The last few weeks for the St. Louis Blues have not been kind. Between the constant injury bug plaguing them to lackluster efforts against weak opponents, this team was sliding down to #FireHitchcock territory. Oh and tonight the highest scoring team with the best record in the game was in town tonight, so now reason to panic right? Whose to say the light finally switched on for good this time but if it did tonight was a perfect example of what this team can do even with some missteps occurring still.
With Dallas playing the night before, the Blues needed to get the jump early and keep their foot on the gas. For awhile it looked like Dallas would oblige by just rolling over and packing it in, but this is the Blues we are talking about and while the outcome proved great for us the road to get there wasn't so smooth.
Just to preface, I haven't been able to watch many games lately since I started attending Broadcasting school so I can't say with certainty that the Blues have been good or terrible but my eyes saw what was probably the best first period by this team since the Montreal game. Right off the bat the Blues gained the offensive zone and asserted themselves physically. Petteri Lindbohm started his night off with a good look from the point and the rebound led to chances by Tarasenko and Paajarvi. On the ensuing face-off, the Blues would draw a penalty with Jason Spezza going off for roughing and the Blues were in business.
David Backes would credit for the goal after it deflected first off Oduya's stick and then his own stick. The Blues would keep pouring the pressure on Dallas, who looked extremely sloppy, with a couple of odd man rushes but shots were missing the net frequently still. The teams would trade penalties midway thru the first and Dallas finally got some shots in on their advantage but Jake Allen was on point tonight, turning aside many screened shots.
Dmitrij Jaskin continued his strong play of late by trying to pull on Oshie, cutting to the middle of the ice while waiting out the goalie; and it almost worked as Antti Niemi got just enough leg pad to push the puck into the post and out. The chances would just keep coming for the Blues too as Fabbri, Parayko, Lehtera and even Gunnarsson would get good looks on Niemi who did everything to keep the Stars in the game.
Things go chippy near the end of the period as Backes and Jamie Benn would square off for the second time in their playing careers, with each landing some solid strikes. But that wasn't the best fight of the period. Lindbohm would take exception to a legal hit by Antoine Roussel on Jaskin and the young defensemen landed some pretty good body shots.
The first would end with a 1-0 lead, a 17-5 advantage in shots and some much needed momentum but the second period has been scary for us this year.
So when the puck shot from center ice eluded Allen and hit the crossbar, who thought "oh shit here we go again"? Dallas came out strong after that embarrassing first period and that familiar feeling we have been getting lately started to creep in. But between Allen stopping everything with ease and the Stars inability to stay onside, the game started to melt down into a war of attrition.
Magnus Paajarvi would get probably the best and only look for the Blues in the second when he motored in on the wing and ripped a shot off of Niemi's mask. That was about it for the Blues in this period as they would get outshot 11-2 in the second. Allen continued to come up big time after time, stopping a 4 on 2 late in the period and being alert near the horn as a bouncing puck somehow got to Tyler Seguin who had a clear look. For as many shots as Dallas had in the period, not much really happened and if the Blues had a bigger lead I might have fallen asleep watching it.
Ok so we shut out the top scoring team for two periods, they are going to REALLY want to score this period. But alas it wasn't to be for the Stars, maybe it was the tired legs on the second night of a back to back or maybe the Blues actually woke up. It could also have been as simple as bad luck, a Stars player actually got a stick up high and it cut him but the refs did not see it and as the play continued Jason Demers would get his stick up and get called for the penalty.
The period continued to be a bit of a back and forth affair until about 9 minutes left when Oleksiak would hit the post on a shot Allen didn't see all that well and the puck would come clear to Backes who raced into the offensive zone. As he drew the defense back in the zone he dropped the puck to Vladimir Tarasenko who just does what Vladi does.
But not to be outdone Ryan Reaves, yes I said Ryan Reaves, got in the scoring act too, albeit with a lot of help from Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall:
While technically a lost faceoff, the speed with which Upshall got there to poke that puck out almost made it feel like a win. And how about the Tarasenko-like attempt on the breakaway? This one seemingly broke the back for the Stars as far as winning the game but it didn't stop the game from becoming more feisty.
With Dallas on the power play, Alex Pietrangelo would clear the puck out only to be smashed by Patrick Eaves. Well Petro didn't like that so he slashed him, which led to Eaves getting physical and a scrum ensued. After the dust settled the Stars would have an extended 5 on 3 and that shutout for Allen looked all but gone.
Sadly for the Stars the Blues REALLY wanted to get the shut out for Jake and they threw their bodies in front of everything. Allen did have to make one remarkable save on Seguin but he is so used to it, it doesn't even faze him or us fans anymore.
As the horn sounded, Roussel decided to go after a few Blues players which doesn't sit well with any of the players or in this writers opinion, myself either. Roussel is a dirty player in my eyes, and I know I will get backlash from the "so is Backes" crowd but I just plain don't like the guy so sorry for my opinion.
The Blues would hang on to win 3-0 but even with this win there is still much to work on. The defensive zone turnovers were markedly better tonight but the second period still seemed to be completely off. Having 17 shots in the first was awesome but 9 the rest of the way, even though they scored two additional goals, is just not enough against a team like Dallas. So a good win, some stuff to clean up still and a big game tomorrow to see if this new team sticks around.
#3 - Vladimir Tarasenko: Another game, another goal
#2 - Jake Allen: 26 saves for 4th shut out this year
#1 - David Backes: fitting that on Captains Night he gets the Gordie Howe Hat Trick