On Thursday night the St. Louis Blues took the ice in front of over 10,000 fans at the Scottrade Center for the second and final scrimmage of the week long training camp. The turnout has shown that the fans are back in game shape and are ready for the NHL season, but what about the players.
As we reported a few days ago, Coach Ken Hitchcock was not thrilled after the team’s last scrimmage stating that they had more work to do and in a short amount of time. Now, just days later, has anything changed?
Well it appears as those goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have gotten their games back on track. During the 20 minute, 5 on 5 first period both goaltenders were able to turn away every shot that they saw, keeping a perfect record through one period for the second straight scrimmage.
The second period of play was a 15 minute, running clock, 4 on 4 game, which is when the St. Louis Blues offense gave the fans something to cheer about. First, Pietrangelo was set up by David Backes and took a nice hard shot to beat Jaroslav Halak giving team Blue a one goal lead. Later in the second period, Roman Polak find a puck along the boards from Vladimir Tarasenko, Polak threw the shot on net and beat goalie Brian Elliott to tie the game at 1-1.
Still in the second, David Backes was able to put a puck up over Halak’s shoulder for the line’s second power play goal giving team Blue the lead again. Next, Phillip McRae would get a breakaway down the ice, but was unable to put it away. Instead, Jeff Woywitka was able to pick up the rebound and put the puck past Brian Elliott. Again, the game was tied, this time at 2-2.
The final goal of the second period would come from a player that many expect to have a big season, Chris Stewart. Stewart put a nice hard wrist shot on net for team Blue and beat Halak giving Team Blue the edge heading into the third period.
The third period would be a 5 on 3 powerplay situation. Once again Woywitka would pick up the pace for team White and tied the game at 3-3. The final after the three periods was once again a tie.
A noted absence on the ice was Andy McDonald who was said to be out with the flu, but should be ready for Saturday’s home opener.
St. Louis Blues Captain, David Backes, weighed in on his thoughts about the St. Louis Blues offense after the scrimmage,
“I just think guys are committed to playing defense more than they are in the summer, or in Europe, and creating offense is tough in this league. We need to commit to doing the hard things and getting to the places we need to get to to create. Guys might have got a little tired in the first (scrimmage). But a few good chances here tonight, goaltending probably has something to do with that, too. We’ve got a couple of good goalies here.”
While Hitchcock seemed particularly worried about the goalies stamina after the last scrimmage, it appears that he is no longer concerned. While Hitchcock did not speak to the media after the scrimmage, he had said the day before he was not worried about having to pick who would start in the home opener. While Elliott has been playing very well in camp, you would assume Halak would get the honors of starting on Saturday.
The biggest question for the St. Louis Blues at this point is what the defensive pairings will look like this season. It appears that while it was thought Kris Russell would pair with Alex Pietrangelo, Ian Cole has been playing with him the second half of camp. Hitchcock is going to have to make a call about who will line up to the Blues top D-Man.
Ian Cole’s thoughts on playing with a line with Pietrangelo were, “I thought we did well. He’s obviously a great player. That’s quite apparent. It’s nice when I back him up, I know he can pretty much do it himself. I don’t have to worry about getting handed a grenade on my feet. I think we read off each other. He’s a great talker. I tried to do the same with him. Hopefully I can provide a different aspect and have his back out there.”
So while training camp is coming to an end, it appears that the St. Louis Blues are ready for their season opener. Just one last task really remains, and it will be a difficult one for GM Doug Armstrong and Coach Ken Hitchcock. The St. Louis Blues must cut down their roster to 23 players by 4pm CST today. Look for more news on the St. Louis Blues roster this afternoon.
LET’S GO BLUES!