The St. Louis Blues hosted the Florida Panthers Saturday night at Scottrade Center and treated their guests quite rudely, whitewashing the Eastern Conference foe 7-0. Jaroslav Halak made 19 saves for the shutout win, making history in the process. The Blues got their goals from seven different scorers: Brenden Morrow, Vladi Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Derek Roy, Alexander Steen, Ryan Reaves, and Patrik Berglund.
The Blues had a relatively shaky 1st period Saturday night, but once Morrow scored his 1st goal as a Bluenote the team settled into playing their game and dominated from there out. The goal exemplified something that, to me, is one of the biggest improvements we’re already seeing from this St. Louis team, in that guys are going to the front of the net to get the puck.
Tarasenko followed suit scoring his 1st of the season in the 2nd period from the same area: parked right in front of Florida goalie Tim Thomas. It’s not a new concept, playing in the crease, but it seemed to be missing from the Blues offense last year when they were having trouble scoring goals. This year the tide has perhaps turned, and we’re seeing it shift after shift from these guys.
Schwartzy’s 1st goal of the young season was a wicked wrister past Thomas from the slot, courtesy of a brilliant steal of the puck behind the net by Vladimir Sobotka. Sobie finished the night with 2 assists and Schwartz, with an earlier helper on Tarasenko’s tally, went on to complete a Gordie Howe Hat Trick by getting into a rare fight.
Roy also scored his 1st goal as a Blue, in a four goal 2nd period outburst for St. Louis, on a nifty feed from Chris Stewart. I expect we’ll be seeing that scenario reversed more often this season, but Roy has been a goal-scorer in his career and will certainly get his. The scoring binge ended with Steener netting a penalty shot with just under a minute left in the frame. The Blues have scored on 8 of their last 9 penalty shot chances and it was Steen’s first in the NHL.
The big 2nd period chased Thomas from the ice- the second time in as many games the Blues forced a goaltending change. Reaver and Bergie added goals in the 3rd period to complete the rout, and then things got very chippy.
St. Louis racked up 45 minutes in penalties in the final period that included 3 Misconducts with under 10 minutes to play. It was good to see the boys sticking up for one another and showing that they wont be pushed around, regardless of the score. Blow-outs often get ugly toward the end as nerves are frayed, egos are bruised, and tempers start flaring, but the Blues went toe-to-toe with the Panthers and things stayed fairly even as far as penalties were concerned there at the end.
Speaking of penalties, the Blues were uncharacteristically undisciplined throughout the game Saturday night, giving up SEVEN man-advantages to Florida. It made little difference in the game however as the Blues killed off all seven chances, holding the Panthers to only 2 power-play shots TOTAL. St. Louis out-shot Florida 34-19 overall. Morrow’s goal came on a Blues power-play, their only one in 4 chances, but another strong showing on special teams to start the season bodes well for the team’s success.
Halak had another strong showing in net, though he spent lengthy stretches with zero pucks coming his way. He once again looked calm and confident and flashed speed in the paint, perhaps indicative of his aggressive off-season training regimen. His body fat percentage was below 10% to start the season, his best shape ever, as reported by Jeremy Rutherford at StLToday.com. The shutout was his 17th as a member of the Blues, breaking the record formerly held by St. Louis legendary goaltender, Glenn Hall, and in nearly 50 fewer games with the club (121.)
Can we expect the Blues to score seven goals every night? Probably not. Can Halak post a shutout every night? Unlikely, though with the stifling defense played by St. Louis perhaps it wont be as uncommon as we think. The break between Saturday’s victory and their next tilt, home versus the Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, almost assures Jaro another consecutive start. I don’t see any reason for Coach Hitchcock to make a change there, barring unexpected injury.
The way the schedule is set up, Brian Elliott may not see his first action until Friday, October 18 against the Winnipeg Jets, the first time the Blues play on back-to-back nights. That will depend heavily on Halak continuing to be outstanding, but I’ve got no reason to believe it will play out any other way.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!