If the St. Louis Blues had lost Friday night in Dallas, a few things would have occurred. Sole ownership of first place would have been gone again, momentum would have been lost, and Monday’s trade deadline would carry even more annoying urgency.
In addition to that proposed chaos, Dallas would have climbed all the way back in the standings and taken a share of the top seat, and for the first time in months, three teams would have been closely locked together for the lead in the Central Division.
So, St. Louis decided to kick the crap out of Jamie Benn, Ben Bishop, and their Stars. You could call this a statement win from the Blues. I’ll call it a fine precursor to Soulard madness.
Dallas was 7-1-2 in their last ten games, having vanquished the Arizona Coyotes, who the Blues barely outlasted on Thursday night. This was one of those games where you had a fateful imagining of St. Louis getting bombed and sent home unhappy. So when Alexander Steen punched home the first goal less than six minutes in, the tides were at least rolling in the right direction.
Reporters caught up with Steen after the game, where the winger had this to say about the early breakthrough: “It was truly magical, you know. How many times do you get three chances to score a goal on Bishop!?” Not often, Alexander. One of the best redemption stories of the Craig Berube era, Steen continues to be a lightning rod at a lower level for the Blues. “I’m just taking it one game and $80,000 at a time these days,” Steen added.
David Perron, denied a goal against Arizona 24 hours before, collected #24 of the season to finish the first period scoring. Oh baby indeed here as Perron recalled the surreal feeling of French fries swirling in his head right after the score. “Holy crap, it was like getting a hot basket of fries right out of the fryer at Carl’s Drive in on a sunny Saturday afternoon, boys. I skated over and Stevey-O already had a few plate of them waiting for me. He’s the best.” That’s the last time someone uses Ott’s name in a negative light.
Before the night was over, the Blues had chased Bishop and put up five goals. A mysterious wrist shot evaded Jake Allen late in the game, lending the game a much-needed controversial tint as the minutes expired. Could Allen have stopped it and maintained the shutout streak? Or was it, as so many issues in his career, not his fault, just like Matt Damon at the end of “Good Will Hunting?” The audiences were divided, but Allen still played a sharp game and offered instant analysis as he was asked to speak before he could shower or slam a Bud Light in the locker room. “Oh you know, par for the course. I do great things and some people only remember the one goal that found its way into the net. I’ll take a 5-1 win any day of the week, including Sunday.”
Right on, Snake Plissken Jr. Allen had a great game, extending the streak of Blues goaltending dominance to three games. If you include a hard fought loss in Nashville nearly a week ago, the Blues have turned their season around by rediscovering their defensive-minded ability to shut a team down. The Coyotes and Stars had few chances to get anything going, with St. Louis suffocating them all over the ice. Take a look at that picture at the top of the page: that’s not a group chest bump, but a Blue Note attack. Outlet passes were re-routed, forechecks overwhelmed their zone entries, and Dallas’ clear shots were limited.
The past two teams on St. Louis’ hit list have high-wire talent such as Benn, Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, and Phil Kessel. Guys who can score at a ridiculous rate. While the Blues put up the necessary amount of goals to succeed, it was the old standard backbone of great defense and goaltending that led the charge. When you have young guns like Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou, big shots from Colton Parayko, and fearless work down below from Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn, good things will happen on the offensive side of the game. But it’s the defense that ruled the day this week.
Parayko, who screamed “bullshit” at the refs during a bogus moment in Friday’s game, tried to put it into perspective. “You know, it’s the same mentality I had at OB Clark’s last June. Just keep drinking and smiling, and using the body to finish the job ... or dance moves. You can’t lose if you follow those methods: Drink, smile, move the hips,” Parayko exclaimed as he held Darren Pang during the interview.
For a little while, the Blues were looking like a team falling back. If last January was a robust awakening, 2020’s early goings were more of the rude variety. The team was lackluster for key periods, giving up too many shots, and just failing to finish games. That trend has flip-flopped the past week. Hardcore fans are happy, but even a few longtime Battlehawks fans have taken notice. “You know, when I checked the box score the past couple of weeks, I carried some doubt about this hockey team and their ability to hockey. I mean, yeah, it’s cool to win again, but Hawks are forever,” Fletcher from Tower Grove East eloquently said early Saturday morning.
Soon after our chat, Fletcher went streaking towards the Soulard Mardi Gras festivities, but he was a happy, content man. The Blues are winning again. They’ll enter the Minnesota game tomorrow with 35 wins, 80 points, and at least a one point lead on the division when the puck drops tomorrow.
The new Blue: It’s only two games, but Marco Scandella has fit in seamlessly. https://t.co/inFVIrYiQu— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) February 22, 2020
Do you put all the credit for the turnaround on Marco Scandella’s shoulders? It may not hold, but the new Blues defenseman sure looks great early on. With Alex Pietrangelo out sick on Friday, Scandella was paired with Parayko, putting up his second great game in a week versus Dallas. He played 20 minutes overall and over three minutes on the penalty kill, disabling scoring opportunities and looking like a man freed from losing conditions. Is he the best work of Armstrong’s career? No, but he’s definitely not the worst.
When asked what the secret ingredient in his puck-stealing defense was this week, Scandella gave a St. Louis institution all the credit. “Listen, none of this happens if I don’t destroy a daily order of toasted ravioli from Charlie Gitto’s on the Hill,” the veteran D-man noted. “They are phenomenal!”
Charlie Gitto’s take on a St. Louis food treasure was a big part of the Stanley Cup celebration last summer. Pat Maroon dunking ravioli into a bowl of marinara held up high by Lord Stanley’s keeper ring a bell? You bet your ass it does. Do the Blues get back there this year? Nothing is guaranteed in the NHL, even for a team with an outside chance at 50 wins this season. But the Blues are once again playing like a team destined for greatness, having knocked off two probable playoff opponents inside 24 hours.
Fletcher sure is excited. While he kept noting how a hockey team must play a hard four quarters, he was optimistic about St. Louis’ chances in Minnesota tomorrow. “It’s like they say in Ka-KAW nation: Just get the first down, get those seven points, and stop the other team from scoring a touchdown. Just add ice to all of it.” Thrilling stuff from Fletcher.
Katie, a native of St. Louis Hills, only had eyes for Tuesday’s game against Chicago at the Enterprise Center. “Records don’t matter. They need to destroy the Blackhawks and make Patrick Kane’s head bleed like we did with Wayne Gretzky on Sega Genesis back in the day,” she said. I knew she was serious when she destroyed a plate of nachos at Dos Reyes right after saying this and washed it all down with a gallon of tequila.
You heard it here, folks. The Blues may have recaptured their spark, but they still have work to do before summer arrives.
Thanks for reading and please understand, NONE OF THESE QUOTES ARE REAL AND I ONLY WANTED TO MAKE YOU LAUGH A LITTLE. Let’s be honest, the world needs to laugh more. It’s still the best medicine.