"We haven't played our best hockey," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "We've looked almost lazy and haven't really played that smart, simple game we're so good at ... Then we start to play and we look like the Blues that everyone kind of says that we are, the fast, hard-hitting, simple kind of blue-collar team."
That Blues team returned in the second period of the Blues 6-4 comeback win over the New York Islanders, who gifted the Blues one of the worst implosions I have seen in hockey so far this season. That Blues team can easily return tonight against the Florida Panthers, who they have outscored 17-2 in their last four meetings. The Panthers, however, have scored ten goals in their last four. Tonight may not be the easy drubbing that the Blues gave the Panthers last season in St. Louis.
Roberto Luongo is not a rusty Tim Thomas. Luongo has been on point since he's returned to his Floridian home; a win tonight'd be his fourth in five games. Martin Brodeur will be going for his first starting win, and first game at Scottrade as the starting goaltender. After some meltdown issues in Chicago and a terrible first period (team-wise) in New York, Allen needs some time to regroup. According to Ken Hitchcock, speaking to Jeremy Rutherford, the pressure of being the starter is wearing on Jake the Snake.
"The Chicago game and all the lead up to the Chicago game, it was really wearing on Jake and he needed a break," Hitchcock said. "This is a new experience for Jake, a new pressure. ... it's green, everything is new to him. So are you just going to throw him to the Wolves?"
It is new to Jake, but he needs to learn fairly quickly what he needs to do or else Brodeur will get more starts heading forward.
The Blues will be short a few valuable cogs. Carl Gunnarsson is out with an upper-body injury that is probably a concussion. Alexander Steen will be evaluated game-time again, and Jay Bouwmeester is still banged up. Bouwmeester can get back whenever he wants to. He's missed on the power play, and he's certainly missed defensively - Ian Cole is back in tonight after sitting Saturday in favor of Chris Butler, whose play has improved significantly since a shaky pre-season.
When the Blues kick it into high gear, as they did Saturday, Shattenkirk's right - they're formidable. Here's the possession chart from HockeyStats.ca - coming into the second period, the Blues absolutely ran roughshod over the Islanders.
If the Blues do this against the Panthers, and there is a chance that they will, they will win. The Panthers have a good young team, and they're starting to surprise many people by finally coming together. They're just two points out of a playoff spot. Their road record of 5-3-5 is pretty respectable. Their weak link is their power play, which is firing at just 15.4%; the Blues penalty killers have a chance to zap some momentum. The Blues' power play, now that they've planted Backes firmly in front of the net and have cut out the perimeter play, has been more successful. They netted three power play goals Saturday to inflate the PP's effectiveness; the change in strategy worked. Will it stick tonight against Bobby Lou?