The St. Louis Blues played inspired hockey for a full sixty minutes in their final regular season matchup with the Nashville Predators. The Blues put on a “Hitch hockey” clinic, grinding out numerous scoring chances, crashing the net, and playing stingy defense. Pekka Rinne made a number of difficult saves in the first period, as the Blues were unable to convert on any of their twelve scoring chances in the first twenty minutes. The Blues, determined to solve Rinne, came out with the same aggression on offense early in the second period. Jamie Langenbrunner, playing in his 1,110th game, was the first to find the back of the net, scoring on snapshot in the slot off of a beautiful assist by Jason Arnott. The Blues dominant play was reflected on scoreboard from that point on, as David Perron and T.J. Oshie added goals in the third period to make it 3-0. Not to mention, Brian Elliot set the team record for consecutive scoreless minutes in net, stoping twenty-four shots and recording his third shutout in as many games. After a rocky road trip, the Blues made a statement with their franchise-record thirtieth home win over the fourth-seeded Predators. This team is relentless in both zones and has the goaltending to make a legitimate run at the cup.
For a goaltender who had seemingly lost his job just two weeks ago, Brian Elliot has performed like the Vezina candidate that he is in his last three starts. Elliot stopped twenty-four shots against the Preds and has not let up a goal in over 186 minutes, a new franchise record, breaking Manny Legace’s record from the 2007-2008 season. Tonight’s shutout was his ninth of the season, giving him the league-lead in that category. Ken Hitchcock will most likely go with the hot hand in Chicago on Thursday night, so expect to see Elliot between the pipes again.
Although I think it’s been overused in describing sports teams, there’s simply no other word to adequately sum up the toughness, grit, and determination the Blues have exemplified this season. This team has endured a plethora of injuries to key players, gone through a coaching change, and is in the process of changing ownership, yet they find themselves in first place in the entire league with five games remaining in the regular season. Tuesday’s game against Nashville, in a way, felt like a microcosm of the season. With a number of players sitting out with injury, the Blues meshed together and put forth a stellar performance against a great hockey club. The refs missed three high-sticking calls, including a double-minor, a number of easy roughing calls, and overturned what looked like a good goal. The Blues could have easily made excuses and back-skated for the remainder of the game, but they put their collective heads down and got to work. They battled through these hardships and blew out a playoff team on home ice. This resiliency that the roster has developed over the course of the season will undoubtedly benefit them in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.