The St. Louis Blues have several opportunities in front of them in tonight’s game. Winning might be more difficult than normal due to external factors, though.
The St. Louis Blues should be enjoying this time of year. Though it is hard work, they are putting in the work and reaping the rewards. Instead of being celebratory after last night’s win over Vancouver, they have to refocus on an even bigger task.
The Blues now face the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus is riding a 10-game winning streak and the Blues will be without Carl Gunnarsson, as their injury list continues to grow.
At this point of the season, there can be no excuses. You lose your top scorer, someone better step up. Lose a defenseman who has had an excellent year? Bring up the next guy and they better not lose a step.
While it is unfair to expect the person taking over for Gunnarsson to play to that level, that is what the Blues must have. They are now within a point of the final spot in the Western Conference. A win tonight, coupled with a Colorado loss, would put the Blues back above the cutoff line.
So, St. Louis can’t dwell on the injury. They cannot celebrate their victories either. The Blues have yet to win five in a row this season. Never before have they actually needed to like they do right now.
Know Thy Foe
The Blue Jackets have been one of the strangest teams in the league. Like the Blues, they have consistently been in the bottom five of power plays in the league.
They don’t score that well, with 217 goals coming into tonight. They defend reasonably well, but not great, allowing 206 go. Like the Blues of the past couple weeks, Columbus just keeps finding ways to win.
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As mentioned, they have been a powerhouse the last month. They are 10-0-0 in their last 10 games and only two of those games went to overtime. Coincidentally, one of those OT wins was against Colorado, which stands as the one point difference between the Blues and Avs in the standings.
The Blue Jackets have been solid at home. They are 25-11-2 in Columbus.
The Blues already defeated Columbus this season. It was a 4-1 win way back at the end of October. However, the last time the teams did not split their season series was 2014-15. The last time the Blues swept both games was 2013-14.
St. Louis is 9-2-2 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.
Gunnarsson’s injury was a full tear of the ACL that will require surgery. According to the team website, he will be re-evaluated in six months, which puts his readiness for preseason in jeopardy.
Fortunately for St. Louis, their players have some good streaks going against the Blue Jackets:
"– Tarasenko has seven points in his last four games (three goals, four assists)– Brayden Schenn has seven points in his last nine games (two goals, five assists)– Berglund has four points in his last five games (three goals, one assists)– Vladimir Sobotka has four points in his last four games (two goals, two assists)– Jake Allen is 3-1-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average and a .908 save-percentage in five career starts"
The Blues currently trail Colorado by one point and Minnesota by three points in the standings. They both play tonight, Vegas and Nashville respectively. So, Blues fans will all be rooting for the Golden Knights and Predators, much as it might pain us.
Projected Lineup from NHL.com:
Vince Dunn – Alex Pietrangelo
Where To Watch
Fox Sports Midwest, Fox Sports Ohio
Fox Sports Go, NHL.tv (subscriber fee)
KMOX, KMOX.com, Blues app
The puck drops at 6 pm Central Time.
This is going to be a tough game. It’s like playing against yourself, but a hotter version of yourself (hotter in terms of playing, not looks).
Lots of things point to a Blues loss. They lost another top line defenseman. Regardless of how we value Gunnarsson, that’s where he was playing most of his time after Jay Bouwmeester‘s injury.
They’re going against a team good enough to win 10 in a row. Also, the Blues have not won five straight all season, so this is usually where they fall off the horse.
If they have the energy, there is no reason to think the Blues cannot win this game, however. All streaks come to an end and Columbus is not about to set the new record for this season by winning out the rest of their games.
Columbus is very top heavy, so you can keep them in check by containing their top line. Their top two scorers have 50-plus points, but after that, it’s all in the 30’s.
If the Blues can strike first, I think they win. The Blues have the fifth best winning percentage when scoring first, so getting the first goal is paramount.
If Columbus scores first, this might get out of hand once the Blues open up the game to tie it up. That said, I think it stays close. It might even go to overtime again.
Still, I’ll say a Blues win 3-2.