The St. Louis Blues trounced the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night 5-1 at Scottrade Center, a nice way to bounce back from a very unsatisfying loss on Tuesday. Alexander Steen showed everyone why the Blues just signed him to a 3-year contract extension, scoring the first 2 goals of the game as St. Louis jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one period. Jaroslav Halak stopped 25 of 26 shots continuing his hot streak against his former club. Halak is 4-0 versus the Canadiens with an 0.98 goals-against average and .960 save percentage since being traded to the Blues, who improved to 48-0-1 in the past 49 home games when they’ve scored three goals or more.
Steen had been the center of attention in St. Louis since word of his signing hit the social media outlets Wednesday afternoon and proved his worth, increasing his team scoring lead to 24 goals and 38 points. His first of the night Thursday came shorthanded on an odd-man rush started by TJ Oshie. Steen took Oshie’s cross-ice pass, which just barely eluded an out-stretched Alexei Emelin, and guided the puck past Carey Price.
Later in the first, Derek Roy would block a shot out high and take an outlet pass from Patrik Berglund up-ice in the Montreal zone. A drop-pass later and Steen snapped his second of the game putting St. Louis up 2-0. It was Bergie’s first point in six games and Steen’s 24th goal of the season, putting him just 4 back of league leader Alex Ovechkin. Chris Stewart would make it 3-0 Blues at 13:33 with his 10th of the season. After a gritty forecheck to keep the puck in the zone, Brenden Morrow set up camp behind the net and fed Stewart in the crease who clipped the crossbar with his shot but beat Price to close out a high-flying opening period for St. Louis. It was great to see them Shake off the slow-start-stigma and take control of a game right off the bat.
Montreal would tally the game’s only second period goal but it was merely a blip on the radar as they never showed signs of making it competitive Thursday night. Halak dominated the Canadiens for the fourth straight game since coming over to St. Louis before the 2010-11 campaign and it would be more than enough for the Blues as Jaden Schwartz and Max Lapierre would add to their lead in the 3rd period.
Schwartz scored in his first game back after missing the last two with an injury, and showed no lingering signs of damage. He was as quick to and hard on the puck as he’s been all season and it really gave the team the jump they’d been missing. Lapierre, not known for scoring goals, made hard work by the 4th line pay off, as he, Adam Cracknell and Chris Porter had played a perfect supporting role throughout the final 20-minutes, blocking shots and helping shut down the Montreal effort with solid 200-foot play.
The one negative from Thursday night was that St. Louis failed to convert on six power-play chances. Once the NHL’s top unit with the man-advantage, St. Louis has gone 0-for-11 in its last three games. On one hand it was great to see the Blues score 5 goals at even strength as that was a point of contention for them last season, but the drop-off is frustrating, and also coincides with the absence of their captain, David Backes, who normally plays a prominent role on special teams. The sluggish power-play may simply be a result of too few forwards playing too much time both with the advantage and short-handed, as Vladimir Sobotka and Schwartz have both missed time recently and each factor largely on the St. Louis penalty kill.
Backes traveled with the team and skated this morning in Edmonton, participating regularly in all drills, indicating he may be available and skating tonight as the Blues visit the Oilers for the first time since the David Perron for Magnus Paajarvi trade. With Sobie still unlikely to play, the young Swede, Paajarvi, may get a chance to show his ex-team they made a mistake in shipping him to St. Louis. Perron had a slow start to his season in Edmonton but has been red-hot of late with 4-goals and 2-assists in his last 3 games.
Brian Elliott will make the start tonight and Halak will likely handle netminding duties tomorrow in Dallas, as the Blues play back-to-back games this weekend for the 6th time this season. St. Louis will be without defenseman Roman Polak tonight and for at least two weeks as the Blues put Polak on the IR today with an ankle injury suffered Tuesday night against Montreal.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!