St. Louis Blues Defeat Jets, All Lines Working

The St. Louis Blues (14-6-1) defeated the Winnipeg Jets (10-9-3) 4-3 this afternoon in Winnipeg.  Today’s win moved the Blues back to first place in the Central Division and maintained the distance from Chicago while pushing Winnipeg back in the standings.  This match was the last of the Blues’ four games on the road coming off a win in Ottawa with losses in Boston and Montreal.  Jay Bouwmeester missed the game due to an injury he received in Ottawa the day before.  This absence broke Bouwmeester’s 737 game streak.  Defenseman Chris Butler got his first NHL start in place of Bouwmeester.  The game in Winnipeg was also a homecoming for Blues players Ryan Reaves (who scored the game winner) and Alexander Steen.

GAME RECAP

The game started with intensity with both sides playing hard and physical.  After two minutes, the Jets had already recorded five shots on goal.  After 4:32 Chris Butler took his first career penalty for holding and put the Blues on their first penalty kill.  The Blues handled the two minutes well to kill the penalty.  By 9:04 and after eight team shots, Bryan Little found a rebound and scored putting the Jets in the lead 1-0.  After 14 minutes, Vladimir Tarasenko had the first solid scoring chance on a break, but missed wide.  After play went to the defensive zone, Blake Wheeler put Chris Butler into the boards and was given a boarding minor for the Blues first power play.  The Blues couldn’t handle the puck well during their advantage and left the power play without a goal.  They gave a good effort in the last minutes but couldn’t tie the game before the end of the period and were widely outhit.

The Blues started the second period with a lot of sustained pressure in the Jets’ zone.  After four and a half minutes Adam Lowry cleared the puck over the glass to land a delay of game penalty giving the Blues their second power play chance.  While on the power play Alexander Steen took a shot from the blue line which was redirected by Jaden Schwartz into the goal, tying the game at one.  Jori Lehtera received the second assist.  After seven minutes into the period the Blues evened the shot count.  At 9:53 Jim Slater scored following a Blues defensive zone face-off making the score 2-1 Winnipeg.  At 17:00, Evander Kane hit Barret Jackman high and was called for roughing allowing the Blues their third power play chance.  At 17:57 Backes took a stretch pass after a line change and scored to tie the game at 2 with assists from Steen and Jake Allen.

After 2:25 into the third, Ryan Reaves spun on a rebound and fired the puck in the net to give the Blues a 3-2 lead.  Steve Ott and Alex Pietrangelo assisted the goal.  After five minutes, David Backes took a stick to the face that caused a substantial cut and sent him to the locker room for ten minutes.  There was no call on the play.  The Blues loosened up their play a little and lost some control.  At 11:15 Barret Jackman received stick above his eye which drew some blood.  This time it was called and Evander Kane went to the box for four minutes.  The Blues used the first two minutes of their advantage to hound the Jets and put a few shots on net.  The next two minutes were more difficult and the Jets were able to kill it.  With two minutes left, the Jets pulled their goaltender for a 6 on 5 advantage.  The Blues gained a break with 40 seconds left and Paul Stastny scored in the empty net off a pass from Steen.  The Blues closed the game with a 4-2 win.

HOW THEY PLAYED

After some adjustment to the physicality of the Jets, the Blues played a solid game that echoed what we saw in Ottawa.  Across the board, all the lines made solid contributions and of course the famed STL line of Schwartz, Tarasenko and Lehtera put the Blues in the game with the first goal.  Even more impressive, though, was the Blues’ fourth line of Ryan Reaves, Maxim Lapierre and Steve Ott who held the Jets in their zone with some sustained pressure in the second period and earned themselves a goal early in the third.  In the past four games the Blues haven’t done well when only the STL line produces.  This is a good indication that the other lines need to pick up their play, and fortunately they heard the call.

This was a physical game, which the Jets supplemented with speed an aggression.  The Blues had little time with the puck before a big hit was coming which lead to some frantic missed passes.  These heavy hits let up after Blake Wheeler boarded Chris Butler.  David Backes stood up for his team throughout the night, which has drawn penalties in the past.  Backes held a cooler head following the call and didn’t challenge Wheeler despite tying him up.  Wheeler was visibly remorseful following the hit as he stopped his own play before the whistle.  This was a great display of discipline.  Backes could have shown a little more fire after taking a stick to the mouth though, since that was a call someone in the nosebleeds could have made.

The Blues still aren’t strong with special teams.  Their penalty kill wasn’t put to much of a test, which is fortunate and surprising given all the hits.  While they did well on power plays, they missed a chance to put the final nail in the Jets’ coffin early when they had a four minute power play late in the third.  They haven’t capitalized 5 on 4 much, but hopefully the power play progress they made today will continue in following games.

What were your thoughts on the game?  Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Winnipeg Jets
2
St. Louis Blues
4