(Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports photo)
The St. Louis Blues are one of if not THE hottest teams in sports lately. They’ve managed to climb all the way from last in the NHL just after New Year’s into the first wildcard spot in the Western division in just a little over a month.
In that stretch, the Blues are 12-4-1 and have outscored their opponents 53-36 for a +17 goal differential. They’ve put together 6 straight wins including a shutout over the league’s best Tampa Bay Lightning and a 2-game sweep over their division rival Nashville Predators this past weekend.
When asked after the home victory over Nashville what one thing Coach Craig Berube could point to that’s been the difference, he said: “It’s not one thing.”
Could it be the outstanding play of rookie goaltender, Jordan Binnington? Yes. What about the balanced scoring from multiple lines and the defense? Yes. Would the resurgence of Vladimir Tarasenko have anything to do with it? Yes. How about the shut-down defense this team has played lately? Yes.
Berube is right, it’s not just one thing. This team is playing together, playing for each other and doing what it takes to win hockey games and it’s been a ton of fun to watch. Excitement is building in the Gateway City.
Considering that they’ve done all of this without David Perron (IR-upper body) and no goals from Jaden Schwartz in over 20 games, it’s promising to think that this team could get even better yet.
The Blues host a struggling New Jersey Devils team in only their 3rd home game in the past 30 days. St. Louis have been road warriors this year and need to improve on their record at Enterprise Center if they’re to be a legitimate contender this year in the home stretch of the season and hopefully into the playoffs.
The Devils are led in scoring by Kyle Palmieri (23G,18A,41Pts), and Nico Hischier (16G,23A,39Pts).
Keith Kinkaid will start for the Devils in net. He is 2-3-0 in his last 5 starts. He is 0-3-1 against the Blues with a career .891 Sv% and a 3.42 GAA.
Team Records/Points/Standings (prior to the game)
- Blues: 27-22-5 59pts 1st Wildcard spot in West
- Devils: 21-26-8 50pts 3rd from bottom in East
St. Louis – Jordan Binnington: 9-1-1, 1.72 GAA, .931 Sv%
New Jersey – Keith Kinkaid: 15-16-6, 3.15 GAA, .898 Sv%
St. Louis – Pietrangelo (7,8); Barbashev(7,8); Schwartz (4); O’Reilly (21); MacEachern (3); Bozak (9)
New Jersey – Zacha (11); Palmieri (24); Mueller (1)
- Alex Pietrangelo
- Ivan Barbashev
- Jaden Schwartz
Although the Blues were playing the Devils, it was the home team that came out like a team possessed. St. Louis got on the board at the 5:08 mark when Alex Pietrangelo scored on assists from Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko. Ivan Barbashev added a goal just 1:31 seconds later. Robert Thomas got the assist on the goal, but it was all set up when New Jersey goalie, Keith Kinkaid turned the puck over.
A Blues turnover in their D-zone led to a Devils goal from Pavel Zacha at the 10:30 mark of the first to make it 2-1.
The entire Blues fan base celebrated at the 15:47 mark when Jaden Schwartz broke a 22 game goal-scoring drought with his 4th goal of the season. Schwartz has continued to work hard and just hasn’t been seeing the results, but that was a distant memory when his shot went off a New Jersey skate and found the back of the net to put the Blues back up 3-1.
St. Louis dominated the first period and outshot the Devils 20-6.
The second was pretty much a repeat of the first. It started early with a New Jersey turnover in the neutral zone and just 30 seconds after the puck drop Ryan O’Reilly had skated in and beat Kinkaid to make it 4-1.
Schwartz nearly added another goal moments later but the goal was waived off for goalie interference. You could sense that the Blues had tasted blood and they weren’t going to be satisfied with just 4 goals.
Mackenzie MacEachern got behind the defense at the 6:11 mark and made a nice forehand-backhand-forehand move and got Kinkaid leaning the wrong way. He lifted the puck over the glove of the battered New Jersey netminder to make it 5-1. Kinkaid, formerly having played for the St. Louis Bandits and a friend to some of the St. Louisans was visibly upset after this goal, smacking his stick on the goal. Who could blame him? He wasn’t getting much support.
The onslaught continued with Tyler Bozak adding a goal before the period was over. The Blues had outshot New Jersey 31-11 after two and led 6-1.
Both teams scored twice in the 3rd. Pietrangelo and Barbashev again for the Blues, Kyle Palmieri and Mirco Mueller for the Devils. The final was 8-3.
- It was good to see this team come out the way you’d expect them to in this one. It’s sometimes hard to get up for a game against a team that hasn’t been playing well, but St. Louis continued to play the way they’ve been playing and put up some serious offense in this one.
- Petro had 2 goals and an assist, as did Barbashev. The defense contributed 6 points on the night and all four forward lines added points, including 5 points from the 4th line of Barbashev, Thomas and MacEachern.
- The defense only allowed 23 shots on goal. Binnington gets his 10th win.
- We want to see this team continue their winning ways and hope that the best is yet to come with Perron nearing a return to the lineup.
- 7 in a row. Let’s make it 8! Let’s go Blues!