The Blues not only win, but they keep it interesting and entertaining. There is nothing boring about this team or their performances. Their last two games are a good example of the Blue Note Experience.
1. Tuesday, when the Chicago Blackhawks invaded Enterprise Center to make trouble for the Blues, the two old old rivals teamed up for Flashback Night. This was a game from the 1970s, 1980s, or the early 1990s.
Lots of open space, creativity, fast play, furious comebacks, and a run-and-fun approach that left me looking for Denis Savard, Al Secord, Steve Larmer, Bernie Federko, Brian Sutter, Larry Patey, Mike Crombeen.
And in goal: Cujo vs. Eddie Belfour … Tony Esposito vs. Mike Liut … and what the hell, Darren Pang vs. Greg Millen.
The Blackhawks drilled for three power play goals. The Blues fell behind 3-1. The Blues rallied to take the lead. The Blackhawks grabbed it back. The Blues had no intention to allow Chicago to escape with two points, so they reached deeper and staged another fantastic comeback for 6-5 win. The wild-and-crazy Blues scored four goals in the third period to stun the visitors.
2. Thursday, the New York Islanders brought Barry Trotz hockey into the Blues’ building. The audience was familiar with it; we watched this many times during Trotz’s 15-year reign as the Nashville coach.
Low and slow. Dumping pucks into the offensive zone. Sending pucks out to the neutral zone. Make the Blues spend so much time chasing and retrieving, they wouldn’t have the time or energy to charge the offense and go on a sustained attack.
The Islanders used Fox-Trotz hockey to cull a 2-0 lead. The Blues found openings and began to dominate shots and possession as the evening wore on. But going into the third period the home team trailed 2-1. It was frustrating to watch because the Blues muffed too many scoring chances.
Trotz hockey was about to steal two points –and then defenseman Vince Dunn scored on a bullet to tie it with 1:44 left in the third. And the defenseman Colton Parayko won it overtime with a freight-train rush, jumping the tracks to destroy the Islanders with a skillful and stunning wraparound goal.
First win, run-and-fun.
Second win: low and slow.
Two third-period comebacks. Two one-goal victories. Goals from defensemen. Goals from talented youngsters. Goals from dependable elders. Goaltender Jordan Binnington playing the thief by making timely saves on high-danger scoring chances.
The Blues could be forechecking fiends. They could deliver thunderous hits. They could pump plenty of shots on the offensive end but severely limit opponent’s shots on the defensive end. The Blues could prevail with muscle and sweat and hardshell competitiveness. They could prevail with their intelligence and creativity and by making beautiful passes.
The other team can choose the strategy; the Blues will adapt, adjust and conquer by turning the opponent’s style against them. The rules of engagement are pointless. The Blues can usually handle it, and find a path to two points.
“Winning a lot of ways,” Blues coach Craig Berube said after the win over the Islanders.
During their current six-game winning streak, the Blues have gotten goals from 13 different players. Goals from young dudes. Goals from old-steel veterans. Goals from defensemen. Goals from the first line, the fourth line, and everything in between Berube’s spontaneous mix-and-match combinations.
During the six-game winning streak, the Blues have outscored opponents 19-5 at even strength. (That, my friends, is a preposterous 82.3 percent of the goals scored at even strength.) And the Blues have controlled the action with 64 percent of the shots on goal, and 61% of the scoring chances, when at even-strength.
Don’t try to shut down one line; the Blues have 10 players with at least 10 goals this season. Their balance is admirable. Their depth is formidable.
If you give the Blues a chance, they can get you in so many ways. And that includes third-period rallies that leave the opponent defeated and demoralized.
Don’t let the Blues score first in a game; they are a ridiculous 29-1-8 when that happens.
Don’t expect to take the Blues down in those tight games decided by one goal. This season the Blues have played 29 one-goal games. They’ve won 17 of the games in regulation, lost only two in regulation, and earned a point in 10 other one-goal games.
And do not assume you’ve put the Blues away. This season the Blues have won seven games when trailing after two periods. Their winning percentage (.333) when carrying a deficit into the third period ranks third among NHL teams. In the past two seasons combined, the Blues had seven third-period comeback wins. This season they’ve done it seven times already, and still have 17 games remaining on the regular-season schedule.
The Blues have rebounded from a 6-9-4 stretch to get their season back on course. Their 38-17-10 record is good for 86 points — most in the Western Conference and No. 2 overall. (Boston leads the East with 92.)
But the Blues can’t ease up. In the Central division they have a five-point lead over Colorado, and a six-point edge on Dallas. But Colorado has three games in hand, and Dallas can cut into the Blues’ lead by winning Saturday night’s game at Enterprise Center.
We’re probably in for some turbulence. But it’s all a part of taking a thrilling ride, even if it makes your stomach flip. But just know that when you are squirming and panicking out of fear of a possible defeat — the calmest, coolest and composed people in the place are the guys wearing the Blue Note. They won the Stanley Cup championship last season. They brought a champion’s character into this season.
Thanks for reading…