After falling behind 1-0 five minutes into the game, St. Louis took control and picked up its third road win in as many games, winning 3-1 over Calgary. David Backes scored his nineteenth goal of the season in the first period, and Jason Arnott added two power play goals en route to a Blues victory. Jaroslav Halak stopped twenty-one shots tonight in another solid performance, giving him twelve wins in his last fifteen starts. The win gives St. Louis eighty-five points on the season, putting the Blues two points behind Vancouver for the Western Conference lead and in first place in the Central Division for the first time since January 17th. With Detroit and St.Louis tied at eighty-five points, the division lead was ultimately determined by non-shootout victories, where the Blues lead the Red Wings, thirty-five to thirty-four.
The seventeen-year veteran played, arguably, his best game of the season. In thirteen minutes of ice time, Arnott tallied four shots on goal and converted on half of them. Arnott’s two goals on the man advantage brings his season total to fifteen, two shy of his total with Washington and New Jersey last year. Ken Hitchcock has found an excellent option for his second power play line. At 6′ 5”, 220 pounds, Arnott is the ideal forward for Hitchcock’s power play system. His size enables him to anchor in the slot and create valuable traffic in front of the net. Arnott may not have another two-score night this season, but look for continued power play production from number forty-four.
St. Louis entered its current six-game road trip with a 10-13-3 road record, certainly not impressive considering the Blues are contending for the President’s Trophy. After grinding out wins in Nashville and Winnipeg, the Blues entered tonights game with confidence. Before tonight’s game in Calgary, St. Louis had not won three consecutive road games this season, losing in each of their three opportunities to do so. Tonight’s game may be a turning point for this Blues team in terms of their performance in road games, as they dominated the Flames for the majority of the contest. Ken Hitchcock summed up his team’s recent road success to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch following the 3-1 victory, “Best way to describe it as the players said they’re comfortable being uncomfortable now. It wasn’t like that before.” The change is definitely noticeable and hopefully it continues, as the Blues have tough road games in Vancouver and San Jose later this week.
First Place Blues
In regaining the lead of the toughest division in hockey, the Blues have once again asserted themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. With their win over Calgary, St. Louis now stands atop Detroit, Nashville, and Chicago, each of which rank in the top six in points in the Western Conference. The Blues are now not only in position to win the Central Division, but are also poised to make a run at the Western Conference title and the President’s Trophy, both of which would be the team’s first since the 1999-2000 season.