Ryan Reaves had his first career 2-goal night, Andy McDonald scored again, Alex Steen added a power-play goal and Brian Elliott made 18 saves as the St. Louis Blues defeated the Calgary Flames 4-1 Thursday night at Scottrade Center.
Elliott set a new NHL mark for wins in April with 10. He made some highlight-reel quality saves which twice brought the crowd to its feet and created what to me was the greatest moment (so far) of this hockey season. The crowd chanted, “Ell-i-ott, Ell-i-ott, Ell-i-ott,” in celebration of his incredible stops, including this one on a breakaway by Roman Horak.
St. Louis finished with one of their best games of the season though after 20 minutes things did not seem to be headed that direction. The first period was forgettable, with the Flames out-shooting the Blues 8-5 and generating all of the energy, which is to say not very much. It was a dull, sloppy period of hockey and left me wondering if the Blues were going to take control of their destiny. They ultimately did just that.
Things look to be coming together at just the right time for the Blues, finally getting offense (7 goals in their last 2 games) AND their defense (only 2 goals allowed in the same span) to click simultaneously. Much of this season we’ve seen either one or the other but seldom both. For St. Louis to get 2 goals from the 4th line is icing on the cake. Reaves looked like a sniper on the first one, giving the Blues a 1-0 lead early in the 2nd period.
Reaver went into a “hard area” and scored his 2nd of the night early in the 3rd period to close out the scoring. Adam Cracknell assisted on each of the Reaves goals and Chris Porter chipped in with an assist as well. Hitchcock has been talking all year about how St. Louis needs to be better in those areas, including the crease, and their hard work paid off last night. It shouldn’t be a surprise as that line has been playing well for weeks now. It was good to see the effort rewarded.
Mac continued his hot streak, scoring his 7th of the year and what proved to be the game winner thanks to tight defense throughout the 3rd period and of course, Elliott’s stellar play between the pipes. Steen added a power-play goal and while they Blues were only 1 of 5 on power-play chances, they looked good with the puck, moved it well and pressured Calgary far more than the shot total would lead us to believe.
Jay Bouwmeester played well in his first game against his former club, notching an assist and derailing the Calgary attack time and again. It was his miss-step, he literally stepped on the puck and fell down, that gave the Flames their shorthanded breakaway opportunity and he gave Ells a whack on the pads after the play, able to laugh about it because of the huge save.
The victory gave St. Louis 58 points and vaulted them into sole possession of the 4th playoff spot, a position they can earn outright by beating the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow night. The number of possible outcomes involving LA and San Jose (currently tied with 57 points) is large, but if the Blues simply take care of their own business they’ll lock up home-ice advantage for Round One.
The forwards are starting to find their scoring touch. The team is playing excellent, smart defense, and it goes without saying that the goaltending has been top-notch. Last night the Blues looked like a team who could beat anybody in the league. Here’s hoping they can finish on a high note tomorrow night and get Scottrade Center ready for playoff hockey.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!