The St. Louis Blues picked up what might prove to be the biggest 2 points of the season last night as they finally won a game in Chicago, beating the Blackhawks 4-3 in a shoot-out. Four goals and a couple of top-notch saves from Brian Elliott made the difference in the extra session. Adam Cracknell led the way in regulation, scoring twice. Elliot stopped 33 of 36 shots to ensure the victory.
I’m almost unsure where to begin talking about the game because the magnitude of the win is large on many levels. This was the first win in their last 9 games in Chicago for St. Louis. We saw the Blues debut of Jay Bouwmeester, who showed immediately what a positive impact he’s going to have for St. Louis. The big defenseman, wearing #19 for the Blues, logged over 25 minutes of ice time and had an assist in his first outing with his new team. He was great and it bodes well for Alex Pietrangelo, who has had a slump defensively this season. The youngster can learn a LOT from Bouwmeester.
Cracknell, former captain of the Peoria Rivermen, proved what I’ve been saying since his first stint with the Blues this year: he can be a big part of this team. Cracks scored not one, but TWO goals against Corey Crawford, somehow breaking free of the Chicago defense, the second coming in the 3rd period to tie the game. How does a guy that big get behind you?
Blues captain David Backes scored his first goal in 15 games. To say he’s struggled offensively would be an understatement, but he was at the right place at the right time to bang in a Bouwmeester rebound for the score.
Elliott played well as the starter and though a little shaky at times, he tightened up the straps on his pads and made some huge saves to help St. Louis win and get a big confidence boost. Chicago is arguably the best team in the NHL this season and, thanks in part to Ells, St. Louis was in this game all night. When the ‘Hawks took the 2-1 lead in the 2nd period he was able to stand tall and keep the game close. The Blues were out-shot 36-22 on the night. Ells was busy and answered the call. None of his saves was bigger than the one on Brandon Saad in the shoot-out.
The entire team contributed in this win as the Blues out-hit Chicago 43-21. When the ‘Hawks took the lead in the 2nd period the Blues were reeling like a boxer on the ropes but instead of folding as they have many times in that very building, St. Louis fought back, figuratively AND literally.
Roman Polak took exception to Viktor Stalberg’s hit on Barret Jackman along the boards and tried to fight the Chicago forward. Stalberg turtled, understandably so seeing as he recently took a puck off his face and is still wearing a protective shield over his chin. Perhaps someone should’ve been more concerned with the liberty Andrew Shaw took firing a shot after the whistle at Elliott.
Polak got 5 minutes for Fighting, the extra 2 minutes for Instigating AND a 10 minute Misconduct on the play, was that because of Stalberg’s previous injury and the visor? Stalberg should try not to board a guy if he doesn’t want someone in his face afterward. Regardless, I liked seeing Roman sticking up for his partner there, and I think the Blues fed off the energy. They fought and clawed and never gave up in the game. It showed character and grit, two things the Blues have lacked at times this year, and it was fun to watch.
The Blues got goals in the shoot-out from Chris Stewart, Andy McDonald, Alex Steen, and the winner by Shatty. Jonathan Toews led the way for Chicago, beating Elliott on the first attempt, but the end result was 2 points for the good guys.
I believe this was a monumental victory for the St. Louis Blues. Shaking off the monkey of an 0-8 record at the United Center, getting production from their 3rd and 4th lines, standing up for one another, playing a very physical game, developing the chemistry with new additions and playing much better than they’ve done all season in front of Elliott- the Blues have a chance to really build some momentum as they push toward the playoffs.
St. Louis has not had consistent success in the second game of back-to-backs this year (2-4-1) and the revamped, red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets are in town tonight. Columbus is right behind the Blues in the log-jammed Western Conference standings and I predict the Scottrade Center will be rockin’. Jake Allen could start in net for the Blues as Hitchcock has said both goalies will get their chances down the stretch.
Are the Blues ready to wear the mantle of contenders or will they continue the Jekyll & Hyde act they’ve been perpetrating all season long. We’ll see which team shows up tonight.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!