St. Louis got a heaping helping of winter weather on Thursday, Mother Nature dumping ice, sleet, and snow up to 9 inches in some areas. Schools and many businesses closed as driving conditions were treacherous at best across the metropolitan area. The St. Louis Blues faced the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday night and though they earned an important point, it was bittersweet. David Jones and the Avs beat St. Louis 1-0 with 16 seconds left in overtime.
The snow stopped falling eventually, but the Blues are still feeling the effects of Colorado’s visit. Rookie sensation Vladimir Tarasenko was steamrolled by Avs forward Mark Olver in Wednesday night’s tilt, and though the youngster was able to skate off the ice on his own power, barely, he was visibly hurt, bleeding from the face and dazed. The Blues placed Tarasenko on Injured Reserve Thursday and he’ll miss tonight’s game against Columbus. He’s replaced on the roster by Chris Porter, recalled from Peoria.
The one and only bright spot for the Blues Wednesday night was the return of Jaroslav Halak in net. Having missed nearly two weeks due to injury, Jaro finally got back into a game after another Blues rookie, Jake Allen, made headlines, winning three in a row and going 3-1 in Halak’s absence.
The 1st period proved the game would be played at a furious pace from start to finish. Both the Blues and Avs skated at top speed for much of the contest. The teams traded rushes up and down the ice with the Blues getting the better of the scoring chances, out-shooting Colorado 9-2 in the first 20 minutes. Coach Hitchcock shuffled his lines a bit and the team responded with high energy, despite their long travel week and the thin mountain air. Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov was up to the task Wednesday night, and would later be one of the deciding factors in their victory.
The Blues opened things up even further in the 2nd, pelting Varlamov with 15 shots while only allowing 8 for the Avs. Colorado defensemen gave St. Louis a taste of their own medicine, blocking a lot of shots and forcing as many more wide of the net. The Blues managed sustained pressure from all of their lines Wednesday night and looked sharp moving the puck, passing tape to tape and clearing their zone. The fast pace continued, and the hits seemed to get bigger and bigger. The 2nd included the game’s only penalties, 2 minors against the Avs and one the Blues. Neither team managed a special teams tally, or any at all through 40 minutes.
The Blues missed numerous chances to score on Varlamov and put the Avs away, and as the 3rd period began Colorado started giving the Blues a run for their money. Shots were nearly even for the frame and Colorado was noticeably stronger on the puck in the offensive zone, giving the Blues defense fits at times, and testing Halak. Jaro was quite good considering he’d missed the last 4 games. The 3rd was marred by the ugly incident involving Tarasenko and Olver, an ugly elbow to the head that was neither called a penalty in-game or punished afterwards by the league.
It’s my opinion that the hit was dirty and while I don’t necessarily believe it was Olver’s intent to injure Tarasenko, he clearly led with his elbow to Vladi’s head. The play should have, at minimum, resulted in a minor penalty and I feel Olver should’ve been disciplined by the league. It’s not the first time, nor the last, I fear, that the NHL and Brendan Shanahan respond in a gutless manner, talking out of both sides of their mouths about wanting to protect players from head injuries and discourage such flagrant hits.
The incident didn’t necessarily effect the outcome of the game, but one might argue that having Tarasenko on the ice would’ve given the Blues a scoring threat they missed in the end. The game went scoreless into overtime. and both goalies made excellent stops to preserve the tie, including this chance by Halak:
Then, with a shoot-out looming and 17 seconds left, Jones fired a wrister that skipped off Kevin Shattenkirk’s stick and over Halak’s shoulder for the game winner.
The Blues out-shot Colorado in the game 33-20 but as I mentioned, they wasted easily a dozen good scoring chances with pucks shot wide of the net. Varlamov was outstanding, but never had to make any “save-of-the-year” type stops. The Blues had opportunities to make the outcome of this game very different but couldn’t capitalize. I was very impressed with the team’s energy level throughout the contest, but they need to finish better if they hope to advance deep in the playoffs this season.
The Blues are home tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets, a game that marks the return to St. Louis of former Note team-members, John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen, both now with Columbus as President and General Manager, respectively. Knowing that those two men have a rich history of hockey should tell us a lot about the potential for the Jackets to be a formidable foe, tonight and in the future. Halak will get another start for the Blues, and let’s hope they can re-discover their scoring touch.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!