The St. Louis Blues went into Denver and dominated the Colorado Avalanche for a 3-1 victory Wednesday night. The Avs were still stinging from the beat-down the Blues handed them in their first meeting, two weeks ago in St. Louis, but Jaroslav Halak stopped 25 of 26 shots faced earning his 14th win, giving the Blues their 1st win in Denver since Ken Hitchcock took over as head coach, and giving the team its 5th straight victory and its best road start in franchise history at 7-2-1.
Most of the scoring occurred in the opening period as the Blues got on the board first on an even-strength goal from David Backes at 2:46, tipping in a pass by TJ Oshie, it was Oshie’s 9th helper in his last five games versus Colorado. Alexander Steen made it 2-0 Blues less than four minutes later with a power-play goal, his 20th tally of the season, tying him once again for the league lead. The goal was textbook power-play and showed why the Blues have the best in the NHL right now at 25.6%.
Colorado tried to make things interesting, cutting the lead to 2-1 at 8:24 but St. Louis re-established their 2-goal lead late in the 1st when Jaden Schwartz broke free and netted the team’s first short-handed goal of the season, unassisted. It was Schwartzy’s first shorty of his career and extended his point streak to five games.
St. Louis went into their defensive mode throughout the 2nd the 3rd periods but still out-shot Colorado 35-26 on the night. The Blues took some undisciplined minor penalties, but they killed all four of the Avalanche power-plays and have killed 20 of 21 over their last seven games. Chris Stewart, who had raised the ire of the Avs in their last meeting was quiet most of the game but posted an empty net goal inside the final 2-minutes to seal the win. There were few altercations in a game touted as a chance for some revenge by the Avs after being embarrassed in St. Louis, but the Blues controlled so much of the game that Colorado never had much opportunity to create those kinds of chances Wednesday night.
St. Louis continues its Western road-trip tonight in San Jose, their first meeting since receiving a 6-2 trouncing by the Sharks at Scottrade Center on October 15th, a game in which Maxim Lapierre’s hit on Dan Boyle sent the Shark forward off the ice on a stretcher and cost Lapierre a 5-game suspension. Boyle missed seven games before getting back into the lineup for San Jose, and has said he thought the hit showed a lack of respect by Lapierre, something for which Max has earned a bit of a reputation in his 11 years in the league. Interestingly enough, Boyle spoke candidly about the hit with a San Jose newspaper:
“We’ve all been playing long enough that in a split-second, we’re conditioned to make that decision,” Boyle said. “A lot of guys would probably choose to not hit there. And vise versa for me, too. There’s a lot of guys in the league where I wouldn’t hit and, I’m not going to lie, there’s probably a handful that I would.”
So the hit was disrespectful, but Boyle can’t say he wouldn’t have acted in kind, even noting it might depend on who he was hitting. That says a lot about the mindset of the players versus where the NHL is trying to go with player safety.
Will there be retaliation by the Sharks against Lapierre or the Blues tonight? I’d say yes, particularly with Ryan Reaves out for St. Louis. Hopefully I’m wrong and we’ll just get a hard-played, exciting NHL hockey game between two teams each riding a 5-game winning streak. Brian Elliott, who gave up two goals to the Sharks (in relief of Halak) in the earlier meeting will start today’s afternoon match-up. Ells comes in with a 4-0-1 record in 7 appearances with a 1.79 GAA. Grab the leftovers and get ready, the game starts at 3pm Central.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!