 5-on-5 scoring chances, the Blues owned every one of them with a count of 8-0.

3. Yes: New Jersey is a faded 22-27-10 team, 28th in the NHL with 54 points. The NJ front office is busy selling off parts and packing it in for 2019-2020. But Tuesday’s game was all about the Blues, who needed to get back to their working-man game. This was about imposing their most effective style on an opponent … and from here on in, EVERY opponent.

4. Coach Craig Berube’s line changes clicked. Especially the fourth-line assembly of Sammy Blais, Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist. At 5-on-5, that line charged its way to a whopping 8-1 edge in scoring chances and controlled 68.5% of shots. Barbashev scored twice. That’s all the Blues needed, but it was good to see Jaden Schwartz score on a top-corner dart for his first even-strength goal since Jan. 11.

5. I like Tuesday’s trade for defenseman Marco Scandella. As you know, the Blues sent a second-round pick (2020) to Montreal. Blues GM Doug Armstrong included a conditional fourth-round pick in 2021. But the Canadiens will collect that fourth-rounder only if Scandella, set to become an unrestricted free agent, signs with the Blues this summer … or if the Blues make it through two rounds of the playoffs with Scandella playing in at least 50 percent of the games.

A second-round pick may seem overly expensive for renting an average, solid player. But with NHL general managers jumping in a few days early ahead of Monday’s trade deadline to snatch available defensemen, this was the cost of doing business. I really don’t care what other teams paid in deals for defensemen, but the Blues’ transaction fit into the going rate. And more than that, Armstrong wanted this particular defenseman.

Reasons why the trade made sense:

* The Blues didn’t have to part with any prospects or a current member of the roster. And Scandella can fill multiple needs. More on that in a bit.

* Montreal will pick up half the tab on Scandella’s remaining contract, and that keeps the Blues in line with their salary-cap limit.

* The Blues obviously needed a left-handed defenseman to step into the opening created by the unsettling loss of Jay Bouwmeester.

* No, Scandella isn’t Bouwmeester, but the mold is similar. Scandella is a left-side stick. He’s reliable with the puck; we know that by looking at his low-turnover numbers. He’ll give the Blues a bunch of minutes on the penalty kill, and his entrance is timely. The Blues’ PK has been awful. And the increased PK time for Robert Bortuzzo and Carl Gunnarson left some vulnerabilities exposed.

* The 6-3, 210-pound Scandella doesn’t have big numbers for official hits on opposing players. But he’s tough. He’s ornery. And he is an enthusiast for blocking shots.

* Scandella, 29, played in 39 postseason games, logging 809 minutes, during his time in Minnesota with the Wild. That experience is useful for the mission ahead. Not that Scandella requires a spirit infusion, but it should energize him to join the defending Stanley Cup champions as they gear up for another run.

* Scandella has hard shot and can give the Blues another scoring threat from the point. In his last five-plus seasons, Scandella has 35 goals — the same as Colton Parayko, though Parayko has played in 29 fewer regular-season games. Scandella’s 32 even-strength goals over that time is more than a long list of notable defensemen including Kevin Shattenkirk, Drew Doughty, Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Sutter. And only one less than Erik Johnson and Torey Krug.

* At least some Blues fans were pining for extra-large San Jose defensemen Brenden Dillon, who was traded to Washington for a second-round draft pick, and a third-rounder. Dillon is more physical and admired for his heavy volume of hits delivered. And if you were looking for a rugged, stay-at-home defensemen, this is your guy. But Dillon is also a rental, and Washington paid more for Dillon than the Blues paid for Scandella. Over the last five-plus seasons Scandella has 32 even-strength goals to Dillon’s six. And the two D-men have the same amount of defensive point shares (18.3) over that time.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie