Ryan Reaves set the tone early and put the St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard first Saturday night as they beat the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1. Jaroslav Halak stopped 19 of 20 shots faced as David Backes and company continued their defensive dominance over Sidney Crosby. Sid the Kid has failed to score now in 7 games versus St. Louis and was held without a point. Kevin Shattenkirk’s seeing-eye wrister, his 1st goal of the season, in the 3rd period capped the win for the Blues.
Saturday night’s match-up with the Pens had some people talking about a Stanley Cup preview, and while that may be a bit premature so early in the season, the game certainly had playoff intensity. Reaver dropped the gloves with Deryk Engelland only three seconds into the 1st period, bringing the Scottrade crowd to its feet and pumping up his teammates.
The opening 20 minutes would end scoreless, with each team tallying 9 shots on goal. Late in the first, Halak made the save of the night on a Crosby breakaway. The Blues really opened up the throttle in the 2nd period and never let up, out-shooting Pittsburgh 32-20 on the night. St. Louis got a strong fore-check from Alexander Steen on their first goal first, which lead to Reaves deflecting in a shot by Maxim Lapierre.
The Blues would go scoreless on three power-play attempts and allowed Jussi Jokinen to tie the game 1-1 with a power-play goal for the Penguins later in the 2nd. Otherwise, they played classic Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues shutdown defensive hockey, keeping themselves in the game. Halak played solid positionally in net, and Crosby missed a wide open chance to put the Pens ahead with under a minute left in the middle frame.
Shattenkirk’s first goal (which happened to extend his point streak to 8 games) put the Blues ahead to stay about halfway through the 3rd period. Up to that point, it had been anyone’s game to steal. St. Louis really caught a break on the shot, which barely made it across the goal-line.
Any time Jaden Schwartz and Vladi Tarasenko have been on the ice together this season, exciting hockey has ensued. Such was the case on Shatty’s goal, which may or may not have deflected in off Tarasenko’s stick. The credit was never changed, but the puck almost certainly hit something before it snuck through Marc-Andre Fleury. I’m guessing no one in the St. Louis locker room really cares as it gave them another win.
The 2-1 victory over probably the best team in the East was bigger for the Blues (11-2-2) than simply the two points. It also matched the team’s best start to a season in franchise history. However, they’re going to have to forget about it as they have a stretch of games this week that will continue to test them. The Phoenix Coyotes are in town tomorrow night followed by the conference leading Colorado Avalanche. Again, though St. Louis has been winning, they sit only 6th in the conference as there are a number of teams playing red-hot hockey in October and November.
I’d like to see the Blues forwards establish a second, consistent scoring line. They have all the pieces but haven’t quite been able to put them together in the right combination yet. Once they do that, or maybe even find themselves with TWO “second lines,” this team will be a force to reckon with. I’ll get into some line combinations another time. Hitch isn’t taking my calls about that right now anyway.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!