I'm feeling pretty smart right now, so allow me a moment. For guys like me, they don't happen often, so I have to relish the moment. In yesterday's preview, the keys were essentially: Stay out of the box, keep the shots against down. If those goals were met, the Blues would be able to turn things around. What happened? The Blues allowed only 8 shots on net in the opening 20 minutes, then only 8 more for the remaining 40 after that. The Blues killed off their single penalty of the game, despite plenty of goading from the Avs. The Blues scored twice in the second, and again in the third, allowing Martin Brodeur to coast to his 125th shutout of this career.
Not only did the Blues win, they did so in convincing fashion. There is no "yeah, but" about this game - they dominated from pretty much start to finish. This was the best - and most complete - game that we've seen them play in a long time. For many, the jury is still out on Paul Stastny . For his kind of money, one would expect more results. However, with 8 points in his last ten games, including 2 assists last night, he is starting to heat up. Even homeboy Chris Butler got to score for the home crowd.
So now, the challenge is simply "Can they do it again?". Can they keep on this pace in back-to-back games?
The Blues roll into Smashville to face a Predators team that started off hot this year, and really haven't slowed down at all. They continue to get scoring and to ride the hot hand of Pekka Rinne. Both teams played last night and had to travel to Nashville, so they are at least on equal footing there. Last night the Preds played the Blackhawks, and lost in a shootout 5-4. That was a bitter OTL for the Preds, as the Hawks tied it up with just 1:13 left in the game. They are flying in from Chicago, while our boys are of course coming in from STL. There's a real chance that the Blues were settled in before the Preds were. After last night's games, the Blues remain in third place in the Central, behind Chicago and Nashville. The Predators have a game in hand on the Blues, and two more points.
There are other similarities between these two teams. After last night's win, the Blues are 13-4-1 at home, and tonight we're facing a Nashville team that has a 13-2-1 home record. Both teams are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, and both feature a young phenom as their prime scoring threat. For the #Perds, that would be #PrinceFilip Filip Forsberg . He leads the team in goals (14) and overall points (34). The line of Forsberg, James Neal, and Mike Ribeiro has been shouldering most of the scoring load this year, accounting for 34 of the 103 goals that the team have scored thus far. Obviously, keeping them off the board will be job #1 for the defense.
I don't expect the Blues to dominate quite like they did against Colorado, simply because the Predators are a better team. However, if they can keep the shots against down (like last night), and stay out of the penalty box, the Blues can really bury some demons tonight. Just as important, they can begin creepin' back up in the standings.
Hitch said players have been speaking up about unnecessary penalties and the "culture has begun to change." #StlBlues
— Andrew Allsman (@allsmandrew) December 30, 2014
Let's hope that sticks. With Chris Porter out 6-8 weeks with a presumed broken leg (officially "lower body"), there may be some roster changes in store for the Blues. Nashville just made one transaction, exiling Derek Roy to Emonton in exchange for Mark Arcobello . Brian Elliott is very close to returning from injury, and there's a good chance that he comes back tonight. If not, then Jake Allen will play. As for Nashville, the assumption is Pekka Rinne will play, although that's not confirmed. Stay Tuned.
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Final Verse: The Blues are right back at it again, same bat-time, same bat-channel. Puck drops at 7:00 PM St Louis time, and the GDT should be shortly before that. The TV broadcast will be on FoxSports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM. Come join us, won't you?