The Blues’ 5-4 overtime victory over Chicago lifted them within a single point of a playoff spot with ten games left.
Sure, if the post-season started today, the Blues wouldn’t be one of the sixteen teams to participate, but I’m looking at the positive here. After losing nine out of 10 games, the Blues have now won four out of five. I’m naturally an optimist, and the weekend validated my feeling. You know the old game of saying one nice thing about someone? I’ve got FIVE nice things to say about the Blues.
1) They were relentless over the weekend. After failing to come back to win a game since November 18 against Vancouver (down 1-0 and 3-1, won 4-3 in OT) the Blues rallied from deficits to beat both the Rangers and Blackhawks. Against the Rangers, the Blues squandered a pair of leads and trailed 3-2 entering the third period. Captain Alex Pietrangelo scored the equalizer at the 5:15 mark, and then Brayden Schenn won it for the Blues in overtime. At Chicago, Petro scored another late one to force another OT, forcing the overtime in which Patrik Berglund scored the game winner. Two must wins, and the Blues won both by rallying from behind for OT victories.
2) The power play has found it’s way. Sure, perhaps it’s because Vladimir Tarasenko is out, but whatever it takes, right? When Tarasenko left the Ranger game after one period, the team was scoreless in their last fourteen power play chances. Since he went out, the Blues scored on 3-of-4 chances. There’s a strong belief that Tarasenko doesn’t exactly adhere to the system on the Blues’ power play. Whether that’s the reason or not, the fact is the Blues have found some magic in their last four power plays.
3) Jake Allen is back, baby. Allen is 4-1-0 in his last 5 starts with a 2.79 GAA and a .896 SV%. The goals against and save percentage aren’t stellar, but the .800 winning percentage is. Allen has made magnificent saves in each of the four wins in this stretch. He needs help to win, but the team is winning, so they’ll take it. By the way, Saturday was the first time since December 5 that the Blues had won a game while allowing three or more goals. Sunday was the second.
4) The Blues have killed off 42 of their opponents last 64 power plays, which is a pedestrian 65%. The Blues need to be much better in special teams in their pursuit of a playoff spot. With the departure of Paul Stastny and injuries to Tarasenko, Scottie Upshall and Jay Bouwmeester, the Blues aren’t going to be a very strong 5-on-5 team. The need to take advantage of power play opportunities, but most importantly the PK system and Allen (until Carter Hutton returns from injury) need to improve dramatically.
5) Alex Pietrangelo has back-to-back three point games, and Vince Dunn had a four point game at Chicago. A Blues defenseman has scored at least one goal in each of the last five contests, which is a positive sign. This season, Blues defensemen are third in the league with their 43 combined goals. This is important for a couple of reasons. Number one, the Blues forwards have left something to be desired offensively. But most important, they’re now 22-4-3 when a defenseman scores, and 17-24-2 when a defenseman doesn’t. If the Blues can keep getting offensive production from the blue line, they can have a little bit more success.
We don’t know if this is the team that played the first thirty games, or the team that had the dismal ten game stretch with nine losses. But I’m looking at the bright side of life. Since they’re coming away with victories, I’ll be optimistic about the Blues’ chances.