The St. Louis Blues delivered a performance their fans have long awaited. The Blues dominated their Central Division rival in all phases of the game on Tuesday night, beating the Blackhawks 5-1 on home ice. St.Louis controlled a fast paced first period, outshooting the Hawks thirteen to five. After goals from T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald, the Blues took a two goal lead into the second period. In the second period, the Blues did more of the same, killing off three penalties and controlling the puck for the majority of the twenty minutes. Vladimir Sobotka netted his fourth goal of the season early in the period, scoring on a shorthanded opportunity from Scott Nichol. Andrew Burnette scored two minutes into the third period, cutting the Blues’ lead back to two. The game took on a completely different feel after Brunette’s goal, as the pressure shifted back on to the Blues to sustain their lead. Ten minutes of intense hockey then ensued, with Jaroslav Halak making a number of difficult saves. With just under five minutes left in three-one game, Andy McDonald delivered the dagger, going five-hole on Chicago goaltender, Ray Emery, for his second goal of the night. Jason Arnott scored The Blues earned their nintey-first point of the season, increasing their division lead over the Red Wings and tying the New York Rangers for the best record in the NHL.
McDonald has delivered in a huge way since returning from his concussion. The veteran sniper has tallied five goals in his last four games and starred in Tuesday night’s victory over the Blackhawks. In eighteen minutes of ice time, McDonald put four shots on Ray Emery and converted on half of them, scoring two goals on the evening. In the first period, McDonald scored late in the power play. The Blues entered the offensive zone on a pass from Alex Pietrangelo to McDonald, who drove hard to the net and threw a puck off Chicago defenseman, Dylan Olsen to put the Blues up two. McDonald scored his second goal in the third period, effectively putting Chicago out of the game with a wrist shot from just outside the slot. Andy Mac has been a key factor in the Blues’ rise to the top of the Western Conference and his two-goal performance in a big rivalry game gave Blues fans a glimpse of what’s to come in future playoff games.
The Blues put on a penalty killing clinic on Tuesday night. They killed off six penalties throughout the course of the game, limiting Chicago to just three shots on goal during the man-advantage. With the six kills, the Blues added to their impressive kill streak over the last twelve games, which now stands at thirty-two. While holding the Blackhawks to just three shots, the Blues were able to score on the kill, as Scott Nichol fed Vladimir Sobotka for a short handed goal on a limited breakaway. Defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo have both made smart plays throughout the streak, limiting careless turnovers and displaying a high sense of awareness around the net. If this type of play on the kill continues, opponents will be hard pressed to find scoring against this Blues team.
Jaro delivered another beauty in the Blues’ five-one victory. Halak made nineteen saves and earned his sixth consecutive win, bringing his season total to twenty-two. Jaro would have earned his seventh shutout had an Andrew Burnette wrister not taken an awkward bounce to find its way across the goal line. Halak’s recent success has presented Head Coach, Ken Hitchcock with a difficult decision. Hitchcock has maintained a two-goalie system for the majority of the season, but Halak’s play may warrant the starting job in net. While Brian Elliot has performed just as well as Halak, the consistency Jaro has provided may be the stability the Blues need heading into the homestretch.