By Brad Lee
There's a lot of hockey left to play, but Monday night's 6-3 win over the Nashville Predators is big for a couple reasons.
First, it pushes the Blues' record in the division to 5-1-0 on the season. Like the rest of the season, there's a lot of hockey to be played in the Central Division. Those six games are just a quarter of the 24 games the Blues play in the division. They have yet to see Columbus and have only played the Red Wings once, the only division foe to best them this season. But considering the Blues' struggles against Nashville in recent seasons, winning three in a row against the Predators feels pretty freaking good.
Second, the win Monday hopefully was the coming out party for some of the new players on the roster this season. Recently-acquired center Alexander Steen tallied a goal and an assist. He had a highlight reel play in the third that we'll talk about in more detail shortly. The game also saw rookie center Patrik Berglund continue his coming out party. He has nine goals and nine assists on the season. Considering he's only played in 21 games so far this season, he could be considered one of the two or three most important players on the team right now.
Bradley Boyes scored his 14th goal of the season. Labeled as "inconsistent," "streaky" and "under-performing," Boyes with his 40-goal season last year is cementing himself as the premier goal scorer on this team. Last year was no fluke. It is interesting to watch Boyes play in recent games. He's focused on being more of a playmaker, especially on the power play. His passing is underrated, but he needs to focus on getting the puck in the net himself. The return of Paul Kariya one of these days will help that.
BJ Crombeen had scored two goals in his NHL career before Monday night. He now has five. Don't assume for one second that Crombeen will be a threat to do something like this on a nightly or even weekly basis. But give credit to the son of the former Blue for being in the right place at the right time Monday.
On Crombeen's first goal of the game, the puck came in front of the Predators' net. A Nashville player tried playing the puck, but it rolled off his stick to goaltender Pekka Rinne. He tried sweeping it forward to another teammate, but it went right to Crombeen who blasted it home from about 10 feet outside the crease.
His second came from new center Alexander Steen. He carried the puck down the left wing, he deked his way around one defender, lured another toward him then passed it to the streaking Crombeen who delayed his entry in the play, hoping he would get lost in the shuffle, which is exactly what happened.
"That was an easy play for me. Steen made an unbelievable move, walked their d-man, came in, pulled the other one over and slid a backdoor pass to me. Not much else you can ask for from him," Crombeen told Fox Sports Midwest's Dan McLaughlin immediately after the game. On his third, he got the puck in the neutral zone and flipped it into an empty net, his second shot at the vacated goal. His first hit the post.
The Blues finished a three-game home stand with five out of a possible six points. Only a blown two-goal lead Friday night kept the Blues from being perfect. Nashville still finished the night in eighth place in the conference with 30 points, just three more than the Blues' total. Six teams are within five points of the last playoff spot.
"These are some big points. We're trying to work our way up the standings and it's such a tight race," Crombeen told McLaughlin. "Every game is huge. We're trying to take every game like it's our last one."
The Blues strike out on a West Coast swing starting Wednesday night. They play all three California teams in four days. So far the Blues are 0-5-1 against them. More on that matchup Wednesday.