After a mid to late December slide the Blues have managed to put together a 3 game winning-streak against some impressive opponents. New Jersey and Vegas are sitting at or close to the top of their respective conferences while the Carolina Hurricanes are a good team that has hit a bit of a rough patch.
Coincidently, or not, all three of these wins have came with Blues goalie Carter Hutton in net. His 94.7 save percentage and 1.64 GAA are the best in the league and have some people wonder if Hutton has supplanted Jake Allen as the team’s best option in goal.
However, despite another “goalie controversy” head coach Mike Yeo suggests that little has changed in his eyes. Hutton has been on a hot streak but Jake Allen still remains the team’s starter. According to stltoday.com Yeo had this to say about Hutton before the game Thursday night:
“I think he’s forcing us to put him in. This is about Hutts and the job he’s doing, the performance that he’s giving us night after night. Right now he’s a competitor and he’s winning games. He deserves to play again tonight.” [stltoday.com]
But regardless of another strong performance against Vegas, in which Hutton stoped 32 of 33 shots, the Blues will be forced to play Allen in one of the back to back games this weekend. More than likely that game will be tonight against the Flyers. Which in turn would make Carter the starter (you see what I did there) tomorrow against the red hot Capitals.
Despite the team’s latest turnaround it’s not exactly like Jake Allen was the reason for the Blues previous losing streak. In his last 7 games Allen has had a save percentage of 91.3, which is only two points below his career average. And although he went 1-6 the Blues only managed to score 7 goals in that same seven game stretch. Not to mention being shutout in two of those seven games.
And there in lies the rub. The Blues, despite some outstanding goaltending from Hutton, are still struggling to put the puck in the net. Only once in their last twelve games have the Blues managed to score more than two goals and that was a 3-1 win over the lowly Canucks.
Compounding the team’s 5 on 5 offensive problems has been their 28th ranked power play which has failed to produce a goal in their last 18 attempts.
But despite the Blues current offensive woes there are a few players who at least appear to be trending in the right direction.
Alexander Steen, who up until Thursday night had zero non-empty-net goals in his last 22 games, managed to put one past Vegas goal tender Marc Andre-Fleury. Steen has been more noticeable on the ice as of late, probably due to his placement alongside Kyle Brodziak and Patrik Berglund on the Blues third line. A line that has looked, relatively speaking, somewhat impressive these last few games.
Tuesday night Vladimir Sobotka tipped in a Tage Thompson shot for his 2nd goal in four games.
Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall have been two of the Blues best players while taking on expanded roles.
Magnus Paajarvi and Dmitrij Jaskin both finished the game Thursday night with more 3rd period minutes that Vladimir Tarasenko. Something that Mike Yeo credits to their strong defensive play (or Tarasenko’s lack there of, if we were to read between the lines).
However, until the Blues awaken their sleepy offense they are still going to have to rely on their goaltending to steal some wins. Let’s hope that Jake Allen will pick up right where Carter Hutton left off.
As for tonight’s opponent, what started out as a promising season for the Philadelphia Flyers soon turned into another disappointment.
After starting the season with 8 wins and 8 losses the Flyers promptly went on a 10 game losing streak, which sunk the hopes of their fans much like it did their position in the standings.
However, hope was soon restored! The Flyers countered their losing streak with a promising 6 game winning streak in which they outscored their opponents 21-9.
Unfortunately, the task was too large and the climb too steep. After the team’s up swing they quickly returned to mediocre, going 3-5 in their last eight games.
Currently the Flyers sit in last place in the Metropolitan division and 4 points out of the final wildcard sot. According to ESPN.com their 2.8 goals per game is 16th best while their 2.9 goals against average is ranked 17th in the league. They have the 12th best power play and the 29th ranked penalty kill (I guarantee the Blues power play still won't score).
You guys remember Brian Elliott? Sure you do. The kid they call Ells has been, oh let’s just call it meh so far this season. His 91.0 save percentage is three points below his career average of 91.3 and his current GAA of 2.73 is somewhat higher than his 2.45 benchmark.
Just looking at it on paper, I would theorize that Moose has neither been the complete cause of or solution to all of the Flyers troubles. But he did look very beatable in Thursday night’s 6-4 win over the Islanders.
You guys remember Jori Lehtera? Me neither. The man who Philadelphia gave us Brayden Schenn for *giggle snort* has played in 22 of the Flyers 40 games and has TWO assists and ZERO goals.
I’ll drink to that.
Thanks for reading and Go Blues.