The St. Louis Blues trounced the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-2 at Scottrade Center Saturday night for their 5th straight win, marking a franchise best start to the season at 29-7-5 through 41 games. The Jackets came in riding the success of a shutout in their last game but ran into a veritable buzzsaw of St. Louis offense backed once again by terrific goaltending from Brian Elliott, who stopped 22 of 24 shots and extending his personal home-winning streak (and team record) to 13 games. Patrik Berglund led the Blues offensive outburst with two goals, his first 2-goal game since March of last year.
Saturday night’s tilt had a very auspicious start for the Blues as a weak transition game and some fluky bounces left them down 2-0 at the end of the 1st period. St. Louis looked a bit flat-footed on the first Jackets goal, unable to secure and clear the puck from their zone, and then a crazy bounce off traffic in front of Elliott sent the puck flipping high up over his head and behind him into the net on the second. Ells likely saw the original shot but lost sight of the puck after the deflection.
St. Louis regrouped during the intermission and came out with a vengeance, out-shooting Columbus 17-6 in the 2nd period and taking a 3-2 lead after Bergie’s first of the night and additional tallies by Vladimir Sobotka and Maxim Lapierre. Lapierre’s goal gave the Blues the lead for good at 17:29 as he showed a bit of rare power with the puck. His goal also gave the St. Louis defense five assists on the night, two by Kevin Shattenkirk.
The final 20-minutes were more of the same for the Blues as they scored three more times and finished the game out-shooting the Jackets 37-24. Bergie’s 2nd of the night came just 14-seconds into the 3rd period courtesy of an eye-popping cross-ice feed from Vladi Tarasenko, who finished with 2-assists. Tarasenko fired the puck from the boards across the slot and a rushing Berglund masterfully tipped the puck past the helpless Curtis McElhinney for a 4-2 Blues lead.
Jaden Schwartz would score at 8:47, extending his personal best point streak to 8-games. He’s now +23 this year, tied for #1 in the league. Alex Pietrangelo rounded out the onslaught of St. Louis goals with his first in 28-games. Both goals were assisted by TJ Oshie who now has 17 points in his last 13 homes games, and by David Backes in a welcome return for the Blues Captain.
St. Louis overcame another rough start and lit the lamp with high frequency once again missing their top scorer, Alexander Steen, who skated Saturday morning but hasn’t yet been cleared to practice with the team after being sidelined with a concussion. With only Steen and Roman Polak still out the Blues are almost completely healthy again. Despite all their bumps and bruises, they have the most home wins in the Western Conference at 17 and added to their league-best Inter-conference record of 36-9-6 since the 2010-11 campaign.
Elliott was named the 2nd Star-of-the-Week in the NHL with a 3-0-0 record last week, a 1.00 goals-against average, .962 save percentage and one shutout. Starting back to back (to back) games while Jaroslav Halak recovers from an illness has really put Ells in a groove and has some fans, myself included, if perhaps Elliott is the #1 goaltender the Blues have been looking for. His poor performance in last season’s playoffs can be written off as a fluke of the lockout shortened season.
This is a guy who at only age 28 has posted some incredible numbers wearing the Note, has been an All-Star, and been part of a Jennings Trophy winning tandem. From 2011-12 through 2012-13 I felt Ells was a better “relief pitcher” than a starter, but he has really established himself as a viable candidate to be The Guy (thanks to Kevin Wheeler of 101.1 ESPN for the thought.) Ells is 12-1-2 this season.
The Blues headed on the road after the game Saturday and will face-off in Edmonton tonight. As hot as St. Louis has been this season, the Oilers have been completely the opposite, colder than the Alberta clipper that has plunged the mercury below freezing over much of the US this past weekend, their poor play dropping them to the very bottom of the Western Conference standings with only 33 points. St. Louis blanked the Oilers 6-0 in their first meeting of the season back on December 21, also at Rexall Place and will look to continue their dominance, having won six of their last seven games against Edmonton.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!