The St. Louis Blues defeated the rival Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night. New head coach Ken Hitchcock’s debut could not have gone much better than it did. Four highlighted issues had a direct impact in the win.
Four highlighted issues had a direct impact in the win:
Power Play %
Penalty Kill %
Star players scoring goals
Chicago went 0/4 on the power play and now ranks dead last in the NHL. St. Louis, which ranks 25th killing penalties, did a magnificent job of shutting down the Blackhawks.
St. Louis was 1/2 on the power play. Chris Stewart, who had been scuffling, scored his third goal of the season on a well-executed tip-in.
Vladimir Sobotka was a force all game. He was fast on both ends of the ice. He scored the first goal of the game to set the tone. He was physical in the offensive zone and stood out for all three periods. Sobotka now has four points in his last four games.
Goaltender Jaro Halak recorded his first shutout of the season and his 17th of his career. He stopped all 29 Blackhawk shots. Halak was riding a five game losing streak and desperately needed a big game in front of the home crowd. He delivered.
Hitchcock’s approach was evident: fast, physical hockey. He made it a point that the Blues needed to play “bigger”. They have the size but lacked the execution. The Blues transition game was faster and aggressive both offensively and defensively.
Hitchcock was the third straight Blues coach to face the Blackhawks in his first game at home. The first to win, too, after Davis Payne lost 6-3 in 2010 and Andy Murray fell 3-2 in 2006.
Hitchcock became the first Blues coach to win in his debut, period, since Mike Keenan in 1995.
The Blues paid tribute to Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev, who died in the plane crash that wiped out a Russian KHL team, in a pregame ceremony attended by Korolev’s wife and two daughters along with several former teammates, including Brett Hull. The Blues wore patches with the No. 38, worn by both Demitra and Korolev, and placed a mural honoring Demitra in the lower bowl concourse.