By Brad Lee
Hey Blues fans. Two games in two nights is kind of hectic. We don't have a lot of inspiration for a lot of fresh stuff, but we do give thanks to the other contributors who have kept GT a hopping place today.
In case you haven't bought your copy of Game Time tonight, here's a small taste of what we have to offer. From the cover story:
Just 24 hours after one of their most hard-fought victories of the season, the Blues take the ice tonight against another team above them in the Western Conference standings, the Colorado Avalanche.Â The â€˜Lanche played on the road last night and got dominated in a 2-0 loss at Detroit. While one of the two goals
Weâ€™ll talk more about the Avalanche, but letâ€™s revel in the Bluesâ€™ 1-0 shootout win over Anaheim last night for at least a few minutes. For a Feb. 1 game, that was as close to a playoff intensity and playoff atmosphere as youâ€™ll see in the NHL. Fans were hanging on every rush up the ice, every clearing opportunity on defense and every huge save by Emmanuel Legace II. For the first time in about three weeks, Legace looked himself. Ever since his collision with Patrick Sharp in Chicago, he hadnâ€™t looked nearly as comfortable or confident. During the All-Star weekend, it looked like he was coming around. He played fairly well in Toronto Tuesday but he was dominant Friday night, well deserving the No. 1 star of the game.
You could tell that Andy McDonald wanted to play well against his former team. He nearly gave the Blues the lead in regulation when he broke free with the puck in front of the Duckâ€™s goal. He made a move wide to his right, go the puck past J.S. Giguereâ€¦and hit the damn post. When he scored on the Bluesâ€™ first chance in the shootout, he looked like that was one of the biggest plays of his career.
Whatâ€™s most amazing about that win isnâ€™t shutting out the Ducks, Legace playing to his early-season form or the Blues still suck on the power play. No, the thing that blows our hair back is the fact that they scored on their first two shootout chances and didnâ€™t even need a third. This came from the same team that won its first shootout of the season and then not only lost four in a row but was held scoreless in the next four shootouts.
Confidence has been described as the difference between a good team and a mediocre team. When the Blues struggled coming out of the lockout almost three full seasons ago, many of the Blues players said they just didnâ€™t have a lot of confidence. It was an easy way to describe tentative, shaky play. The Blues were often on their heals and let the other team bring the game to them. When Andy Murray came into St. Louis and turned much of the losing around, many of the players said the system and his style instilled in them a level of confidence they hadnâ€™t seen under Mike Kitchen. But that was a way to describe how they were finally playing together as a team. Passing became better, skating improved, they played a better team defense.
Friday night, the Blues faced a smother defense from a big, physical Ducks team. Itâ€™s odd when you look down on the ice and think to yourself, â€œMan, Pronger doesnâ€™t really stick out that much. They all look tall.â€ The Blues didnâ€™t have much time or space in their offensive end and struggled at times to get the puck out of their own zone. But the Blues stayed with it, kept working hard. They fed off of Legaceâ€™s play and how calmly he played. They had a couple of chances late in the game and in overtime. And when McDonald and Boyes took their rushes up the ice in the shootout, they oozed confidence â€" something that wasnâ€™t there in the games leading up to the All-Star Break. Itâ€™s hard to describe, but this team may have found what it had in October and November and what they seemed to let slip away in December and January. Who knew February would dawn this way.
With as satisfying as that win felt Friday night, a loss tonight will end those positive feelings pretty quickly. Colorado comes into St. Louis with 58 points on the season, good for seventh in the Western Conference, but tied with Vancouver which also had 58 points in eighth spot. Nashville has 57 points. Phoenix and Columbus both have 56 and the Blues have 55. What a clusterfuck that is. How can six teams be three points apart four months into the season? So in an effort to help your scoreboard watching, here are the other games you should check on outside St. Louis and who you should root for.
First of all, start pulling for Minnesota on the road at Columbus. The Wild lead their division, so it doesnâ€™t matter in the standings because theyâ€™ll automatically qualify for the playoffs and that doesnâ€™t affect the Blues. Also root for Ken Hitchcock to choke on a powdered doughnut during the intermission.
With the Phoenix at Nashville game, root for a regulation game and not another bullshit three-point overtime game. Thatâ€™s one of the biggest culprits for bunching teams together in the standings. One of those shit-knuckle teams will get two points, we just donâ€™t want the losing team to get a consolation point. Also root for Martin Erat to discover deodorant.
And with the Canucks, a team that is off tonight, root for the Sedin twins to keep each other warm on a cold Vancouver night.
Hopefully the Blues will be able to celebrate likee this:
Feel free to break the game down in the comments before, during and after the action.