The St Louis Blues have returned from their quick 1-game road trip that took them to the Nation’s capital. The club will be at home for the next 2 games before heading out on the road once again. The Blues are flying high right now, entering tonight with 4 consecutive shutouts under their belt. Tonight the Blues play host to fellow Central Division rival, Colorado Avalanche. The Blues, with their 45-22-9 record and 99 points, are tied with the Stars for first place in the Division, as well as the Western Conference (Dallas has the tie breaker with 3 more regulation and overtime wins). The Avalanche have a record of 39-33-4 and 82 points, which puts them 3 points behind the Wild in the second, and final, wild card spot. Colorado is fighting for their postseason-life right now. When these two teams get together the games tend to be pretty rough, but with Colorado trying to claw their way into the playoffs, tonight may be a different beast all together. Tonight’s game (on NBCSN) is set to start at a slightly different time from the usual home games: 8:30 PM ET/ 7:30 PM CT.
Preview: This is the 4th of 5 games between the Blues and the Avalanche this season. So far the Avalanche have come out on top in all the match-ups. December 13th it was a 3-1 Blues loss in St Louis. January 6th went to overtime in Colorado before the Avs came out on top 4-3, and January 22nd took a shootout in Colorado before the Blues fell by 2-1.
The Blues enter tonight on a hot streak. They have won their last 4 consecutive games by shutouts, and have reached a franchise record 240:18 without a goal being scored on them. A 5th straight shutout would tie the modern NHL record set by the Coyotes and goalie Brian Boucher (Dec 31, 2003-Jan 9, 2004). (avalanche.nhl) Of course the Blues have taken 2 goalies to reach this mark, but who is counting?
St Louis should have an extra spring to their step tonight as Alexander Steen returns to the lineup. He has been out for the last 15 games. Back on February 20th, Steen was hit by Coyotes D-man Kevin Connauton, and forced into the boards. Steen hit the boards in an awkward way, with his arm and shoulder taking a large amount of the hit. He has been out with an upper-body injury ever since. Steen has been practicing with the team since March 8th, but only recently participated with full contact. It will be a big help to the team to get him back. He is a difference-maker. Even with all the games he has missed, Steen still ranks 2nd on the team with 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists) in only 61 games played. “It was just a waiting game, that’s all it was,” Steen said. “I wasn’t overly concerned about how many games (I’d miss) or if I was going to play before the playoffs. My main concern was getting it good enough to play again, and here we are. I’m excited to get back.” (blues/steen.nhl)
Brian Elliott will return to the net tonight for the Blues. He is 3-0-1 with a 1.20 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage in his last 4 starts against the Avalanche. (blues.nhl) This will be Elliott’s 4th game back from injury, his first 3 were shutouts. He will be facing Semyon Varlamov in goal for Colorado. He has a 27-20-3 record this season with a 2.68 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. Varlamov started for the Avs last night in the game against Nashville. (avalanche.nhl)
The Avalanche will be without two of their biggest scorers when they arrive in St Louis tonight. Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon are both out with knee injuries. They are ranked 1 and 2 on the team, with Duchene recording 56 points and MacKinnon with 52 points. This can only be good news for the Blues. Twice already this season, the Blues have watched as MacKinnon tied games up late in the third period. (avalcnche.com)
This is the second of back-to-back games for the Avs. Last night they were in Nashville fighting for points, and they came out on top 4-3. Colorado has been ruling the road, they have won their last 4 road games, and want to make it five.
Injury Review: Carl Gunnarsson is out with a lower-body injury. Jay Bouwmeester is out with an upper-body injury. Steve Ott remains on LTIR with a lower-body injury after hamstring surgery.
Let’s Go Blues!
Review: On Saturday the Blues were in Washington DC to take on the League-leading Capitals. The Capitals have been so far ahead of the rest of the teams in the League, that no one has been able to touch them for most of the season. Washington was looking for one point in the game, that point would clinch the Presidents Trophy for the team.
Both teams entered the night having played the night before, and both teams needed to travel. The Blues traveled from St Louis, where they shutout the Canucks. The Capitals traveled from New Jersey, where they beat the Devils in overtime.
Brian Elliott had returned from injury for St Louis and had given the team 3 straight shutouts. Elliott did not travel with the team and Jake Allen was once again in the net. The Capitals had Philipp Grubauer between the pipes since Braden Holtby played the night before.
This would be the first game that Troy Brouwer would play against his former team since he was traded to St Louis for TJ Oshie. Oshie, was out with the flu and did not play.
Both teams looked a bit tied in the first period. There were a number of missed passes and miscommunication all around.
Things really started to pick up in the second period.
Only 4:45 into the period and David Backes started a play that got the Blues on the board. Backes bought the puck into the zone and sent it around the net. He chased after it with Capitals’ Dmitry Orlov, who was able to retrieve it, but not keep the puck. Backes passed the puck to Scottie Upshall for a shot from the dot. This shot gets stopped, and the rebound comes back to Backes. He fires the rebound toward the net and Kyle Brodziak is standing right on the doorstep to tap it in. The Blues lead 1-0.
With 8:55 remaining in the period Colton Parayko showed some more of that greatness we saw early in the season. Parayko breaks up a Capitals’ centering pass in the defensive zone. He then takes the puck behind the Blues’ net and straight up the center of the ice toward Grubauer. Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz came skating up on the wings, but this was all about Parayko. He came flying straight up the center of the ice and shot 5-hole past Grubauer. Wow, what a goal! This was challenged for off-sides, but it was deemed a good goal. The Blues lead 2-0.
Shortly later (7:15 remaining) St Louis would strike yet again. Jori Lehtera sent a centering pass to Tarasenko in the slot. Tarasenko had an open net and shot past the glove side of Grubauer. The Blues led by 3-0.
That goal gave Tarasenko his 200th career point. Congratulations!
What a great period!
The third period continued with the Capitals looking tired. They had a tough time completing passes, and just seemed out of sync.
Late in the third period, St Louis would put one more past Grubauer. Alex Pietrangelo brought the puck over the blue line. He passed it to Paul Stastny, who passed it back a moment later. Pietrangelo turns and backhands a pass to Patrik Berglund in the slot. Berglund sends a backhander past the blocker side of Grubauer and into the net. There was 2:15 remaining in regulation and the Blues led by 4-0.
The Final: Blues 4, Capitals 0.
This was the 4th consecutive shutout for the Blues. They may have been tired, but they were disciplined and played a great game.
Feature Image Courtesy Of Dinur / Flickr