Jaroslav Halak made 19 saves Saturday night as the St. Louis Blues beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-0. The shutout was the 25th of his career and his 16th wearing the Bluenote, tying him with Blues legend Glenn Hall for the most in St. Louis team history. Halak achieved the feat in about 40 fewer games than Hall. Chris Stewart, Alex Steen, and TJ Oshie scored for the Blues, who overall played a very tight, well executed team game.
Stewie, continuing his hot streak, opened the scoring at 3:20 of the 1st period, firing a long snap-shot through a screen and past Edmonton netminder Nikolai Khabibulin. Halak assisted on the play, earning his first point as a St. Louis Blue and only the 2nd of his career.
The teams combined for only 10 shots int he 1st and while the Blues opened it up a bit more in the 2nd period, out shooting the Oilers 13-8, the frame ended as it began, with St. Louis up 1-0. Khabibulin made a couple of excellent saves to keep his club in the game, stopping a laser-beam from Stewart and making another stop on a deflection by Oshie. The period saw the Blues get 3 power-plays but no goals, continuing their special teams woes.
Steen scored his 6th of the season at 2:55 of the 3rd period after a very nice play up the sideboards by Roman Polak, making it 2-0. After stealing the puck near center ice, Polak carried it into the Edmonton zone and fired a crisp, cross-ice pass to a streaking Steen. Steener fired a shot that actually went wide of the net, but the puck caromed back directly onto his stick and he was able to flip it in from a bad angle.
Oshie scored his 6th of the year at 11:09 on a backhander following a gorgeous feed from Andy McDonald and Patrik Berglund. Bergie stepped in front of an Oiler pass at his own blueline and raced up the ice, made a nifty drop pass to the trailing McDonald who spotted Oshie rushing the net. Osh’s quick forehand-backhand move left Khabibulin sprawling and he put the puck into the open net.
The Blues were out-shot 7-6 in the final frame, but Halak was never truly tested. The team played solid defense in front him (for a change) cover each other and playing with a “3rd man high,” as Darren Pang described it: keeping two forwards in deep on the forecheck while the third drifted back out toward the point to help the defense and ensure no odd-man rushes for Edmonton. St. Louis implemented the scheme to perfection Saturday night and the result was a dominating win. Even the pairing of Polak and Kris Russell played well (again, for a change) and helped the Blues get the all-important 2 points.
The Blues wind-up this road trip tonight in Calgary against the Flames, another team currently sitting outside a playoff spot. They beat the Flames 5-2 in their last meeting, also in Calgary, back on February 15. Andy Mac and Kevin Shattenkirk have both had particular success versus the Flames this season, and will look to get a winning streak going for St. Louis, who starts the day in 6th place in the Western Conference standings with 36 points, two behind Vancouver and tied with the LA Kings.
Coach Hitchcock has, in the past, stuck with a goalie following a shutout, and Halak will reportedly make the start again tonight. Will playing back to back games after sitting the bench behind Jake Allen for much of this month may be too much for Jaro? We’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, he showed last night that he wants to be and CAN be this team’s No. 1 goaltender.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!