Raise your hand if you saw a week like this coming. After that blowout loss to Columbus and match ups against strong teams in San Jose and Nashville the likelihood of the Blues picking up a majority of the points available looked slim.
Coming into tonight's game I would have been happy with just earning a point against a Nashville team that handled the Blues pretty easily 9 days ago, albeit coming off a game the night before. But maybe something has clicked for the Blues because tonight's effort, and really the whole weeks, has been an almost complete turnaround from the last month.
With Alex Steen still sidelined Ty Rattie got his shot in the lineup tonight and Robert Bortuzzo was also back after being out with an injury since October 27th. Jake Allen was back in net and was looking for his 14th straight regular season home game allowing 2 goals or less.
Things got off to a fast start just two minutes in when Colton Parayko picked up a loose puck near his blue line and raced in on Pekka Rinne who got just enough glove on the shot to direct it away from the goal. That breakaway set the stage for an entertaining night of hockey to come.
What the first period lacked in scoring was made up for in chances of both teams. On their first power play of the night James Neal, who was searching for a goal in 7 straight, fired a puck far side on Jake Allen who made a beautiful stick save to deny the goal. The Blues fourth line earned a power play a short time later and the first unit moved the puck around effortlessly but Rinne stood his ground keeping the scoresheet clean.
The teams combined for 27 shots in the first but both goaltenders showed that they were going to make it difficult for anyone to score on them. Allen was riding his streak and Rinne has ben phenomenal in November posting a 5-0-2 record and 1.12 goals against in the month.
In the second period the Blues were able to break through on Rinne after what every great goal starts with, an offensive zone faceoff win. After the Blues defense perfectly timed multiple pinch ins Rinne froze the puck to slow things down. That set up Paul Statsny for a face off which he won clean back to Jay Bouwmeester. JayBo put the puck on net, handcuffing Rinne who left a juicy rebound for David Perron.
The goal extends Perron’s point streak to four games and he has collected goals in two straight.
Unfortunately the thing that has been biting the Blues this season led to a game tying goal just six minutes later. After the goal Nashville upped their game and heeded the Blues in their own zone which led Stastny to take a penalty. While the Blues boast one of the top penalty kills in the league, running a rut to the box will eventually lead to a crack.
The Blues had multiple times to clear the zone and just could not execute and it forced Allen to have to make a big time save to hold the lead. But the puck would squirt free and Mike Ribeiro was ready to pounce. The goal was unfortuante because the Blues had been controlling the play for the most part and deserved better at the time.
The momentum would start to swing back to the Blues near the midway point of the period after the Predators took a penalty. Despite not scoring the Blues were able to steal any thunder Nashville may have gained from tying the game up. The Blues could have regained the lead a few times late in the second but they seemed to get loose with the puck, making one too many passes, trying cute backhand passes to no one; they should have been thankful it didn't lead the other way.
But the Blues would get a gift near the end of the second that would seem to settle the team down in the third. A high sticking penalty with two seconds left in the second allowed the Blues to seize control in the third by just controlling the puck. While they didn't score on the man advantage it did set things in motion for the Blues to eventually take the lead.
It was the fourth line that would finally break through in what some fans described as the slowest two on one they have seen. After PK Subban tried to dipsy do through the Blues team, he would lose the puck off a teammates skate and Scottie Upshall and Kyle Brodziak would
rush slowly ooze into the offensive zone. Upshall’s perfectly placed shot bounced off Rinne’s right leg pad and right to the wide open Brodziak who snuck a backhand into the back of the net.
Remember that thing that bites the Blues whenever they have things going well? Yep, you guessed it, the Blues took a too many men on the ice penalty less than a minute after taking the lead. This time, though, the penalty kill lived up to it's lofty status and kept a pesky Preds team from leveling the game yet again.
Shortly after the killing the penalty Allen would come up with his best save of the night and it would end up leading to Vladimir Tarasenko doing what he does best.
I'm still not sure how Allen was able to get his glove on that puck or even how it ended up on Robby Fabbri’s stick but once it got to Vladi you just knew it was going in the back of the net.
Nashville would pull Rinne with over two minutes remaining but the Blues couldn't net an empty net goal. The closest they would come would be Jaden Schwartz hitting the post but it wouldn't be necessary as Allen just wasn't going to allow anything else the rest of the night.
A 3-0 week and collecting all six points allows the Blues to ride high going into gigantic match ups with Boston and Washington next week. If they continue to play like the five men units they did tonight you could point back to this week as the turning point in the season.
#3 - David Perron: extends point streak to four games with opening goal
#2 - Jake Allen: 14th straight regular season home game allowing 2 goals or less, 30 saves
#1 - Ryan Reaves, Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall: GWG tonight and arguably the best line the Blues have going right now.