The St. Louis Blues finally beat the Colorado Avalanche this season Tuesday night, a 3-1 victory that guarantees the Blues a spot in the playoffs. St. Louis got power-play goals from Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund while Andy McDonald added his 6th of the season. Brian Elliott stopped 17 of 18 shots to earn the win.
The last two games, both against the Avs, have been an interesting study in character for the Blues. Sunday’s colossal failure in pretty much every aspect of play showed the ugly face of the team and was rife with turnovers, tired skating, and generally a poor effort. Tuesday night St. Louis played their game almost to perfection. The Blues allowed only 18 shots (they gave up 31 in Sunday’s loss) and played tight defense, cleared their own zone well, and clogged up neutral ice well. The lone goal came on a delayed penalty call and perhaps Ells should have made the save, but the blemish was ultimately insignificant.
Two players in particular had excellent games, 180 degree turnarounds from their recent efforts, long overdue. These two resurgent performances jump-started the reeling St. Louis power-play units as well, despite pre-game plans. David Perron had been “demoted” to the 4th line and removed from the power-play unit, likely in part because of his costly turnover Sunday that led to a Colorado goal. Let’s be honest though, Perron has under-achieved all season long, and the lineup shuffle was overdue.
Perron showed some chemistry with fellow 4th liner Adam Cracknell and generated a number of good scoring chances early in the game. Due to circumstances beyond his control, Perron found himself forced back on the power-play unit which looked better than it has in months. He didn’t have any points, but his play was greatly improved, as was Berglund’s. Bergie was a force in the offensive zone and played strong on the puck all night. He looked like a different player than the one we’ve been watching these last couple of weeks and got in on the scoring with a power-play goal in the 2nd period to put the Blues up 2-0.
It was Berglund’s 1st goal since April 5th when he scored against Columbus. Mac netted his second goal in as many games later in the period giving St. Louis a 3-0 lead.
Despite giving up a goal to Cody McLeod, the Blues really dominated the Avs Tuesday night in all aspects of the game. Stewie’s goal was his 100th for his career and he added an assist (on Mac’s goal) giving him 100 helpers as well. It was the first time the Blues scored more than twice in back to back games since April 4-5. Could it mean their offense is starting to click at just the right time?
Not to be lost in the excitement of the victory and the guaranteed playoff spot is the story of Jay Bouwmeester. Jay holds the current NHL “Iron Man” streak with 633 consecutive games played, but he also holds a more dubious mark. He’s played in more regular season games (762) without appearing in a playoff game than any player in league history. That streak, of course, is now over, and I would argue it’s in large part to his presence that the Blues are now sitting in the 6th spot in the West with every opportunity to finish as high as 4th with home ice advantage in Round 1.
With both the Kings and Sharks losing last night, St. Louis is only 1 point out of that 4th spot with 2 games remaining. If the Blues win out the 4th spot belongs to them. If not, 4-8 might look much different come Sunday morning. The Kings and Sharks face-off in their last game Saturday night and the Wild, Wings, Blue Jackets and Stars (technically) are all still jockeying for the final spots.
The Blues need to win their last two to make that scenario meaningful, and they’ll go against the Calgary Flames tonight at Scottrade. The clubs split the first two meetings and St. Louis will be looking to win the season series along with adding another big 2 points. Calgary is coming off a tough loss in Nashville Tuesday, a game in which they led until the 3rd period. The Blues will see a former prospect in Mark Cundari, now a defenseman for the Flames. Elliott will get the start in net for the Blues and it’s very possible we’ll see Jaroslav Halak on the bench as his backup.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!