Instant Impact

February 20, 2011

It was always going to be an emotional game. No Erik Johnson, no Jay McClement. Instead, the Blues welcomed power forward Chris Stewart and rookie defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk into the fold. The two new players had left California at 4am, where the Avalanche were due to play the San Jose Sharks and, with a change in Salt Lake City, arrived in St Louis at around lunch-time. Hours later, they were on the ice for the first game with their new team. So, what kind of impact did our two new players have?

A quiet first period for them – despite the game itself being wild and woolly. They were both feeling their way – getting used to their new surroundings and new teammates. It was in the second period that they both came alive. Chris Stewart is a big, power forward – he used his size well, battling for pucks along the boards and creating room for his linemates. During powerplays, he’s moving around – in the slot or in front of the crease – perfectly placed for tip-ins and redirections. Stewart is strong, he can hit and he has great hands. More importantly, he can score goals.

Kevin Shattenkirk is in his first NHL year – a rookie who is second only to Cam Fowler in points amongst rookie defensemen so far. He has a really good hockey sense – sees play develop and adjusts accordingly. Shattenkirk is also a good point man on the powerplay. With Pietrangelo on one side and Shattenkirk on the other, the Blues have great options going forward on the powerplay. In fact, the Blues were 3 for 5 on the powerplay last night. Shattenkirk is still learning – he’s still a rookie – but he’s learning very quickly. With the tools he already has in place, it looks like the Blues have got their hands on a very good offensive defenseman to complement their existing D corps.

Speaking after the game, Shattenkirk agreed that the first period was a bit nervous:

“I think we kind of got the nerves out in the first period. I kind of forgot about the fatigue and long travel today, kind of got that out of my system. … There’s obviously a lot of talented players here and it’s pretty refreshing to play with such great guys and great talent.”

As for Chris Stewart, his smile said it all. It definitely didn’t take him long to settle in:

“It wasn’t that hard. By the time my plane landed I had three or four texts from guys welcoming me. It was an easy transition … an easy adjustment. I felt like I fit right in out there.”

The crowd gave him a terrific ovation – it certainly looks like he’s won fans hearts already. And the feeling appears mutual:

“That was probably the best crowd I’ve ever played in front of. It’s going to be easy to play here if the fans are like that every night.”

The full post game interview with Chris Stewart, TJ Oshie and Andy McDonald is on the Blues Website


Updates…

January 21, 2011

Had to start it all off with that amazing save from Jaroslav Halak last night which preserved a vital point for the Blues. Unfortunately, the Blues lost in OT to the Red Wings following a too many men on the ice for the Wings that the officials completely missed/ignored.

There was some good news for the Blues though, in the shape of updates regarding Andy McDonald and David Perron.

Andy McDonald:

McDonald has passed the mandatory baseline test and is skating again. He will be skating a little more each day to see how things respond – but both the Blues and McDonald will obviously continue to be cautious. McDonald has missed 21 games so far and had this to say to reporters:

“There was some progression today. I was on the ice a little bit longer, with a little bit more intensity. I think that’s the way it’s going to be for a while. I’m going to try to progress each day, add a little bit and see how it responds.”

David Perron:

Perron has also passed the baseline test but does continue to have SOME symptoms. Indications are that light exercise could be beneficial and Perron himself says he’s feeling well enough to try it. Obviously Perron isn’t as far along the recovery road as McDonald but it’s good news nonetheless that things ARE progressing. Perron had this to say:

“It’s been tough, but I think now that it’s getting a little better, it feels pretty good. But early on it was really tough to stay away from the rink.”

“You don’t get to come to the rink. It might sound weird, but that’s the toughest thing. It’s not the headaches and stuff like that; it’s not being able to be here every day and skate with your teammates.”

The full interviews with both Andy McDonald and David Perron are on the Blues Website.


Blues 2 – Rangers 0

November 8, 2010

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 07: Ty Conklin  of the St. Louis Blues makes a save against The New York Rangers during their game on November 7, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

If one Blues goalie doesn’t get you, then the other will.  With Jaroslav Halak taking a well deserved game off, Ty Conklin got the start in New York.  The Rangers are a team the Blues had never shutout.  Until last night, that is. Ty Conklin stopped 27 shots and Alex Steen scored twice as the Blues continued their incredible run with a 7th straight win.

David Perron was still unfit so Davis Payne rolled out the same team as he had against Boston with 7 defensemen and 11 forwards. The first period was slanted towards the Blues as they outshot their opponents 14-8. The Blues had two powerplays – which, quite frankly, looked awful. No creativity, no speed, nothing unexpected. However, it was the Rangers who went in at intermission believing they should be a goal ahead. The puck was flipped high and into the Blues zone, Nikitin appeared to slightly hit it with his stick so the official put his hand up, signalling a penalty. Alex Frolov evaded Nikitin and, as Conklin tried to pokecheck the puck away, the whistle blew and then Frolov sent it into the net. Officials had blown the play dead as soon as Conklin touched the puck for the earlier high sticking penalty.

The second period saw the Blues give up two penalties and end up being outshot 7-5. The game had slowed…the Blues looked a bit tired but still stuck to their game plan. All in all though, the second period was a bit of a borefest. There was one lively moment – and that was when Alex Steen profited from a 3 on 2 breakaway and scored his second of the season past Biron in the Rangers goal.

In the third period, the Blues were outshot again by 12-3. The Blues spent an awful lot of time in their own zone especially as, following a boarding call on BJ Crombeen, the Blues had to kill off a five minute penalty. Kill it they did – and with some aplomb. They were only threatened a few times on the penalty kill. Alex Steen once again wrapped it up with an empty net goal with 3 seconds remaining in the game.

A 7 game winning streak for the Blues sees them currently on top of the league with a fantastic 9-1-2 record. Two back to back road game wins despite missing 5 first team players. A great achievement. Nick Drazenovic didn’t get a game and has today been sent back to Peoria.


Blues 2 – Bruins 1 (S/O)

November 7, 2010

TJ Oshiephoto © 2010 Dinur Blum | more info(via: Wylio)

 

 

This was a very even game between two very good teams. Both near the top of their respective conferences and both teams being very stingy in goals allowed, you knew it was going to be a close fought affair. However, with the injuries the Blues have at the moment (Polak, Colaiacovo, Jackman, Perron and Winchester), it was a huge win for them. The Blues dressed 6 defensemen, with Ian Cole and Nikita Nikitin getting their first games. Cole looked a bit shaky but will settle down. Nikitin, on the other hand, looked settled and strong on the puck.

Throughout the game, the Bruins had two “goals” reviewed – both times the puck didn’t cross the line and the Bruins also hit the post and crossbar FOUR times. The shot count was 35-34 just edged in the Blues favour and kudos must go to the two goalies – Rask and Halak – who were both superb in net. Tim Thomas has been getting all the credit in Boston but overlook Rask at your peril.

If the Blues have a weakness, then it’s their powerplay. Again, nothing happened on the powerplay – they pass the puck and don’t shoot, their crisp 5 on 5 passes seem to disappear when they have the man advantage and, rather worryingly, the opposing team seem to have more chances on the Blues powerplay than the Blues themselves do.

The Blues got the first goal – in a very good first period that saw them outshoot the Bruins by 13-6. With just over 3 minutes left in the first, Steen stole the puck from Seidenberg and passed it to Sobotka who lined up his shot and fired it into the net. A great moment for the ex-Bruin who was buzzing around all game. He registered some good hits and was a constant source of irritation for the Bruins. Another play who was irritating the Bruins was TJ Oshie – laying on a couple of fantastic hits and his forechecking and backchecking was second to none. His hit on Chara was a joy to behold with the big guy being unceremoniously dumped to the ice.

The Bruins came back into it in the 2nd and 3rd periods and Halak and the Blues defense really had to work hard. Halak saved the Blues from great chances from David Krejci and Matt Hunwick. The Blues still had some good chances with Rask rescuing the Bruins from McDonald and Backes. Backes had a good game – a few hits, a fight and a couple of good scoring chances. The goals will come for Backes. Of course, it was only a matter of time before the Bruins got back into it and they scored with 7 minutes left in the game, when a 3 on 2 break resulted in Gregory Campbell scoring past a screened Halak. Halak’s shutout streak ended at 150.3 minutes.

The game went to overtime where, again, it was pretty even at 2 shots apiece. The main talking point of overtime however, was TJ Oshie’s hit on David Krejci. It was a good, clean hit with both guys going for the puck. Oshie seems to explode into a hit – he has a low center of gravity and just seems to expand into a hit. Krejci’s head seemed to hit the boards and the ice and he was helped off the ice. No word on his status at the moment.

The shootout saw Boston shoot first with Bergeron. His shot hit the post (I’m not sure if Halak got a piece of it or not) and then it was TJ Oshie’s turn. I don’t think it was what Oshie planned but he managed to get the backhand under Rask to put the Blues 1 up. Next shooter for Boston was rookie, Tyler Seguin, who made no mistake with his first shootout attempt, scoring a great goal past Halak. Brad Boyes – who can’t score in open play but is money in the bank in the shootout – scored with a neat move past Rask to put the Blues 2-1 up. Next up was Michael Ryder and, for the fourth time in the game, the post came to the rescue and the Blues gained the extra point.

A great win for an injury depleted team and the Blues play again tonight against the New York Rangers. Conklin could well be in net for the Blues and Nick Drazenovic, called up for Peoria, could get his first game of the season in the Bluenote. Here, from Inside Hockey are the post game interviews with Jaroslav Halak, TJ Oshie and Bruins coach, Claude Julien:


Sharks 0 – Blues 2

November 5, 2010

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak makes a glove save on a shot by San Jose Sharks Joe Pavelski in the first period at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on November 4, 2010.  UPI/Bill Greenblatt Photo via Newscom

A very chippy game this one, that contained controversial hits and decisions – and saw three Blues players make their way to the locker room at various points during the game. David Perron went off the ice following a nasty hit from Thornton but later returned. Barret Jackman injured his knee and limped off – later returning. Brad Winchester also left the ice. Three boarding penalties on the Sharks – I don’t know whether they felt they were above being penalised but that was the way they played.

The first period saw the Blues have four powerplays – and score on none of them. The powerplay was a shambles – there seemed to be little teamwork and, to be honest, the Sharks ended up with more shots on goal and chances than the Blues did. More than once, the Blues were thankful to Jaroslav Halak for pulling them out of the fire. The save Halak made on a shot from Huskins simply took your breath away. The Blues went ahead with just over 2 minutes left to play in the first. Barret Jackman flipped the puck across the ice to Matt D’Agostini who surged down the wing and sent a laser of a shot past Niemi in the Sharks goal. It was D’Agostini’s 5th goal of the season. An interesting fact about the first period is that, despite the Blues 4 powerplays to the Sharks 1, the Blues were outshot 9-8.

The second period was even worse penalty wise. 12 penalties were called, including a 5 minute major and 10 minute Game Misconduct on Joe Thornton who was ejected from the game with just over 5 minutes gone in the second. Minutes earlier, Thornton was penalised for boarding – a nasty little hit on TJ Oshie. As he left the penalty box, he skated towards David Perron and levelled him with a shoulder to the head. Perron was blindsided and, to be frank, Thornton’s defense after the game of “he just ran into me” simply cuts no ice. Thornton was deservedly ejected from the game and Perron went to the locker room. David Perron returned shortly afterwards and scored to put the Blues two up. Perron picked up a rebound from an Oshie shot and casually flipped it into the back with a neat little backhand. The Blues were surging in the second – outshooting the Sharks 14-5.

In the third, the Blues relaxed a bit – and were outshot by the Sharks 11-7. They didn’t seem in danger though, and were skating hard and trying for the third goal. A complete change on last season where they sat back and waited for the opposition to come to them. Backes missed an open net but the Blues came out deserved winners. Game notes:

  • Jaroslav Halak picked up his third shutout of the season, stopping all 25 shots.  He has now played 9 games with 7 wins and 3 shutouts.
  • Alex Pietrangelo registered two assists and his first NHL fight.  Pietrangelo and Couture dropped the gloves following Thornton’s hit on Perron.
  • Eric Brewer did the Captain’s job again – picking up a roughing penalty after Thornton’s hit on Oshie.
  • The games three stars were: 1. Jaroslav Halak, 2. David Perron and 3. David Backes.

Next up, the Blues take on Boston – but it seems unlikely that we’ll see the two top goalies in the league duel it out.  Tim Thomas is playing tonight against the Capitals so it appears that Rask will get the start for Boston tomorrow.  Anyway, here are the edited highlights of the game.  For the fuller highlights, check out the Blues Official Site


Thrashers 3 – Blues 4 (S/O)

October 31, 2010

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Well, that was an interesting game – and the main talking point has to be Jay McClement’s first hattrick after 400 NHL games. The game was not a free flowing affair – the refs saw to that by penalising the Blues for the most innocent things. “Interference” seemed to be the official’s buzzword of the night with 4 interference calls on the Blues, 2 kneeing calls and 1 hooking call.

The Blues had an appalling first period. They looked slow, sluggish and with 3 penalties to kill in the first period alone, their much vaunted PK was disorganised and disjointed. The Trashers scored first – a powerplay goal from Peverley who snuck in to bury a rebound past Halak. However, the Blues tied the game minutes later when a shot from D’Agostini hit Jay McClement, who was laying on the ice, and popped past Pavelec. Ondrej Pavelec was making his first start since collapsing on the ice in his first game of the season on 8 October.

The goal was the only piece of good news in the first period for the Blues. Another powerplay goal for the Thrashers put them ahead once again. Antropov was left alone in front of net and scored following a rebound. The Thrashers third goal would have been pure comedy had it not hurt so much. The puck bounced into the Blues zone, Eric Brewer swiped at it and missed and Bergfors sent an unstoppable shot past Halak with 2 seconds left in the period.

The second period was slightly better for the Blues – they still couldn’t find their game but the defense was tighter. They started to create a couple of opportunities but there were still too many turnovers and Jaroslav Halak made some terrific saves to keep the Blues in the game. Only two penalties called in the second period, although the interference call on David Backes defied belief. It was merely a good and legal hit at center ice – but Backes was duly penalised for doing nothing more than playing good hockey.

In the third period, with the score still at 3-1, the Blues found themselves on the wrong side of the officials once again. The Blues were called for 3 penalties in the first 3 minutes of the game – complete insanity. However, it seemed like the team as a whole – not to mention the crowd – were just getting a bit annoyed at this. They started to click – they started to play the kind of hockey we’ve come to expect. Killing all 3 penalties including a huge 5 on 3, the Blues went on the offensive. They had 2 powerplays but they just couldn’t seem to get the PP working at all. Pavelec absolutely stoned Brad Boyes on one powerplay with an amazing glove save.

With just over 6 minutes left, Jay McClement tipped D’Agostini’s shot into the net and the Blues were well and truly back in the game. The crowd was loud and noisy and the Blues seemed to feed off their energy. Less than two minutes later, it was a tie game. Jay McClement completed his first NHL hattrick by tipping Pietrangelo’s shot past Pavelec. It was a great moment for one of the Blues most underrated players and, in the next stoppage in play, the Scottrade ice was literally littered with hats thrown from the crowd.

To chants of “Let’s Go Blues”, the final few minutes of regulation saw the Blues absolutely buzzing. The Thrashers though weren’t dead and buried and, once again, Halak came to the Blues rescue – and was barrelled into by Ben Eager for his trouble. The game went to overtime – a pretty even affair with 4 shots apiece – and when the shootout came, the crowd noise level went even higher.

TJ Oshie was first up for the Blues in the shootout – and he scored with a fantastic move. Pavelec got a pad to it but it wasn’t enough. Peveley fanned on his shot, the puck just sliding off his stick and next up for the Blues was Brad Boyes. Boyes might not be able to buy a goal in open play but he’s a sniper in the shootout. He proved it once again by ripping a shot over Pavelec’s glove. Halak then saved an attempt by Thrasher’s rookie, Burmistrov, to win the game for the Blues. Halak was mobbed by his teammates and the incredible noise from the crowd just kept going and going.

This was a character game for the Blues – this showed that, unlike last year, when this team gets into a hole they are quite capable of grinding themselves out of it. A few notes from the game:

  • Jaroslav Halak’s shutout streak ended at just over 160 minutes – not too shabby at all.
  • Matt D’Agostini and Alex Steen both picked up 2 assists each.
  • Alex Pietrangelo once again led the Blues in ice time with just over 27 minutes.
  • Nathan Oystrick registered an assist, was a +2 and had just over 11 minutes of ice time in his first game for the Blues.
  • It was the Blues fifth straight win on home ice this season.

Next up, the Blues face the San Jose Sharks at Scottrade, looking for their franchise equalling record of six straight wins to start the season at home. To keep you entertained in the meantime, check out the shootout from last night’s game:


Blues 3 – Predators 0

October 29, 2010

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So, the Blues have beaten the last two Stanley Cup Champions… and last night they inflicted this season’s first regulation loss on the Nashville Predators. And they did it in style.

Jaroslav Halak registered his second consecutive shutout – he’s now unbeaten for 151.10 minutes. The current Blues franchise shutout record is held by Manny Legace at 186.15 set in the 2007/2008 season. Halak has impressed his teammates. Speaking to the St Louis Post-Dispatch, Alex Steen said: “It feels like key moments of a game, where we need a big stop, he makes them. We had a couple of mistakes in our own end, but ‘Jaro’ was big for us. He’s been very sound for us. He plays incredibly calm. He doesn’t get himself overworked at all.”

This attitude was echoed by Erik Johnson, speaking after the game to the Blues Official Site: “He is such a fun goalie to watch. He looks like he is not even trying. He is so effortless in his motion. There is no wasted energy with him. We feel so confident with him back there because he’s so cool, calm and collected. We know we can go on offense and he’ll be back there if we have any hiccups. He has been a great, great asset for us.”

Halak stoned the Predators on breakaways, was good with traffic in front of the net and has a great ability to see play develop and adjust accordingly. The Blues are drawing great confidence from having Halak in net – it’s allowing the defense to relax more, to get involved in offense – and it’s been quite a while since the Blues have had this.

The game wasn’t all about Halak though. It was a pretty even affair for the most part – with the Predators having some good chances with the occasional piece of sloppy play from the Blues. Alex Steen got his first goal of the season after 12 minutes of period 2 following some great work behind the net by David Perron. Patrik Berglund put the Blues 2 up after 13 minutes of period 3 pouncing on a rebound and smashing it past Rinne in the Predators net. It was Berglund’s 4th goal of the season so far. To show how far they’ve come, the Blues didn’t sit back on the lead and instead they went in for the kill. Matt D’Agostini wrapped it up with just under 5 minutes of the game left when he flipped the puck into the net from just in front of goal.

One of the big talking points of the game, apart from Halak, was the hit levelled on Colaiacovo by Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo was given a five minute major for charging and a game misconduct. It doesn’t appear there will be any further punishment from the NHL, however, judge the hit for yourselves:

However, the last words should go to Halak – who will start on Saturday against Atlanta knowing that if he posts a shutout for the first two periods of the game he’ll break Legace’s record:

“It feels great, but I wasn’t going into the game thinking about the last shutout I had. I was just thinking about trying to help the guys win a game. It’s even more special when it’s a shutout.”

So, until Saturday, here are the game highlights: