McDonald Energizes Blues Past Sharks
We’re quickly approaching the dog days of the NHL. As we near the middle of February and into March the season becomes a bit of a grind. How this team handles it will be interesting to see.
Sunday night the St. Louis Blues passed the test.
The Blues won their fourth game in a row but more importantly they got back to winning in same fashion they had over the first four months of the season. Every game this time of year means something and the Blues made San Jose look average most of the night.
The Sharks put themselves in some bad situations by taking a number of penalties and handed the Blues multiple 5-on-3 PP’s.
There was nothing exciting or special that led to the Blues converting on their PP chances. Alex Pietrangelo scored the first goal of the night off a simple rotation up top with T.J. Oshie. Captain David Backes provided a Keith Tkachuk-like screen and Pietrangelo delivered a puck that found its way into the back of the net. Overall the Blues kept it simple on the PP and when the puck goes in it makes everyone look a tad bit smarter.
Due to the San Jose penalties Barret Jackman and Roman Polak were forced to sit on the bench for several consecutive minutes in opening period.
Andy McDonald looked sharp after missing 51 games with a concussion. There’s no disputing he’s a guy that elevates the play of those around him. He brings a level of urgency that’s been missing on the power play with his speed and hockey sense. It’s not just foot speed either with McDonald. He thinks fast and there’s much less hesitation with him on the ice. When he gets the puck he looks to make plays, while other guys have a tendency to hang on to the puck he forces others to play with much better pace.
McDonald is confident enough to make what some would call high risk plays. Opposing teams respect his presence on the PP and it opens up a little more space up top. He’s considered by his peers as one of the better forwards in the league and he showed why in his first game back.
I’m not going to make McDonald out to be Sidney Crosby but he’s obviously talented and gives the Blues a dimension that only makes the team better. He has good vision and attacks with speed as well as any player on the roster. The Blues typically play with good energy but with him it’s all about puck control not to mention his ability to draw penalties. He personally had a hand in drawing two penalties on the night. One of which he used his speed to force Marc-Edouard Vlasic to turn the puck over and the Blues nearly capitalized moments later. McDonald maybe waited a second too late to get the puck to a streaking Jamie Langenbrunner but it led to a Blues PP nonetheless.
David Perron also scored a 5-on-3 goal for the Blues who now have four PP goals in two games. Perron has personally scored five goals in the last three games.
Pietrangelo enjoyed a three point night with a nice lob the length of the ice into an empty San Jose net. There’s talk of maybe allowing Jaroslav Halak a shot at scoring a goal but even he would tell you there is a small chance of him lifting the puck over everyone and sending the puck down the ice. Halak is much better at stopping the puck and you may notice he spends much less time handling the puck nowadays.
Halak made 25 saves to record his sixth shutout of the season which ties him with Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist for the NHL lead. His stingy 1.97 GAA is good for fourth in the NHL.
Halak will start Tuesday in Columbus.
The Blues got their PK in order after struggling the last eight games or so. Most hockey people with tell you a strong penalty kill is more important than a strong power play. Their forwards did a much better job of pressuring the points opposed to sitting back like we’ve seen in recent games.
With all the PP chances the Blues received in the first two periods you knew San Jose would get some calls in the third. St. Louis killed off three Sharks PP's in the final period.
You might remember us reporting that Sharks forward Brad Winchester turned down a contract from the Blues just before the trade deadline last year. I'll give him credit as he played a hard game Sunday night.
Two hits stand out from Sunday night…first off how often do we see Sharks D-man Douglas Murray get knocked off his skates? Ryan Reaves trucked him pretty good in the opening period and knocked Murray to the ice in one of the very few times you’ll see this happen.
How about Vladimir Sobotka running Joe Thornton hard into the boards and onto his back? This was the only evidence we have that shows Thornton in fact did play in this game.
Jason Arnott continues to skate on his own and is eligible to come off IR anytime. He needs to strengthen his shoulder back up to where he can shoot and take a hit. As of yesterday he was feeling better but still isn’t quite there.
Alex Steen didn’t skate Sunday morning and his timetable for a return is unclear. I’m wondering if he went too hard when he first got back on the ice several weeks ago? Considering he appears to be further away today than he was at one point in January it might make sense.
As of yesterday Matt D’Agostini had not skated.
More to come,