It’s a good start. The St. Louis Blues began a two week run in which they play 6 of 7 games on the road with a victory Monday night in Minnesota over the red hot Wild. Brian Elliot stopped 19 of 20 shots in a relief effort and the Blues saw some long scoreless streaks stopped, getting goals from Jaden Schwartz, Andy McDonald, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Barret Jackman.
The Wild had been surging, winning 8 of their last 9 before the Blues solved goalie Niklas Backstrom, winner of 8 straight starts. St. Louis jumped out to an early lead when Schwartz scored in the 1st period. How many times in his young career have we described a goal by #9 as “hard-working?” He is a relentless puck-hound, and he has been very good this year, finding ways to make plays where there appeared to be none. Despite his minus-6 rating, Schwartz has been one of the most consistent Blues forwards.
While the Blues did get the win, I don’t think it can be said that they outplayed Minnesota. St. Louis did some things very well- getting pucks on net most importantly- but although they out-shot the Wild 12-5 in the 1st, they looked tentative to me, very obviously trying not to make a mistake. Minnesota finished the game with a strong 3rd period and the shots ended up 25-24 in favor of the Wild. The Blues still need to do a better job, in my opinion, of moving the puck North and South instead of East and West, especially when trying to clear their own zone, to minimize the pressure opposing teams are putting on the goalies.
Turnovers were also a problem for the Blues Monday night. Even veteran Jordan Leopold got into the act, as did the usual cast of characters (Alex Pietrangelo among them) but St. Louis goaltending made the difference for a change and really stole this win away from Minnesota who’ve been very stingy at home this season (13-4-1.) Jaroslav Halak stopped all five shots in the 1st before hurting himself with about 15 seconds left. He wouldn’t return, and with one exception early in the 2nd period, Ells was very solid in relief, getting his first win since January.
The Blues found ways to score goals that have eluded them lately. Mac scored on his own rebound. Shatty found a way to get a puck through traffic from the blue line. Jax scored late in the 3rd to essentially lock down the win by very literally just throwing the puck at the net. His wrister had eyes and it ended up sailing over Backstrom’s shoulder for the final tally.
With 2 days off before their next tilt, a 7:30pm battle against the Blackhawks in Chicago, the Blues could be sitting outside of a playoff position by the time they play again. This morning finds them back in the 8th spot but only 1 point ahead of teams who will skate tonight and tomorrow. St. Louis made strides to make the playoffs off the ice last night as well, finally picking up defenseman Jay Bouwmeester from Calgary. The Blues traded a conditional 1st round pick and two prospects and took on Bouwmeester’s $6mil+ salary, meaning he’ll be in St. Louis next season as well.
With the addition, St. Louis suddenly boasts one of the deepest back lines in the Conference if not the NHL. It also leaves them with extra D-men, and at least one guy who has been seeing regular ice time will be sitting more often than not during the playoff push. We might even see someone sent packing altogether. The potential pairings could look like this:
With Kris Russell and Wade Redden being the extras, Ian Cole, a healthy scratch for most of the season, appears to be the odd-man out, as it’s unlikely the Blues will keep 9 defensemen, although after the trade deadline tomorrow rosters expand and additional bodies aren’t an issue. Big question of the day: Does Russell give up his #4 to the new Bluenote? Bouwmeester has worn #4 in the NHL for 10 years.
The leadership and ownership of the St. Louis Blues has shown that they’re ready to do what it takes, what they see necessary to make this team competitive and playoff ready. It’s now up to the guys on the ice to take things the rest of the way and keep earning 2 points each night and stay in the hunt.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!