(photo by Associated Press/News Tribune)
Nice Win Over a Quality Team
As ugly as the win over Carolina earlier in the week may have been, this one was a beauty over the San Jose Sharks as the Blues won 4-0. Chad Johnson got the start in goal for the 2nd straight game and notched his 8th career shutout stopping 33 shots. It was his first shutout as a St. Louis Blue.
“I”m just happy to have the 2 points. The shutout is a bonus.” Johnson told Darren Pang in the post-game interview.
The Blues came out of the gate strong and fast and were swarming all over the place early on. They were quick to the puck, closed the gaps when they didn’t have the puck, and looked determined to play Blues hockey tonight.
The Sharks came into this game averaging 70 shot attempts per game and have registered 37 shots on goal per game thus far. That’s good enough for 2nd in the NHL. But it took them 8 minutes to get a shot on net in this one thanks to the Blues “in-your-face” play in the early going.
The teams went to 4 on 4 at the 14:15 mark of the period when Joe Pavelski and Vince Dunn were called for slashing each other. Ryan O’Reilly won the subsequent faceoff and 35 seconds later, the puck was in the net behind Sharks goalie, Aaron Dell.
Alex Pietrangelo scored his 2nd goal of the season on a nice pass from Vladimir Tarasenko. The Russian sniper made a nice play to secure the puck behind the net and find his captain out in front. Vladi has really been playing well. He may not be scoring a lot of goals yet this season, but he’s putting in a ton of effort all over the ice and he’s been quite the playmaker. It was his 8th assist on the season.
The Blues had a lot of sustained offensive pressure and seem to be finding some line combinations that are allowing them to send wave after wave of guys who are relentless on the puck. The crowd at Enterprise roared after a couple minutes of brilliant effort in the offensive end.
The first period ended with the Blues up 1-0. Shots on goal were 9-6, also in favor of the Blues.
Thomas drew a penalty on veteran Joe Thornton for tripping at the 2:21 mark. Thornton, who played in his 1500th NHL game the night before in Dallas, had no choice but to trip the younger, faster Thomas. The power play was not successful on this opportunity and was 0 for 4 on the night, but is still 4th in the league with a 28.6% success rate.
After the Sharks killed the penalty, O’Reilly won another faceoff, this time it was in the Blues defensive zone. Taking the puck the other way, 18 seconds later the faceoff specialist scored his 8th goal of the season on a nice feed from Jaden Schwartz to extend the lead to 2-0.
With that goal, O’Reilly extended his scoring streak to 9 straight games and has scored 16 points in that stretch.
You could feel the momentum building for Schwartz to score. He’s gotten off to a slower start than we are used to, but he hit a post, got robbed by Dell and was in on lots of offensive scoring chances with linemates O’Reilly and Tarasnenko. His usual partner-in-crime, Brayden Schenn was absent from the lineup with upper body soreness.
The Blues kept up the pressure and Schwartzy got his goal, his 2nd of the season, on a nice give-and-go play with Tyler Bozak. Alexander Steen also assisted on the play. The goal was scored 17 seconds after Bozak won a faceoff. (Do you see a pattern here?)
O’Reilly could have had another hat trick tonight, had it not been for an outstanding save by Dell late in the period and a shot that hit the post and didn’t bounce his way.
The Blues led 3-0 at the end of the 2nd.
As you would expect, the Sharks turned up their offensive pressure in the third and outshot the Blues 14-9 in the period. Johnson looked solid in net and finished off the shutout. Having given up 1 goal against Carolina in Tuesday’s game, he has now stopped his last 59 shots faced.
The Blues put some icing on the cake at the 12:21 mark of the third. Steen scored his 5th goal of the season on an assist from Bozak and Colton Parayko. The goal wasn’t all that pretty, but it was a typical Steen goal. He worked hard and got behind the defense of San Jose and the puck just kind of came to his stick after Bozak poked it to him. He was all alone and his wrist shot made it 4-0 St. Louis and that’s the way it would end.
Oh, and this goal was scored 20 seconds after O’Reilly won another faceoff. Hmmm.
- The Blues played a solid 60 minutes of hockey tonight. They held a good offensive team in San Jose scoreless. And yes, Chad Johnson was good, but he had good support in front of him as well. This team made it hard on San Jose to get in any sort of rhythm.
- Puck possession. How important is that? The Blues had nobody at less than 50% on faceoffs. Bozak won 83% of his. O’Reilly won 68%. Thomas won 71%. You can’t score if you don’t have the puck and we probably don’t realize the importance of winning faceoffs until you start looking at the details of the game. But, it’s huge! None of those three guys were on this team last year.
- Look back at all 4 goals we scored. All four were scored shortly after the Blues won a faceoff.
- And how big is it that our young centerman, Robert Thomas can learn from guys like O’Reilly and Bozak? If that doesn’t get you excited, you need to ask someone to check your pulse.
- The style of play and speed of the youngsters like Thomas, Fabbri, Ivan Barbashev, Nikita Soshnikov, Oskar Sundqvist, Zachary Sanford, and even more are leading to more penalties on the opponents. With a better power play this season, it’s making a difference in the results.
- I like the way the Blues are trending. We have a chance for some revenge Sunday when the Minnesota Wild come back to town for the final game of this longest homestand of the season. If the Blues can win it, they could climb into a wild-card spot for the first time this season. They also have a couple of games in hand on most of the teams ahead of them. Let’s go Blues!
- Pietrangelo (2)
- O’Reilly (8)
- Schwartz (2)
- Steen (5)