Elliott Carrying Blues, Leopold Overlooked, Blues Offensive Mentality Must Change
The 2012-2013 St. Louis Blues won’t go down as the most exciting version we’ve seen but they’re finding ways at the right time of the season.
A sellout crowd Friday night wanted to erupt but the game provided few opportunities. The Blues did score two goals for the first time since a 2-0 win at Minnesota on April 11th. You’ll have to go all the way back to April 5th to find a game the Blues scored more than two.
Brian Elliott continues carry this team with a pretty incredible stretch in April. He was a great story last year and what he’s done this season may be even more impressive.
It truly is shaping up to be a great story.
Just a few weeks ago Elliott was eating popcorn in the pressbox and now is in line to be the starting goaltender when the playoffs begin. Elliott made some adjustments during his time as the Blues third goaltender and it’s paying off in a big way. Goaltending coach Corey Hirsch has Elliott playing deeper in his crease and he’s no longer going down on one pad like we saw from him earlier in the year.
Hirsch made the same tweaks with Jake Allen only it took Elliott three weeks to get comfortable and apply it in a game. It took Allen about six months before he felt comfortable.
Not to mention psychologically Elliott has it together. Whatever the issues were between his ears he seems to have put behind him.
Hirsch deserves some credit for the job he’s done the last two seasons with the Blues netminders.
After starting just once in March Elliott has flipped the switch in April going 8-1 with a 1.15 G.A.A and a .953 save%.
Jay Bouwmeester may have made the bigger splash before the trade deadline and may have the bigger name but has he made the biggest impact?
Jordan Leopold can’t be overlooked for what he’s brought to the Blues. You talk about stability, that’s exactly what Leopold provides. He isn’t flashy but he gets the job done. He didn’t play a ton Friday night but the two previous games he may have been the Blues best D-man. It’s not about numbers with this guy even though he’s shown he can play in all situations.
It’s been a work in progress but Leopold is transitioning himself nicely as a St. Louis Blue. Coming into a new organization is never easy. Being unfamiliar with the personnel and the system takes time to adjust. He’s showing good chemistry with Kevin Shattenkirk who isn’t afraid to speak up for a young player. Shatenkirk is a communicator who likes to talk and it’s made Leopold’s job easier in their 11 games together.
Leopold has brought a calming presence to the ice. He’s cool under fire, really competes, and has underrated strength for a player barely over six feet tall. He knows where he’s at in life and plays the game for the right reasons. The Blues needed to add a player like Leopold to the dressing room and so far so good. He makes little plays that often go unnoticed and if you watch he always puts the puck in a place where the forward can catch it and move in stride.
The addition of Bouwmeester and Leopold has allowed Hitchcock and Associate Coach Brad Shaw to slot their D-men properly and get the matchups they desire.
Jackman and Polak saw a lot of ice against Dallas due to some hard matchups but these two no longer need to play 20 minutes every night. You can’t expect them to play a rugged, in your face, physical game, while playing heavy minutes every game.
Shattenkirk and Leopold saw no time on the PK against Dallas.
Tarasenko Gets Message…
Thursday night against Phoenix Vladimir Tarasenko saw barely over 9:00 of ice time. Early in the year Tarasenko was beating defenders with his patented outside-inside move but in this league it takes only a few games before opposing D-men figure you out. You can make the case Tarasenko has the quickest release on the Blues roster and the coaching staff wants to see him use it. Passing up shots and trying to go through the D-man has proven to work occasionally but not enough to rely on it all the time.
Ken Hitchcock wants to see less dangle and more shooting. This can be difficult for a young player to get out of their system and making this adjustment is sometimes easier said than done.
Langenbrunner Not Ruling out a Return…
It’s probably unlikely but Jamie Langenbrunner says he has his sights set on playing this season. He underwent hip surgery on February 15th and Doctors said it would be three months before he’s cleared for full activity. He’s been skating daily going back to last Saturday and tells me there’s still an outside chance he plays this year. Injuries are always a part of any playoff run and at the very least the Blues would welcome having him available as an option.
Colorado on Sunday…
The Blues have games against Colorado and Calgary coming this week, two teams who won’t be playing in the playoffs this spring. These are tough matchups this time of year and teams who don’t get up for these games will find themselves in trouble. Their looking to play spoiler and if you overlook them you can be in for a rude awakening.
What else is there to say about the Blues scoring issues? We’ve pretty much covered everything. Are the Blues trying to win games 1-0 or 2-1? This has to change before the playoffs begin. Asking your goaltender to routinely win these types of games is unrealistic. The Blues played hot potato on Friday and it’s time their skilled guys start playing with the puck and looking to make plays. When is the last time the Blues had a 2 on 1 break? What happened to their transition game? Goals aren’t going to mysteriously appear with the mentality they’re taking to the ice every night.
It was nice to see the Blues score a power play goal at least on Friday. Alex Pietrangelo did a nice job moving down to the top of the circle with the Stars PK packed in tight down low. Chris Stewart hunted down the rebound off of Pietrangelo's shot for his 17th of the year.
This week the AHL Board of Governors approved the sale of the Peoria Rivermen to the Vancouver Canucks. There’s been lots of talk of former Atlanta Thrashers Head Coach John Anderson returning to Chicago to coach the Wolves next season.
Jaroslav Halak faced shots in the Blues optional skate Friday morning and his injured groin looks to be getting stronger. It’s still early in the process but it would be nice if he was able to get in a game before the regular season ends.
More to come,
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