Jarome Iginla scored the game winner at 12:58 of the 3rd period Sunday night at the Saddledome, giving the Flames a 3-2 lead Miikka Kiprusoff would uphold for a victory, their 7th straight in Calgary. St. Louis got goals from TJ Oshie and Vladimir Sobotka while Jaroslav Halak only mustered 14 saves in the losing effort.
Unlike many of their losses this season, Sunday’s match-up against the Flames was one where the Blues played a very strong game from start to finish. The Blues out-shot Calgary 38-17 overall and absolutely blasted Kiprusoff in the 2nd period with 19 of them, but Kipper was amazing throughout underlining the difference in the game: goaltending.
Let’s be honest, more often than not, when your team gives up a goal you have to give the opposition a certain amount of credit. Add a turnover into the mix (Oshie was last night’s culprit) and yes, you’re definitely giving the other guys an advantage skating in on your netminder. But when you’ve been given an opportunity to make a statement about your status as a team’s No. 1 goalie, you simply have to make some big saves, and Halak couldn’t do it against Calgary.
Roman Cervenka scored twice giving the Flames a 2-0 lead they took deep into the 2nd period Sunday, with Kiprusoff stonewalling the Blues at every turn until 16:40 when Osh was able to atone for his early gaffe with a beautiful play coming out of the penalty box.
St. Louis continued pressuring the Flames and battling for pucks and tied things up early in the 3rd period when Sobie managed to jam a loose puck under Kiprusoff’s pads at 4:48. It was his 8th of the season, a new career high and the latest reason many call him the most underrated, most versatile forward on the Blues roster.
The play exemplified the had work and sacrifices the Blues were making throughout Sunday’s game, beginning with a huge shot-block by Roman Polak and ending with Sobie banging in an Andy McDonald rebound. St. Louis played so well for most of the game, despite what the outcome says. They didn’t have the sort of letdown periods they’ve displayed in other losses. Those are the kinds of games where you need your goalie to step up his game.
Even on what would prove to be the deciding tally by Iginla with 7 minutes to play, the Blues were working hard. Yes, Iginla got behind both defensemen, but now we’re talking about arguably the best and certainly the most productive player in Calgary Flames history. At 35 he still has ridiculous scoring ability and tenacity on the puck. Wade Redden recovered to make what appeared to be an incredible play, only to see the puck pounded through Halak’s pads.
If you’ve ever watched ANY hockey at all, I don’t know how you can call that anything but a “soft goal” on Halak’s part. Again, props to Jarome on staying with the play, but after the effort by Redden to come back on him, disrupt the puck AND not take a penalty, the goalie must make that save with the lead at stake.
Please do not mistake my criticisms here as the rantings of a crazy person. I’m not saying Halak is terrible or that he should be traded. That’s just stupid. I worried that being called upon to start both games of a back-to-back after not playing in the previous 13 days would be tough on Halak. It would be tough on any goalie. I AM saying that if Halak is going to be this team’s go-to guy between the pipes he must play better. He’s got to make the big saves in the big moments.
I think Jake Allen gives the Blues the best chance to win right now and I hope to see him in goal more often than not as the remainder of the season unfolds. Yes, I expect to see Halak get a share of the starts, but I think Allen needs to be the No. 1 guy. His rookie status has already been overshadowed by his play on the ice. He has been able to make the big saves in those critical moments and steal a game for the team. I say, “Let the kid play.”
The Blues face off Tuesday night at home against the Oilers and whether it’s Allen or Halak in net, here’s hoping for a repeat of last Saturday’s shut-out victory.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!