Games like tonight and last Thursday against Edmonton are the types of matchups where we all come away feeling like the Blues are just fine as-is. The big guys like David Backes and Chris Stewart (goddamn) and Patrik Berglund all scored. Secondary scoring came from Matt D'Agostini. The energy line contributed. They got lucky/timely goaltending from the backup netminder and the defense played well in all three zones.
But then you look at Minnesota (and Edmonton) and realize they're a mess. The Wild have now lost eight straight and they looked like a team that could lose out the rest of the way. Cal Clutterbuck looked like he doesn't care that they're just playing out the string, but his on-the-edge play merely resulted in a roughing penalty. Even Niklas Backstrom looked pedestrian tonight, though some of that may be due to his frustration with the lack of help he was getting from his defense in front of him.
I love a Blues win and beating the dirt out of the Wild is fun, even if they are about half-beaten anyway, but I'm still not believing that this team is ready to make the jump to the playoffs next year as-is. But that's a longer discussion for another day.
As for tonight, a few other random thoughts:
- Alex Pietrangelo made an error in the defensive zone and turned the puck over. It's noteworthy only because he is so good that it's glaring when he makes a mistake now. Plenty of people were convinced that the Kings and Thrashers got much better blueliners from the 2008 draft when they grabbed Drew Doughty and Zach Bogosian before the Blues selected No. 27. It may be early to be so cocky about this, but I'm willing to bet that Pietrangelo winds up as the best of the three.
- Chris Stewart is awesome. But you knew that. But did you know that he's awesome enough to have a fake Twitter account? I have high hopes for @ChrisDamStewart. There has been a hole in the Twittersphere since @RomanP46 went silent. Color me hopeful.
- David Backes should easily hit the 30-goal mark this year and he passed his previous career-high tonight with a two-point night. I've been pretty rough on him this year in saying that he is still only a second line player at this point. Thirty goals and 60 points and playing with authority might just change my mind, but I'll be the first one to say he's a legitimate top liner when he cracks 72 points for a season. Why 72? Because that's around where I thought Jonny "VomitFight" Toews had to be before I'd admit he's a legitimate superstar in this league. Backes does everything Toews does, he just doesn't have the right point totals. Yet.
- Ty Conklin did just fine tonight, but he got some help from the pipes and the hockey gods and Adam Cracknell. Fantastic. Can we just have more Jaroslav Halak, please?
- Speaking of Cracknell, he's another guy I've been pretty dismissive of this season, mainly because of his AHL pedigree. But that dude is playing hard every shift and with that kind of effort, there should be a spot on the fourth line for him.
Wild are here on Tuesday, so let's hope they stay as rudderless and unmotivated for that game too. It's always fun to run up the score at home.