Stewart Leads Blues Over Red Wings
Anyone hear the collected sigh of relief coming from the Blues dressing room last night?
How badly did the Blues need a victory?
After falling behind 2-0 and being outshot 11-3 in the first period the Blues went on to outshoot Detroit 22-7 the rest of the game.
St. Louis struggled getting anything going offensively in the first period. They couldn’t connect on consecutive passes and turned one puck over after another. They were sloppy defensively and the residue left behind from the “homestand from hell” carried into the first 20 minutes.
Jaden Schwartz, a former first round pick, has struggled finding his game all season. With just 9:41 of ice he put together his best performance of the year. He controlled a shift on his own early in the second period which seemed flip a switch for Ken Hitchcock and his group. Schwartz displayed his tremendous ability to protect the puck while facing the glass. He can hang onto the puck in tight areas and change direction as well as anyone. For a smaller player he’s relatively strong and with a little bit of confidence he can help this team in a lot of areas. We all know how smart and intelligent of a player he is but he can do more than just think the game. I saw him play both in the USHL as well as at Colorado College where he was unbelievable at both stops. It will take time but it’s important people stay patient with this kid.
We all know Chris Stewart is lighter and has lost some weight but that alone won’t reestablish himself as a premier play on the Blues roster. It’s going to take more of what we saw in Detroit on Wednesday. For the second time this season Stewart beat Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard on a breakaway this time using his backhand to give the Blues a 3-2 lead.
The Blues aren’t considered a rush team but we got a good look at what this guy is capable of doing when carrying the puck with speed through the neutral zone. His combination of size and speed is intimidating for opposing defenses and forces them to back off. Obviously he sneaked behind Detroit’s D-men, in part because of a bad line change, on his goal but the puck was on his stick more than usual throughout the game.
Alex Pietrangelo is making a habit with some of these stretch plays. He always has his head up and with the flick of his wrist puts in on the tape. Pietrangelo made a mistake early on Detroit’s first goal but he put together a real solid performance.
I understand the Blues have to play a certain style to be successful but when the game loosens up Stewart’s skillset is visible. It’s one of his better games he’s played since coming over from Colorado. He also assisted on Vladimir Tarasenko’s sixth goal of the year. This is the second or third goal Tarasenko has scored that deflected off of the goaltender before crossing the line. Much of this has to do with how quickly he gets his shot off and how much velocity he gets on it. These aren’t cheap goals.
It's games like this when you go from saying Stewart is a guy who could be moved to a guy you can't move. Consistency is the key with this guy. We all know the talent is there, can he bring it every night?
The Blues came into the game among the worst in the league in blocked shots and some of this is related to the fact they allow the fewest shots in the NHL. They had bodies in shooting lanes all night with forwards accounting for nine of the 24 blocks. Guys like Scott Nichol, Ryan Reaves, and Vladimir Sobotka each came up with huge blocks. Kevin Shattenkirk, whose defensive game gets better every day, led the way with four. Barett Jackman and Pietrangelo had three each.
Alex Steen did have five shots on goal but they were done in relatively quiet fashion. Until the overtime winner that is. A great pinch by Jackman led to a shot and rebound which found its way to Steen. The Blues deserved a bounce to go their way and the timing couldn’t have been better.
Jake the Snake…
People forget how highly regarded Jake Allen was prior to being drafted in the second round. He was the starting goalie for Canada in the 2010 World Junior tournament and the team fully believes he could have number one potential down the road. He’s seen some ups and downs in the minors following a great rookie season with Peoria.
If you’re going to have him here you can’t be scared to play him and he gave the Blues exactly what they needed. He had a rough start before settling down and the third goal scored by Pavel Datsyuk can’t happen but he made a key save in overtime just before the Steen winner. He’s pretty skilled and is more than confident when it comes to paying the puck. His ability to move the puck up ice on the PP might have surprised some people who haven’t seen him play very much.
The Blues elected to keep him over Ben Bishop for a reason and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds Friday in Calgary.
Quietly Patrik Berglund is putting together a nice season. His shorthanded tally was just what the doctor needed. He’s tied for the team lead in goals and PP goals to go along with his shorty. He was a plus-3 on Wednesday.
Ian Cole had a little bit of a rough night although he did play hard. He took a bad penalty late in the third period which can’t happen.
More to come,
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