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The St. Louis Blues finally did something this week to make their road to the playoffs a little easier by beating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1. The victory means that the only way the Blues can miss the playoffs is through a regulation loss to the Avalanche tonight. For those of you lamenting not getting to overtime Wednesday night and not having a 2 point lead right now, don’t. If that was the situation, the Blues would still need to avoid a regulation loss as the Avalanche would have taken the tie breaker in that situation (same ROW, same head to head points, but lost on goal differential). Of course you can lament the blown lead as a win on Wednesday would have made today’s game irrelevant.
Getting back to last night for a moment, the victory was keyed by a Patrik Berglund hat trick, Kyle Brodziak’s two assists and Carter Hutton stopping 95% of the shots he faced.
The game appeared to be following the same script as Wednesday’s game in St. Louis with the Blues carrying the better part of play through the 1st two periods, the Blues jumping out to a 1 goal lead, the Blues carrying a 1 goal lead into the 3rd period, and the Blues goaltending giving up a poor goal to tie the game. Unlike Wednesday, the Blues answered the 3rd period, game tying goal right back with a goal of their own when Berglund scored just 16 seconds after the Blackhawks tied the game.
On the opening goal, Brodziak made a nifty backhand pass from the wall to Joel Edmundson as pressure was approaching. Edmundson drifted to the middle to change the shooting angle and open the shooting lane. His shot from the point was redirected in by Berglund as JF Berube was overly aggressive in moving to his right and was unable to recover back to the left.
The Blackhawks would tie the game about 8 minutes into the 3rd period on a goal from Erik Gustafsson, one that Hutton would like to have back. Hutton was very deep in the net on the play, even with his right skate on the post. I’d like him to be out, off that post. Even if he is only 6 to 9 inches out in the blue paint, his odds of making the save go up a lot.
Unlike Wednesday night, the Blues immediately rallied and took the lead back on a rebound goal by Berglund just 16 seconds later.
A little over 4 minutes later, Jaden Schwartz doubled the lead when Brayden Schenn made a strong forecheck at the goal line, winning the puck battle and getting it to Schwartz for the one-timer.
As coach Mike Yeo has said a number of times, the Blues forecheck is critical to their success and that goal was just another example.
Patrik Berglund added an empty net goal to ruin Patrick Sharp’s swan song in Chicago. After the game, Sharp commented that he will probably retire this off season.
Full credit to coach Mike Yeo for his minute distribution last night. All defensemen played between 19 and 21 minutes. No forward played less than 10:25 minutes or more than 17:30. A ROW with this type of minute distribution was about the best outcome for which fans could have hoped. Now the Blues must focus on the real business at hand, getting at least a point tonight.
In a bit of irony, the Blues are again playing the Avalanche in the last game of the year, on the second night of back to back games. Last year, the Blues defeated the Avalanche at home 3-2. Of course, tonight’s game has a lot more riding on it than last year’s game as it determines who gets to move on to face the Nashville Predators in the playoffs.
In looking at Blues back to back games this season, I noted the following:
- The Blues are 10-3-2 in the 2nd game of back to backs.
- They are only 1-2-1 in the 2nd game when both are away games.
- They are 6-3-2 in the 2nd game when the 2nd game is away.
- They are 7-1-0 in the 2nd game when they win the 1st game.
In looking at the Blues back to back games over the last 2 seasons, I noted the following:
- The Blues are 20-5-2 in the 2nd game
- They are 5-3-1 in the 2nd game when both are away games.
- They are 11-5-2 in the 2nd game when the 2nd game is away.
- They are 14-3-0 in the 2nd game when they win the 1st game.
The Avalanche will have Jonathan Bernier in net as Semyon Varlamov is injured. Bernier has been struggling lately. In his last 7 starts, his save percentage is under his season average in 5 of the games. In 4 of the 7 games, his save percentage was 88% or lower.
The Avalanche’s best player has also been struggling. Since scoring 6 goals in 4 games, Nathan MacKinnon has gone 9 games without a goal and only getting 6 assists in those 9 games. The Blues hope to end MacKinnon’s season with a 10 game goal drought. Mikko Rantanen has been held pointless in 5 of his last 7 games.
Tyson Barrie is also struggling with points in only 2 of his last 8 games while only being plus in 1 of those 8 games. Before that 8 games stretch, he had points in 11 straight games.
Jake Allen will get the start in net, having been in Colorado since Friday afternoon. I also expect Nikita Soshnikov will stay in the lineup over Oskar Sundqvist. One would have to assume that Chris Butler will stay in the lineup as well.
On a more somber note, all of our thoughts and prayers are with all of the people affected by the tragic crash of the Humboldt Broncos team bus and a tractor trailor near Gronlid, Canada. Reports suggest that 14 of the 28 people on the Broncos bus lost their lives. Please keep all of those impacted by this tragedy in your thoughts.
Schenn was one of the first NHL players to respond to the tragedy on his twitter feed, likely a partial result of him being from Saskatchewan. Former Blues goalie Glenn Hall also has ties to the tragedy as he is from Humboldt.
It’s a great day for hockey, though a sad day for the hockey community.
Congratulations to Paul McCann for winning this year’s regular season wager. This blogger is hoping to repeat it in the 1st round of the playoffs. Fellow Hockeybuzz bloggers Nashville Predator's Paul McCann
, Winnipeg Jet's Peter Tessier
and Minnesota Wild's Dan Wallace
have generously agreed to a friendly charity wager. We were hoping to do the whole division but don't have it fully represented yet. The blogger whose team finishes the highest the standings at the end of the year gets to pick a charity to whom the others will donate in their name.