The St. Louis Blues don’t dominate physically, through speed or overwhelming skill. Lately, it has been sheer will power that has gained them the day.
The St. Louis Blues may not strike anyone as a true Stanley Cup contender because we have been burned too many times this season. However, there is beginning to be less doubt that this should be and will be a playoff team.
There is still a lot that can happen between now and April 11, when the playoffs begin, but the Blues are taking every matter seriously and coming away with W’s in boatloads.
There was a period, not long ago, that it seemed like the Blues would not win another game the entire season. Now, they are up to six wins in a row. That seemed so implausible just weeks ago that the idea is still hard to fathom.
Everything that was going wrong during their losing spell is going right now. The Blues are getting stellar goaltending. They are getting good defending, timely plays and scoring from up and down the lineup.
There is no telling whether this will continue or for how long. This is sports. Even the best of teams can suddenly falter and squads left for dead can be resurrected.
The bottom line is the Blues keep picking up points. They control their own destiny and now have a little room for error, which is something that seemed so far from the imagination.
A slow start against a tired team.
Ok, the tired part did not show up until the end of the game, if at all. However, San Jose should have been the more fatigued of the two squads due to playing all the way to a shootout in Chicago the night before. The Sharks also did not get into St. Louis until the wee hours of the morning.
Nevertheless, San Jose came out with the jump in the opening period. The Blues were knocked back onto their heels and struggled to get off of them until about 12 minutes into the first. They also only had one shot on goal for the longest time.
Although the first goal scored was one Jake Allen would like to have back, he was keeping the Blues in the game for most of the first period. If not for an equally speculative goal by the Blues, St. Louis might have found itself down at the intermission and scrambling to play catch up the rest of the game.
St. Louis overcame it, but it is just disappointing to come out so flat regularly at home.
The Blues forecheck.
This one cannot be statistically quantified, but the Blues had a great forecheck all game long. The forecheck was what got the puck away from San Jose and set up the game winning goal.
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As the Sharks energy reserves dwindled, the Blues put on a good amount of pressure. Clearly, they were not able to capitalize on all their chances, but just the overall intensity was fine to see.
Jaskin and Ivan Barbashev led the team in hits with six and five respectively. Many of those came in the offensive zone, trying to pilfer pucks in the process. That is playoff hockey.
The Blues almost took too long to figure out San Jose’s game plan.
From the get-go, the Sharks seemed interested in doing a lot of east-west plays. Whether they were cross-ice passes or shots intended to go wide, but looking for tips, the Sharks were trying to switch the point of attack very quickly.
The Blues seemed stuck a lot of times. They were guarding the shots very well, but were positioned as though the shots were going to go on net. The Sharks often had every intention of shooting wide, looking for deflections and even got one on their power play goal.
It was only some well timed, active sticks defensively that allowed the Blues to escape several back door plays by the Sharks too.
Granted, those are not always high percentage offensive plays. However, if you allow a team to continually look for that, eventually they are going to connect.
The Blues best scorer has been just that over the past few games. He now has goals in three straight games and four in that span, since he netted two against the Sharks.
Both could not have been bigger scores either. With the Blues trailing in the second period, Tarasenko had a roof shot to tie the game.
Tarasenko ended the game as well. It was not necessarily a highlight reel goal, but the patience he showed to allow the goaltender to move out of the way before firing was impressive.
It cannot be argued that there are moments in any game that Tarasenko does not show the effort that fans would like. However, if he puts the puck in the net, it all evens out – more or less.
Tarasenko now has 30 goals for the fourth season on a row. While we wanted him to get toward 50, it can’t be completely disregarded since it is still impressive.
Are the Blues challengers now?
There are still plenty of detractors out there. Just the other day I had a discussion with someone saying the Blues were beating weak teams, even though the majority have been against teams vying for a playoff spot during this win streak.
They defeated another one in San Jose and are now looking more and more like a team that will not go quietly in the first round, should they make the postseason.
With the ups and downs of this crazy season, there is no guarantee the Blues will make the playoffs since there is so much change in the standings each day. For right now, they are in the top wild card spot.
St. Louis will have a good look at a potential playoff opponent when they travel to Vegas for Friday’s game. For now, it’s a couple days of rest after another hard fought win.