Published On: Thu, Apr 19th, 2018

Better Luck Next Year: St. Louis Blues edition

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As NHL teams are eliminated from Stanley Cup contention, theScore NHL freelance writer Katie Brown looks back at the highs and lows of their seasons, along with the biggest questions ahead of 2018-19. The 15th edition focuses on the St. Louis Blues, who missed the playoffs by one point.

The Good

Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz. Schenn has thrived since landing with the Blues and was their leading scorer this season, posting career highs in goals (28) and points (70). He clicked immediately with linemate Schwartz, who recorded 59 points of his own. The two were occasionally joined by Vladimir Tarasenko to form a truly dangerous top line.

Carter Hutton. Backup goalie Hutton had the best year of his career, playing 32 games and posting career-high stats in save percentage (.931) and goals-against average (2.09) – both tops in the NHL. His 26 wins were also the second highest of his career. Hutton will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he’s bound to get a raise from someone, if not St. Louis.

Alex Pietrangelo. The Blues’ captain followed up a career year in 2016-17 with another in 2017-18, as his 15 goals and 54 points in 78 games were the best marks of his career. He also set career highs in shots on goal (216) and blocked shots (164). Pietrangelo might have been a Norris contender if he wasn’t slowed down by a foot injury in December.

The Bad

The power play. The Blues’ power play ranked second last in the NHL. Their 0.463 power-play goals per game was the worst rate in franchise history, and the team finished one goal shy of tying the franchise’s full-season record for fewest power-play tallies. It was a steep drop from 2016-17, when the Blues boasted the league’s No. 8 power play.

Lots of injuries. Robby Fabbri missed the entire season, Jay Bouwmeester played in just 35 games, while Patrik Berglund appeared in only 56 contests. And losing Schwartz to a broken ankle in December – an injury that knocked him out of action for a month and a half – proved to be catastrophic for the team’s postseason chances.

Jake Allen. Allen had one of his worst seasons as a starting goalie, going 27-24-3 with a .906 save percentage and a 2.75 GAA. There were times when he had just about zero goal support, but those numbers are still undeniably poor for a starter in this league.

The Questions

Will Tarasenko be ready? Tarasenko separated his shoulder in the last game of the season and had surgery during the second week of April. The recovery timeline for this ailment is projected as four-to-six months, so the Blues hope to have him back when training camp starts in the fall.

What can be done this summer? It’s no secret that the Blues’ offense was a one-line show all season long, so GM Doug Armstrong needs to do something about that. Perhaps he throws his hat in the ring for John Tavares or goes after Mike Hoffman. Many wondered why Armstrong didn’t do anything when Fabbri was lost for the year or when Schwartz was sidelined for six weeks, but he has a chance this summer to make the Blues a playoff team in 2018-19, and he should seize that opportunity.

Will Hutton re-sign? Hutton’s stellar regular-season performance went a long way toward proving he can be a No. 1 goaltender, as he rose to the challenge when Allen slumped midseason. Hutton should see a raise from the $1.125 million he made this season, but will he be in St. Louis, or will another team give him a shot?

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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