February 13, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader (8) and St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) fight for position in front of goalie Jake Allen (34) in the third period at Joe Louis Arena. St. Louis won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Blues at Detroit Red Wings – Gameday Preview April 7, 2013

ST. LOUIS BLUES

vs. DETROIT RED WINGS

April 7th, 2013
Joe Louis Arena
Detroit, MI
11:30 am CST
TV: NBC
Season Series is tied at 2-2

The St. Louis Blues are looking to jump past the Detroit Red Wings into 7th place during a nationally televised contest today in Detroit, MI. St. Louis has won three straight games and for the moment has put some distance between them and the 9th place Edmonton Oilers. Detroit looks to ride the wave of a 10:30 a.m. “special announcement” (hosting next year’s Winter Classic) and keep St. Louis in 8th place in the Western Conference. This contest is the end of an era as next year the Blues and Red Wings will be in separate, yet to be named, conferences.

ST. LOUIS BLUES

(20-14-2, 3rd in Central)

The St. Louis Blues come to Detroit looking for a little afternoon delight and their fourth straight win.  The biggest key in the Blues latest mini winning streak has just been the ability to stay close and that can be attributed to goaltending.  Jaroslav Halak went down with a groin injury in Monday’s 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild and since then Brian Elliott and rookie sensation (I think he has earned that praise) Jake Allen have done a stellar job holding down the blue paint for the Blues.  T.J. Oshie will miss his fourth consecutive game.  But Adam Cracknell looks to keep up the strong play he showed against the Columbus Blue Jackets during Friday night’s 3-1 victory.

Key players

Apr 4, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Adam Cracknell (79) scores a goal against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) during the third period at the United Center. The Blues beat the Blackhawks 4-3 in the shootout. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

How could I have a “key players” section and not mention the alleged “4th line” of Ryan Reaves, Adam Cracknell and Chris Porter.  Reaves has been doing his normal good work along the boards and banging bodies.  Cracknell after potting two huge goals in Thursday’s tilt with Chicago, continued his all-around strong play on Friday night in St. Louis against Columbus.  Chris Porter has been flying all over the ice since recently signing his first one –way contract in pro hockey.  Porter’s speed has gained him many chances over the last few games and to those who have been watching there is a feeling that he is going to score a big goal in the near future.

David Backes has two goals in his last two games.  I stated before the month of April that for the Blues to make any noise backs was going to have put his name on the scoresheet.  He is doing just that and he is scoring David Backes type goals.  One goal was scored right in the crease and the other goal from his backside near the crease.  That gritty play is what will lead the Blues far into the spring.

DETROIT RED WINGS

(19-14-5, 2nd in Central)

The Detroit Red Wings like so many teams outside of Chicago and Anaheim in the Western Conference have been searching for consistency.  The winged wheel has lost three of their last five and they will look to add space between them and their soon to be former division and conference rival.

Key players

This is the first time the St. Louis Blues will get to see what they missed out on in Danny DeKeyser.  The Western Michigan product made his NHL debut on Friday night in the Wings’ 3-2 win over their once hated rival Colorado.

February 10, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) receives congratulations from center Henrik Zetterberg (40) after scoring in the first period against the Los Angeles Kings at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Would it be easy for any writer to include Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg as “key players?” Yes.  But the fact is, that what they are for this team. While these two puck magicians have only accounted for 21 goals this season combined, they do have 73 total points together.  You don’t have study a lot of tape and read a lot to know these guys change games.  To beat the Red Wings you have to neutralize 13 and 40.  The plan is that simple.  The execution of that plan is a totally different story.

Bottom line

It has been nice to see Blues goaltender and all-around nice guy Brian Elliott appear to turn his game in the right direction.  But as long as Jaroslav Halak is hurt and maybe even if he is healthy I think Jake Allen needs to carry the bulk of the work.  He has been the stabilizing force all year, only to see the team begin to slip when it has been decided that the other goalies need a chance to reclaim “their” net.  This has, “Jason Motte not officially being called the closer,” written all over it.  But Jake Allen does not to be protected from any pressure.  I am yet to see anything like that get in his head.  Maybe he is young and naïve or maybe he is just a cool character, but I think the time has come for him to show he can be the guy.

Injuries

The Blues will continue to miss T.J. Oshie, Jaroslav Halak and Jamie Langenbrunner.  While the Red Wings will be without Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi.

LETS…GO…BLUES!!!

-David A. Tolcou

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