Much like last season, the Blues begin the new campaign with an impressive win over a very talented hockey team. The Blues have a great deal to be proud of after their 2-1 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. So what did they do to impress? And what looked like it might need some work? Here are some likes and dislikes after game one:
Penalty kill. The team picked up right where they left off. Last season’s number one ranked PK killed off all five of the Flyers power play chances, including a crucial 4 on 3. They did it with solid goaltending (more on that in just a bit), active sticks and tremendous shot blocking. Special teams simply wins games in this league now days and the PK was a big reason why the Blues prevailed.
Goaltending. Jaroslav Halak showed why the good folks in Montreal are crying in their coffee. Halak was outstanding in stopping 29 shots. He controlled his rebounds and made several solid saves when the score was tied. He gave the Blues a chance to win this game and the team did not disappoint. You can see in just the very first game of the season how much confidence the team has with him in goal.
Defensemen. The entire group looked sharp. Very controlled and calm. Crisp outlet passes, or as crisp as possible with the ridiculous bouncing pucks. Erik Johnson had an assist on the Blues first goal, 3 blocked shots and a team-leading 22:32 time on the ice. Barret Jackman had an assist, 6 blocked shots, 22 shifts and 16:34 time on the ice. Alex Pietrangelo looked like he belonged. 18:08 amount of ice time, including 5:18 on the power play. Team captain Eric Brewer didn’t give the haters any reason to boo. He had 2 blocked shots in 18:20 time on the ice, including 3:11 while shorthanded. All totaled, the Blues defensemen contributed 9 of the team’s 25 shots on goal. Of course, Carlo Colaiacovo scored the game-winner. Not bad for a team that desperately needs offense from the blue line this season.
Alex Steen. The best player on the ice in this game. His two assists led the way. He was tenacious on the forecheck and showed why he is a complete two-way player. Steen is somebody Coach Davis Payne can put on any line in any situation. Talk about valuable, just watch the overtime-winning goal. Steen had a tremendous game.
Brad Boyes. If there’s anybody who needs a bounce back season, it’s him. Boyes scored the first goal of the game which should go a long ways for his confidence. The Blues will need Boyes to finish if this team stands a chance at making the postseason.
Power play. This unit struggled mightily last season and did not look too steady in this game. The PP finished 1-10 which simply isn’t good enough. They seemed to be looking for the perfect play. Too many cross-ice passes against a team which is very sound positionally. With the puck bouncing as much as it was, the PP should have focused more on just putting the puck on net and crashing for rebounds. The unit also struggled with gaining entry into the zone. They went offsides on several occasions as well. No reason to be concerned after just one game, but this is an area which must be corrected to have a successful season.
Third period. The Blues were outplayed in this period. They were outshot 14-6 and allowed too many scoring chances. There were times when they rushed their passes and were forced into turning the puck over. Fortunately Halak closed the door, but the 3rd period was by far their weakest of the night.
The men in stripes. I know it’s early for them as well, but come on! The ridiculous amount of penalties called by Chris Lee and Brian Pochmara were a joke. Guys, just because a player falls down doesn’t mean it’s automatically a tripping or holding infraction. Mr. Lee and Mr. Pochmara did their best Kerry Fraser impersonations. They tried to make the game about them. At some point it will get through the officials thick heads that nobody comes to watch them skate around. Call real penalties and let the players play the game we love to watch.
So there you have it. One game down, 81 to go. Let’s now see if they can start the season 2-0 for the second straight year.
About the Author
Written by Dave Frederick
Dave has spent more than 20 years covering the NHL for a variety of different media outlets. Most notably ESPN, Fox Sports and the National Hockey League.