What once felt like, ‘here we go again’, the Blues threw some weight around and reclaimed 4th place in the Western Conference.
Down 2-0 at the end of the 1st period Friday against Edmonton, the all too familiar boo birds graced the Blue Notes as they left the ice. The Blues dominated 17 minutes of the 1st period; one moment St. Louis had eight shots on goal and Edmonton with two, and then in a span of 23 seconds, Edmonton netted two goals. PA announcer Tom Calhoun couldn’t even spit out the first announcement before Ray Whitney tallied his first goal of the season.
I’m not sure what was said during the 1st intermission, but the boys came out and played some inspired hockey in the 2nd period. St. Louis outshot Edmonton 11-4, including an Oiler power play which they managed just one shot. The Blues picked up the pace offensively and completely owned the physical battle. The Oilers have no interest in the checking game, and St. Louis landed 27 hits during the game.
Jaden Schwartz started the party with his goal at 3:38. Schwartz brought much-needed energy to the Blues’ top line with David Backes and T.J. Oshie. Schwartz, who stands 5’11, earned praise from Backes for his work in the corners.
Unlike David Perron, Schwartz is willing to battle in the hard areas for possession, which is exactly what a line with Backes and Oshie needs. Physicality.
Kevin Shattenkirk buried a game-tying PPG after Schwartz drew a boarding penalty to Ladislav Smid. It was the Blues’ first PPG in five games and it capped off a very solid 2nd period. Perhaps Shattenkirk can rebound with a big March after an abysmal February.
Vladimir Sobotka proved once again his valuable versatility. Sobotka plays on the penalty kill, the power play, top line, fourth line … anywhere. He showed off his physicality and smooth hands scoring the eventual game winner early in the 3rd period after he caught Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk off guard with a tight wrist shot.
The prettiest goal of the evening came from Backes after Oshie feathered a pass underneath a sliding Edmonton defender. Backes rattled the one timer off the post and into the middle of the net.
Getting the top line to produce is vital for the Blues, and they took a major step forward Friday.
Goaltender Jaroslav Halak made some fantastic pad saves and robbed Ales Hemsky twice all alone. Halak probably wants the Oilers first goal back, but he bounced back. Brian Elliott is slated to start Sunday at Dallas, but we’ll see about that.
1. Jaden Schwartz 2. Vladimir Sobotka 3. Adam Cracknell
One Final Thought.
Though the Note came out on top, I’m interested how the team responds in Dallas, where the Stars will seek to avenge the 4-3 loss to St. Louis in January.
Beating Edmonton was crucial, but if there’s one concern it was how they got baited into the track meet that the Oilers wanted. Back and forth three-on-two rushes won’t work against stronger teams. Frankly, it’s a bad habit … but the Blues had to find some offense, and scoring 4 goals is a pretty good way to win. Try that track meet against Chicago? No way.
Final Thought 2.0
Edmonton hit big on their THREE first overall draft picks. Taylor Hall left the game with a tight hamstring, but between Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov … watch out. This team has a promising future. They’re probably two legit defenders and a few physical depth players away from the next big thing in the NHL.
Final Thought 3.0
Ken Hitchcock on the 5 too many men penalties in the last 7 games:
They occur because the Blues use a forward as the 2nd defenseman on the PP, and when it ends guys are getting caught.