The St. Louis Blues rang in the New Year with a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center Tuesday night. It was the 7th straight win for the Blues versus Minnesota and St. Louis managed to win yet again with big names out of the lineup. Leading scorer Alexander Steen and captain David Backes both watched Tuesday’s win from the press-box as St. Louis improved to 13-0-1 against Central Division opponents. Jaden Schwartz scored his 6th goal in as many games and assisted on TJ Oshie’s 6th goal of the season while Brian Elliott, starting in place of an ailing Jaroslav Halak, made 24 of 25 saves to earn the win, his 10th.
The opening 20 minutes were about as boring as I’ve seen this season, each team blocking a few shots and neither team creating many turnovers or odd-man rushes. The Wild incurred a minor penalty of the game 24-seconds into the 2nd period but the Blues failed to convert on their only power-play chance of the night, only getting 1 shot on net versus a very disciplined Minnesota defense anchored by Ryan Suter. Oshie finally started the scoring at 6:49 after breaking up the Wild’s attempt to exit their own zone. Schwartz pounced on the loose puck and fed a nifty drop-pass to Oshie, bearing down on Josh Harding, splitting the defense and wristing the puck past the goaltender for a 1-0 Blues lead.
Schwartz would net his streak extending goal, his 14th overall this season, later in the 2nd period, finishing off a quick up-ice transition started by Vladi Tarasenko by rifling a shot through Harding to give St. Louis a 2-goal lead heading into the final frame. Schwartz has doubled his goal total from 45 games last season and is a plus-19 on the season, leading all St. Louis skaters.
Minnesota turned their game up a notch in the 3rd period and had the Blues on their heels a few times, out-shooting St. Louis 11-7. Up to the task, the Blues killed off two minor penalties and Ells held the Wild in check for all but 9-seconds of the game. Suter scored to make it 2-1 Blues at 19:51, snapping a shutout streak by St. Louis against the Wild that had lasted more than three full games (212:52) to that point. Minnesota has now lost six in a row while the Blues are 5-0-1 in its last six games.
One dark spot marring the victory Tuesday night was the loss of Chris Stewart mid-way through the 1st period. Stewie took a puck in the face and never returned and was seen afterwards to have severe swelling, bruising, and a cut from the incident, a seemingly harmless dump-in attempt by the Wild. No word as of yet if Stewart will miss significant time, and while the Blues have proven their depth by overcoming a slew of injuries over the past month, losing the big winger would be quite a blow.
St. Louis returned home and will seek their first win of the season against a team hailing from California on Thursday as the Los Angeles Kings visit Scottrade Center. Backes participated in an optional practice today, a good sign that he’ll be back on the ice tomorrow night. Additionally, rookie Dmitrij Jaskin was re-assigned to Chicago of the AHL, clearing a spot on the roster for the captain’s potential return. Halak suffered flu-like symptoms Tuesday but was available as Elliott’s backup during the game and could possibly start Thursday versus LA.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!
St. Louis continues to kick off the new year at home on Saturday against Columbus. Be sure to get your St. Louis Blues tickets here.