The St Louis Blues head to the Nation’s capital to take on the League-leading Washington Capitals tonight. It may be late in the season, but this is the first time that these two teams will be seeing each other. This is the second half of a back-to-back series for both teams. Washington has been on fire pretty much all season. They have run away with the points and no one has been able to touch them. With both teams having clinched their playoff berths, tonight’s game could have a definite playoff feel. The puck is set to drop at 7:00 PM ET/ 6:00 PM CT.
Preview: This is the first of 2 games between the two teams this season. The final game will take place April 9 in the Blues’ closeout of the regular season. Last season the Blues were able to sweep the Capitals, winning both match-ups between the teams.
Jake Allen will get the start in net for the Blues. He lost his last 2 starts, and has been taking a backseat while Brian Elliott has taken control for the last 3 games. Both have had hot-streaks, and it’s anyone’s guess who will be the goaltender for the postseason. These next few games will be important for Allen and Elliott.
It has been a strange year for the Blues’ goalies. First Allen was sidelined with an injury causing Elliott to take control and start 18 straight games. When Allen returned on Elliott’s 18th start, Elliott went down to injury in the game. So Allen took over starting the next 10 consecutive games. Now the team has them both back. Elliott has started the last 3 games, giving the Blues 3 consecutive shutouts and cementing their place in the playoffs. Tonight Allen will return to the net. He lost his last 2 starts, giving up 9 goals on 43 shots. Hopefully the extra rest he got (these past 3 games) will have him back on track.
Elliott did not travel with the team to Washington, and instead he remained in St Louis so he could rest. Anders Nilsson will back-up Allen tonight.
This is the second of back-to-back games for both teams. The Blues won their game against the Canucks by 4-0 in St Louis last night. The Capitals were in New Jersey last night in a game that went to overtime; ultimately the Capitals won by a score of 1-0. Both teams played last night, and both teams had to travel. The Blues are 6-4-0 when playing the second of back-to-back games, the Capitals are a bit better with a 9-2-1 record.
The Capitals can clinch the Presidents Trophy with a point in tonight’s game. Their 111 points are almost unreachable by any of the teams in the League. The closest teams to the Capitals are the Stars and Blues both tied with 97 points. Expect the Capitals to have that extra jump in their game as they try to wrap up this trophy tonight.
Not only are the Capitals one point shy of the Presidents Trophy, they have won their Division and Conference and are setting franchise records now. They set a franchise record for road wins in a single season with 25 wins last night. The club now has a 25-9-3 road record for this season. They have moved to setting their sights on matching or beating their record for home wins in a single season. That magic number is 30 wins, which the team achieved in the 1985-86 and 2009-10 seasons. So far the Capitals have a home record of 28-6-2. To top this off Washington is only one win shy of matching their franchise record for the most wins in a single season. In 2009-10 the club was able to finish with a record of 54-15-3. With 9 games remaining on the Capitals’ calendar, the Caps will surely get one more win and likely more. (capitals.nhl) This team looks to be setting all kinds of records this season.
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby has been a machine in the net for Washington. He has a 45-9-4 record. That puts him just 3 wins off of Martin Brodeur’s record of 48 wins in a season. I imagine that this record is on Holtby’s mind as the season winds down. He played in the Capitals’ win last night in New Jersey, so the Blues may be facing Philipp Grubauer in net tonight. Grubauer has an 8-6-1 record with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage.
TJ Oshie was sent to the Capitals in a trade that brought Troy Brouwer to the Blues. Oshie is questionable and may miss tonight’s game, his first chance to play against his former team, because of the flu. He did not play last night and is listed as a game time decision. Oshie has 23 goals and 22 assists for 45 points this season with the Capitals. He seems to be fitting into his new home quite nicely. For those that like to keep score, Brouwer has 15 goals and 18 assists.
Brouwer played with the Capitals in the 2011-15 seasons. He recorded 83 goals and 69 assists in 293 games played for Washington. This will be his first game back in DC since the trade.
Injury Report: Alexander Steen is out with an upper-body injury. Steve Ott is on LTIR after hamstring surgery. Jay Bouwmeester is out with an upper-body injury.
Let’s Go Blues!
Review: The Blues were home to host the Vancouver Canucks last night. St Louis had just wrapped up a 5-game road trip, and they were home for a quick game before hitting the road again Saturday. The Canucks entered the night on a season-high 6-game winless streak. St Louis, on the other hand, was riding high on Brian Elliott’s 2 consecutive road shutouts. Elliott is the only goalie in franchise history to have back-to-back road shutouts and he has done it three times before.
Early in the first period fans watched as Jori Lehtera sprang Vladimir Tarasenko on a breakaway. Tarasenko tried his signature move of stretching and tucking the puck in the net past the far toe of the goaltender. Unfortunately, Tarasenko lost the puck at the last moment. No highlight reel goal here.
Midway through the period and the Blues find themselves on the penalty kill. Kyle Brodziak starts a play by tipping the puck away from Canucks’ Linden Vey. Scottie Upshall gets the puck and takes off on a breakaway with Brodziak alongside. Upshall sends a pass to Brodziak who tips it in past the left toe of goaltender Jacob Markstrom. There is 9:09 remaining in the first period. This is Brodziak’s 4th goal of the season, his last 2 goals have been shorthanded goals as well. The Blues lead 1-0.
This goal was extra sweet for Brodziak, because he and his wife just welcomed a new baby boy to the family yesterday. Congratulations! Now the little one has a puck to play with.
With 4:36 remaining in the period the Blues set up another play. Alex Pietrangelo sent a pass to Troy Brouwer. He in turn fed the puck to Paul Stastny who backhanded a pass to Robby Fabbri for the shot. This was Fabbri’s 18th goal of the year, passing Assistant Coach Kirk Muller’s 17 goals in his rookie season. The Blues lead 2-0.
Late in the second period (4:28 remaining) Carl Gunnarsson found his way onto the board. Gunnarsson took a shot from the point that went by Markstrom while Brouwer was standing in front to screen. The puck hit Markstrom’s glove on its way into the net. The Blues now lead by 3-0.
Early in the third period things looked grim for the Canucks when they took 2 penalties in close succession. First Jannik Hansen went to the box for high-sticking 18 seconds into the period, then Dan Hamhuis followed 4 seconds later after sending the puck over the glass. That gave the Blues 1:56 of 5-on-3 power play time. The Canucks’ penalty kill was working tonight, and they kept the Blues out of the net during this extended 2-man advantage for St Louis.
Markstrom may have given up a number of goals, but he had definite flashes of greatness. He was able to stop Brouwer on several breakaway attempts. The best of which took place early in the third period. Brouwer came barreling in, and sent a shot that Markstrom was able to grab right out of the air. This game could have had a much higher score.
Late in the third period and the Blues will show that they are not taking it easy tonight. With 7:47 remaining in regulation Tarasenko wins a battle in the corner and sends the puck to Joel Edmundson. He in turn takes a slap shot that makes it by Markstrom for Edmundson’s first career NHL goal. The crowd and the team go crazy. Edmundson was the last regular Blues’ player (not including Steve Ott who has been out for an extended period of time) to score a goal this season. Colton Parayko received an assist on the play making him the 9th Blue to reach 30 points this season, and as a rookie defenseman that’s not bad. The Final: Blues 4, Canucks 0.
Elliott has 3 consecutive shutouts since returning from injury. This gave Elliott his 25th shutout as a Blue extending his franchise record. He has had 3-consecutive shutouts twice before in his career, March 22-27, 2012 and April 7-11, 2013. Congratulations Elliott!
Feature Image Courtesy Of Dinur / Flickr