The Blues are beginning a three game swing through western Canada that will take them from Calgary to Edmonton to Vancouver only to return home a week later to face, you guessed it, the Oilers. Welcome to the NHL.
The game tonight against the Flames starts at 8:00 CT and can be seen on Fox Sports Midwest.
The Blues are coming off an uncharacteristic 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders last Saturday night in which they gave up three first period goals and let Jake Allen get chased from the net.
Heading out on the road might be exactly what the Blues need to snap them out of their recent funk.
Giving up early goals has become a bit of a nasty habit for the Blues. In 4 of their last 5 games they have allowed their opponents to score first and in half of those 4 games have allowed them to open up at least a two goal lead before attempting to mount a comeback.
However, the Blues metrics still remain strong despite some lackluster starts. In fact it has been 11 games since the Blues recorded a sub 50% Corsi For in all situations. The same goes for Fenwick and Shots For%, both of which are staying on the positive side of even. This would explain why the Blues are 7-2-1 in their last ten games and are carrying the third best goal differential in the league at plus 14. [NHL.com]
While the Blues top line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko failed as a collective group to produce any offense on Saturday night they are still widely regarded as one of the top lines in the NHL. In 131 minutes of ice time together they have accounted for 10 Goals For while only allowing 2 Goals Against. Boosted by an 10.99 shooting percentage they have a 1.078 PDO. Their Corsi For% is 59.85 while the group’s Fenwick is north of the 60% mark. [NaturalStatTrick.com]
However, as fantastic as the Blues top line has preformed the rest of the forward combinations have been somewhat underwhelming.
In 110 minutes of ice time the line of Vladimir Sobotka, Paul Stastny and Alexander Steen have only netted 4 Goals For while giving up 7 Goals Against. [NST.com]
Likewise, the Blues third line of Magnus Paajarvi, Oskar Sundqvist and Dmitrij Jaskin are dead even at 2 Goals For and 2 Goals Against in 38 minutes of ice time. [NST.com]
Creating some balance up and down the lineup will certainly be a focus point of Mike Yeo in the upcoming week. He has applauded the effort of the Stastny line, noting the large amount of defensive zone face-offs they absorb, but their lack of offensive production is still a real cause for concern.
The Blues cannot continue to rely on just one line to score the bulk of the team’s goals, especially when they are on the road and unable to get the matchups they want.
As for tonight’s opponent, the last time these two teams squared off was in St. Louis and without Jaromir Jagr in the lineup. The Flames fell to the Blues by a score of 2-5 but played the Blues well for most of the game and statistically speaking the Flames were the better team for two-thirds of the game.
The Flames score adjusted Corsi For% was in the high 50’s for the first two periods while their Fenwick was a whopping 77.95% in the first frame.
Total 5 on 5 Shots For were dead even at 22 a piece while the scoring chances were ever so slightly in the Flames favor.
Look for much of the same tonight. The numbers that the Flames put up against the Blues were very much inline with their season averages. Their 5 on 5 Corsi For% and Fenwick For% are both above the league average at 52.07 and 51.41 respectively. Their 5 on 5 Shots For% is at 50.25 and their Scoring Chances For% is fifth best in the league at 52.85%. [NST.com]
The Flames are coming off of a 6-3 win over the Detroit Redwings but have only managed to go 5-5 in their last ten games.
Goalie Mike Smith is having a bit of a resurgence after a mediocre start to the season. His 92.4 save percentage and 2.55 goals against average are both above his career averages.
Top line winger Johnny Gaudreau leads the team with 22 points. Number one center Sean Monahan’s 8 goals are a team best. Team agitator Matthew Tkachuk has 4 goals and 7 assists to go along with a 58.3% Corsi. 24 year old defenseman Dougie Hamilton has a team high 52 shots. Jaromir Jagr has 1 goal and 3 assists in 7 games and is a plus 2. [Hockey-Refrence.com]
Despite their 4th place standing in the Pacific division the Calgary Flames are a dangerous opponent whose top line can go goal for goal with any top line in the NHL, including the Blues.
Look for the Stastny line to draw the tough matchup again tonight as the Blues attempt to throw some water on the Flames before the fire starts raging.
Thanks for reading and Go Blues.