The St. Louis Blues beat the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 Sunday afternoon, earning 2 more big points and leap-frogging the Wings in the standings. Brian Elliott made 28 saves for his first shut-out of the season and Chris Porter scored the only goal of the game, his 2nd of the year and first since being rewarded by the Blues with a new contract.
The Blues have won four in a row and have got to be feeling pretty good about themselves and their chances as they continue their road-trip this week in Nashville, Minneapolis, and Columbus. Though out-shot by the Red Wings Sunday, St. Louis played a much better overall game than in their previous 3 wins. They gave Elliott the opportunity to see shots coming in on him and Ells, regaining some of his form from last season, took care of the rest by stopping everything Detroit threw at him. He played with confidence you could see and flashed his glove on more than one occasion. It was a HUGE boost for him and the team.
Porter scored for the Blues late in the 2nd period on a hard-nosed play in front of Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. WithTJ Oshie (foot) Andy McDonald (flu) and Scott Nichol (lower-body) scratched, Ports played up on a line with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart and made the most of the opportunity, following the puck to the net and getting the kind of 2nd chance needed to score a goal in the type of tight-checking game we saw Sunday.
St. Louis hardly played a flawless game, turning the puck over coming out of their zone on more than one occasion. The Blues top defensive pairing of Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester were the most frequent culprits, and the team as a whole made far too many bad passes behind their own blue line. It drives me crazy to see them softly push the puck around the corners or up the side-boards, hoping to get it through the forecheck of the opposition. It doesn’t work. There were still too many passes across the ice and not enough of them UP the ice for my taste, but I’m not arguing against the 1-0 result.
One pleasant surprise Sunday was seeing Kris Russell on the ice. A victim of the new-found defensive depth enjoyed following the additions of Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold, Russell was pressed into service as a winger with three forwards unable to suit up. Russell showed speed and energy playing there and added to the feeling of overall team game improvement. I’m sure the Blues fed off that a little. If nothing else, this Blues team always seems to step up when guys go down, filling in the gaps and keeping the train on the tracks.
I wont say the Red Wings controlled the latter half of the game Sunday, but they did have a few moments of sustained pressure on Elliott that left me reaching for the antacids. It would’ve relieved a lot of stress if St.Louis could’ve scored just one more goal but Ells stood tall and the Blues were tougher on the puck and in the corners than they’ve been in while and, despite the obvious wishes of the NBC commentators, Detroit was ultimately kept off the scoreboard. I only hope the NBC crew learns how to properly pronounce players’ names before St. Louis travels to Chicago for the next Game of the Week.
I liked what I saw from the Blues yesterday. They played with their heads up, and made better decisions with the puck up and down the ice. St. Louis also continued their stellar penalty killing, shutting down 4 of 4 Detroit power-plays. They play tomorrow night in Nashville and I’ll be surprised if Elliott doesn’t get another start. Get behind him, Blues fans, it looks like he’s ready to put this team on his back and carry them into the post-season. He’ll need more support than 1 goal a game, but if the Blues can get all 4 lines clicking again, it wont be a problem.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!