Ryan Reaves scored a rare goal Friday night, what proved to be the game-winner in a 2-1 St. Louis Blues victory over the visiting Dallas Stars. Brian Elliott stopped 21 of 22 shots to earn his 11th win and Chris Stewartnotched a power-play goal for the Blues, earning them 2 more important points in their quest for a playoff-spot. They currently sit in 6th place but are only 1 point behind LA for 4th. St. Louis played their lock-down style of defensive game and despite their anemic scoring they’ve gone 9-2 in the month of April.
The offensive woes of late have been highlighted by a power-play drought, with Stewart’s 1st period goal ending an 0-for-18 slump. St. Louis began the season scoring goals with the man-advantage like gangbusters, at one time sitting at the top of the NHL but have fallen all the way to last over the last month. It was Stewart’s 17th goal of the season and gave the Blues yet another one goal victory, their 6th straight such feat.
Their defensive prowess has been working but it’s left little room for error. Thankfully, Elliott has been hot, boasting a 1.01 GAA this month and a .960 save percentage. St. Louis has staked Ells to early leads in each of their last 2 games and he’s made them stick, almost single-handedly winning games for his club. Everyone in St. Louis would like to see more goals being scored by the Blues, but as long as the goaltending remains at such a high level, the team has a legitimate shot at a deep post-season run.
The Blues got their second goal of the night from an unlikely source, with Reaves continuing the elevated play and contribution of the 4th line. He made a great play to keep the puck in the offensive zone and then went hard to the net, backhanding a rebound in past Kari Lehtonen.
St. Louis has a formula that has won them games all season long: play stifling defense, get the puck out of their own zone quickly, put shots on the net and get bodies in front of it. They’ve rarely been able to do ALL those things at once, and Friday night was no exception. Under many circumstances 20 shots wont be enough to win in the NHL. The Blues were sloppy in their own zone too often against Dallas, a dangerous team desperate for points and trying to climb back into the playoff hunt. You can win games against lesser opponents when you make mistakes, but against the top-tier teams like Chicago, Anaheim, and Vancouver, it’s going to take near flawless execution to survive.
The Blues are on the road Sunday to face the Colorado Avalanche, a team they should surly beat, but one that will likely be looking to play spoiler to St. Louis’s playoff hopes. The Blues are 2-1-2 in their last five games versus Colorado, and lost their last meeting, also in Denver, 0-1 in overtime. If ever there was a time for the St. Louis offense to ignite, it’s now. Their defense and goaltending are right where they need to be. If the other piece of the puzzle falls into place they could pose a serious threat to the rest of the West. They’ll finish up the season next week with 3 games at Scottrade Center, and will be looking to climb into the 4th playoff spot, certainly possible if they can stay hot.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!