The St. Louis Blues defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 3-0 Thursday night at Scottrade Center as Jake Allen made 28 saves, posting his first career shutout and pushing his record to 7-1-1. Alex Steen scored a goal and had 3 points in his first game after being recalled from Injured Reserve, while linemate Chris Stewart scored twice, tying for the team lead in goals with 13. It was the 2nd straight win at home for the Blues and their 4th in their last five in St. Louis.
If you’re a regular reader of my game reviews, you might think I’m a little too negative, a little too hard on the boys’ performances, even when they win. I watch a lot of hockey, I think very highly of the Blues as a team, and so I do tend to notice all their mistake, no matter how small or despite the final score. I’m not going to go that route talking about Thursday’s game. If you saw it you know they were solid most of the night, and if not, I’ll touch on the highlights and we’ll get ready to watch them play the next one.
First and foremost, the rookie netminder, Allen, led the way, stopping everything the Coyotes threw his way. The Blues as a team played very tight defense, for the most part, and gave Allen plenty of room and time to see the pucks coming towards the net, which is not to say he didn’t make some tough saves. Phoenix out-shot St. Louis in the 2nd and 3rd periods, so he had plenty of action. The Blues out shot the Coyotes for the game 30-28. The game was also notable as we saw Steen return to the ice after missing the last 8 with an upper body injury. It was a big boost and Coach Hitchcock made the most of it with a line of Steener, Stewart, and David Backes. Backes has been playing extremely well since being matched up with Stewie, and Steen complimented them perfectly Thursday.
The Blues came out firing on all cylinders in the 1st period, blasting 16 shots at Mike Smith. They did a great job moving the puck up the ice, keeping pressure on in the offensive zone, and staying out of the penalty box. In fact, the also drew three penalties from the Coytotes, though they were unable to get on the scoreboard. The St. Louis power-play has been anemic of late, scoring only 3 goals in a span of nearly 35 chances, though they’ve still managed a 4-1 record in their last 5 games. Allen wasn’t tested much in the period and the session ended up knotted at zero. Chris Stewart finally put the Blues up with what would prove to be the game winning goal at 5:54 of the 2nd period, banging in an end-board carom from Backes.
Despite almost back-to-back Interference penalties against defenseman David Schlemko, Phoenix turned up their forecheck in that middle frame, and managed 10 shots on Allen. One of the things I like the most about watching Allen in net is how absolutely calm he always appears. He squares up well, and when he can see the puck he manages to put himself in great position to make saves on every shot. He says all the right things about his club in post-game interviews, lauding his teammates for their tight defense in front of him, but let’s not pull punches: The Blues have played much better all-around hockey in front of Allen this season than with either of their other goalies in the game.
In yet another testament to their fine effort Thursday night, St. Louis didn’t take its first penalty until 18:45 of the 2nd, and while they did stumble a little bit to start the 3rd period, Allen kept Phoenix off the board and the line of Stewart, Backes, and Steen got back to work at 4:05, when Steener blasted in a slapper from the high slot. Steen himself had led the rush into the zone and attempted a hard pass through traffic, hoping to feed Backes going to the net. Instead, his pass was blocked, bounced out high, and he was able to turn on it and fire a shot Smith almost certainly never saw.
Stewie rounded out the scoring with his 2nd of the night at 14:31, beating Smith with a wicked wrist-shot into the top corner. The goal gave that line 8 points on the night in a very dominating performance.
As I mentioned, the rest was left to Allen and he made good on 28 saves for his first shutout. David Perron made sure to skate the puck down after the game to give to the rookie as a memento, and Blues fans have to be excited about the level of play he’s brought to the NHL this year.
TJ Oshie missed the game against Phoenix having left the ice Tuesday night with an undisclosed, upper-body injury. As it turns out, Osh was placed on IR today. ”He’s just skating,” Ken Hitchcock said Saturday. “He’s a little bit better obviously being able to skate, but he’s no where near ready to play yet.” Somewhat lessening that blow is the imminent return of forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who skated with the team this morning and will play tonight as the Blues once again face-off against the high-flying Anaheim Ducks, their last meeting of the season with the Pacific Division leaders who will be without star forward Corey Perry, still serving a 4 game suspension. The Blues certainly wont miss seeing Perry, who scored twice against St. Louis last Sunday.
ERIN GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!