By Brad Lee
In their first four games, the St. Louis Blues have played with a power play 18 times. On those power plays, they have scored an amazing nine goals. Even if it's a ridiculously small sample size, it's shocking how well this team has played with the man advantage. And it continued in a 6-1 win over the Dallas Stars Thursday night at the Scottrade Center.
A season ago, the Blues finished dead last in the league converting a measly 14.1 percent of power plays. The scored 47 power play goals all season. If Keith Tkachuk keeps playing like he has, they could score 47 power play goals before Thanksgiving.
"It's night and day from where we were last year," goaltender Emmanuel Legace told FSMidwest Dan McLaughlin about the team's power play Thursday night after a 6-2 Blues win. "The guys just feel comfortable and I think that's just another year under their belt and feeling more comfortable. We're using the whole end zone. Last year we were only using half of it and it showed."
With a streak of just horrible play with the man advantage, head coach Andy Murray took control of the power play this summer and is personally coaching them. Without legitimate threats to score on the blue line, the Blues have been forced to use five forwards at times. And it's been lethal. The Blues scored twice with the man advantage Thursday night.
"It's not the first time I've been on the point," Paul Kariya said to McLaughlin after the win. "With Boyes on the other side, it helps a lot. And with Walt in front of the net, he's one of the best in the league at deflecting the puck and putting them in."
Here is a quick recap of the Blues' goals.
6:33 (left in the period) Tkachuk intercepted a rink-wide pass from Dallas forward Mike Ribiero at the Stars' blue line. Big Walt pushed the puck around a defenseman before sidestepping him in one motion. Tkachuk made one deke and then buried it between the goaltender Marty Turco's legs. Yes, it was that hot.
4:49 David Backes dumped the puck in. Turco attempted to play the puck and then had to pause because it was in the corner area where goalies are penalized for touching the puck. A fore-checking Tkachuk (this guy is doing everything right now) played the puck off Turco. A defenseman panicked and tried clearing it from behind his own net. McKee held it in the zone and unleashed possibly his best shot as a St. Louis Blue. It was hard and low through three players lined up in front of Turco.
17:03 Mike Weaver sent a long pass up the far boards to a streaking Yan Stastny. He dropped the puck to DJ King. The fighter put a decent shot on net that Turco deflected with his pads. The puck took a weird ricochet and the puck bounced back behind the goal and off the end boards...directly to Stastny who had skated behind the net and was waiting on the far post. Turco was flat-footed trying to find the puck. And then all of a sudden it was in the net.
7:01 On a two-man advantage, Boyes was stationed on the left point. He played catch down the left wing with Perron and then to the right point to Kariya. As Tkachuk camped out in front of Turco, Boyes turned and fired finding the back of the net. It was too easy.
2:40 Off a faceoff at the Dallas blue line, the puck went deep in the Stars' zone. David Perron, Patrik Berglund and Stastny played aggressively on the fore check. The puck came out to the left point and defenseman Steve Wagner teed it up, got it through traffic and put it top shelf where momma hides the cookies.
7: 11 Brendan Morrow went to the box for a penalty. Turco was pulled for Tobias Stephan at the beginning of the period. Off the faceoff at the beginning of the power play, the puck came to the right point. Eric Brewer drifted to his right into an open shooting lane and one-timed it off the far post. Those watching from home didn't actually see the goal scored until the replay because it happened so fast and the cameras were still showing the replay of the Morrow penalty.
While the goals each stand on their own, there are a few common themes. With three defensemen scoring, the Blues were aggressive in putting the puck on the net. The same thing happened on Stastny's goal. St. Louis also worked hard in the offensive end putting physical pressure on the defensemen who invariably made mistakes. Sure there was some strong passing and individual skill, but these are hard-nosed, hard-working goals. What's more, the Blues have the skill to put a pretty one past the other team's goaltender as well as these tenacious efforts.
It's just four games. But the Blues can't have asked for better effort and determination to begin the team's seven-game home stand. Saturday night the Blues return to action with the visiting Chicago Blackhawks. They have skilled young players, new high-priced free agents and a coach Blues fans will easily recognize.