The St. Louis Blues (33-10-5) paid a visit to their former Central Division rival Detroit Red Wings Monday night and while these aren’t exactly your dads’ Wings, the 4-1 victory was still impressive. Jaroslav Halak stumbled early but overall was outstanding in net stopping 22 of 23 shots for the win. St. Louis got goals from three different defensemen and the win gave the Blues a 15-5-3 (.717) record on the road, best in the league in terms of point percentage. (Thanks to @StLouisBlues for those numbers.)
Saturday’s win was a full team effort and their best by far in more than a week. After losing 3 of 4 and scoring 2 or fewer goals in that span, the Blues utilized their size and speed against a reeling Red Wings club to out-skate, out-hit, and out-score Detroit, a team known for its consistent hard work. It’s amazing what happens when you play a full 60 minutes, and while the Wings looked a lot like their AHL affiliate, having been decimated by injuries (including to superstar Pavel Datsyuk) and are certainly not the Kings or Ducks, they’re still tough to play against at Joe Louis Arena.
St. Louis was able to roll-out four lines from the opening face-off Saturday night, with TEN skaters recording at least one point, dominated by their defensemen. The Blues out-shot the Wings 18-7 in the 1st period alone, finishing the night with a 39-23 margin. Magnus Paajarvi, looking more comfortable wearing the Bluenote with every shift he plays, put his squad on the scoreboard first with a backhanded, wrap-around beauty at 11:13.
The game featured some of the worst officiating I’ve ever witnessed in all my years of watching NHL hockey, and to say that for the first two periods the referees were whistle happy would be an understatement, calling a total of 9 minor penalties. There were 11 in the stat sheet when the final horn sounded and that’s with them missing half a dozen calls. It was a brutal example of how bad the officiating has become in this league, but the Blues were able to kill 5 of 6 Detroit power-play chances and netted one of their own.
Jaro settled in quickly, despite displaying a bit of trouble handling the puck. He looked a bit lost outside the crease, but stood on his head while in it and absolutely robbed Todd Bertuzzi with the save of the game at 11:33, keeping the Blues on top 1-0.
The Wings eventually tied the game 1-1 with their lone goal, a power-play tally, late in the 1st period but despite starting the 2nd period with another man-advantage, Detroit couldn’t build on that momentum. Barret Jackman scored his 2nd goal in as many games only a minute into the 2nd making it 2-1 Blues. His heavy slapper would prove to be the game-winner, the first in seven years for the vet and 4th of his career, all with St. Louis.
The St. Louis defense took over from there. Kevin Shattenkirk notched a power-play goal just over a minute later, giving the Blues a 2-goal lead and then, at 4:38, St. Louis killed off a huge Detroit 5-on-3 advantage, possibly the turning point of the game. Blocking shots and keeping Halak’s view relatively clear allowed Jaro to thwart the Red Wings the rest of the way and the Blues locked things down in the final 20-minutes.
Jay Bouwmeester would add the final goal at 2:14 in the 3rd, marking the first time since 2008 that the Blues had three defensemen score in a game. Roman Polak, who assisted on Paajarvi’s goal also had 5-shots on goal, a career single-game high. Alex Pietrangelo assisted on Shatty’s goal, and while not a defenseman but certainly one of the best 2-way players in the game, Alexander Steen had two assists and a season-high 7-shots himself, earning the night’s First Star.
As I mentioned above, St. Louis had four lines cycling throughout the game, a luxury few teams can boast, and when the Blues get the kind of production from their bottom-6 forwards they did Saturday night they’re nearly unstoppable. They overcame the horrendous officiating, and even on an off-night in the face-off circle the Blues dominated with their strong forecheck and stout defense.
I saw an interview recently with Jim Crews, head coach of the St. Louis Billikens basketball team in which he said what he likes most about his team is their ability to win in so many different ways. This season’s Blues are similar in that regard, in that they can beat you so many ways, even on the rare occasions when David Backes, TJ Oshie, and Jaden Schwartz don’t have any points.
St. Louis will play tonight against the New Jersey Devils and we’ll see Brian Elliott in net. Vladi Tarasenko apparently has a touch of the flu and will be a game-time decision. The game marks the second to last time the Blues will face certain Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur. Brodeur, who will retire at the end of this season, and the Devils will be in St. Louis a week from today.
GO BLUES! LONG LIVE THE NOTE!