Familiar faces returned to Scottrade Center Thursday night as the St. Louis Blues outlasted the Calgary Flames for a 3-2 win. Defensemen Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell each spent time wearing the Bluenote, and both played nearly 25 minutes against their former team in a losing effort. Alexander Steen scored his league-leading 14th goal in as many games, and Brian Elliott persevered, stopping 18 of 20 shots for his 2nd win of the season. The win was his 3rd in-a-row versus Calgary.
Vladi Tarasenko opened the scoring early on a power-play goal at 3:01 of the 1st period. Call him Tank, or Frank or Vladi, just don’t call him lazy, slow or weak. Tarasenko has been playing better and stronger from one game to the next and Thursday was no exception. Watching him skate with Jaden Schwartz is a treat, as both forwards look hungry for the puck and have deft, soft hands. It showed on the goal, with Schwartzy feeding Jay Bouwmeester for a one-timer and Vladi banging home the rebound to make it 1-0.
Halfway through the opening period, Maxim Lapierre- much-maligned by many Blues fans- notched his first goal with St. Louis, tipping the puck past Reto Berra after Jordan Leopold threw the puck toward the crease. I like the grit Lapierre brings to the team. You can often find him in the tough areas of the ice, as he was on the goal. It was one of 2 assists on the night for Leo, his first points of the season.
Steen’s league-leading goal came in the 2nd period and bumped him back over Alex Ovechkin, who had previously tied Steener with 13 goals. Steen has points in 9 straight games. His goal came courtesy of a beautiful feed from TJ Oshie- his 7th straight game with a helper.
With a 3-0 lead 25 minutes into their first home game in a week, you might think the Blues would’ve gone on to rout the hapless Flames. After all, they were winners of only three of their last 10 games entering Thursday’s tilt. Instead, we saw what frustrates me most about this Blues team dating back to early last season. They took their foot off the gas and went into shut-down mode too soon, allowing the Flames to creep back into it with two relatively weak 3rd period goals.
The Blues are 10-2-2, but what kind of fan would I be if I didn’t still find something to complain about, right? It’s the St. Louis Way. The Blues have often had chances to put teams away and simply ease up. It’s not glaringly obvious while you’re watching the games. It’s an errant pass here, a bad clearing effort there. But in today’s NHL, that’s all it takes for the opposition to pounce and turn games around.
As good as their record is, if the playoffs started today, the Blues would be tied for the LAST spot with the Minnesota Wild. I know it’s FAR too early to talk about the playoffs. My point is that there are a whole slew of Western Conference teams off to a hot start this year. St. Louis still has games in-hand on many of their conference rivals, but this can be a streaky league. To be a Cup contender, you need to keep pushing every game, every shift. I’m not saying it’s easy, but that is how Champions play (see the Chicago Blackhawks, or Pittsburgh Penguins).
Oshie took a slap-shot off an ankle in the 2nd period Thursday night, but returned in the third and seem to be skating fine. Hopefully with tonight off he’ll be 100% by tomorrow night when the aforementioned Penguins and Evgeni Malkin come to town. Jaroslav Halak should be back between the pipes for the Blues, who will be looking to improve on their 3-1 record this season against Eastern Conference foes.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!