One thing is for certain after watching the Blues impressive comeback win over Atlanta on Saturday night. There is no way they would have accomplished this feat last season. Jay McClement completed his first career hat trick with two goals in a 1:46 span late in the game to force overtime. Then the thrilling come-from-behind win was sealed in a quick shootout thanks to goals from T.J. Oshie and Brad Boyes. There was no need for a third round as Jaroslav Halak once again slammed the door shut and caused our good friends from Montreal to sob in their french fries.
The Blues spent the better parts of two and a half periods sleepwalking while the Thrashers controlled the tempo. A late first period goal handed Atlanta a 3-1 lead, and after a scoreless second period, it seemed as if this game was over. That scenario grew even closer as the Blues missed on two power play opportunities in the 3rd period and were still trailing by two goals with just under six minutes to play. But the team woke up and stole two points. A former coach who I won’t mention by name (but whose last name rhymes with shmeneville) once told me good teams have to find ways to win on nights they don’t have their “A” game. Well, this was one of those nights, and the Blues found a way to win their 11th straight game at home.
Now let’s look at some BLUEnotes:
*The 3rd line: This line of Jay McClement, Alex Steen and newly promoted Matt D’Agostini is exactly how a coach dreams it up. This trio can check all night long, win key faceoffs, block shots, be completely defensively responsible, all while being able to contribute offensively as well. Head Coach Davis Payne deserves credit for moving D’Agostini up to this line. All he has done so far is notch four goals and two assists. He has added speed and skill to a third line that now can match up against any trio in the game. It is worth noting, D’Agostini was also acquired thanks to our best buddies from Montreal. He was a 6th round pick, 190th overall, from the 2005 draft. Now he is having a major impact on a team that has just one regulation loss in their first 9 games.
*Alex Pietrangelo/Depth on defense: How good has A.P. been? The former 4th overall pick in the 2008 draft is showing exactly why scouts couldn’t stop talking about him. He led the Blues skaters once again in total time on the ice against Atlanta with 27:56. Oh by the way, he also led all skaters with 7 shots on goal, was a plus 2 and added an assist on the game-tying goal. Not a bad night, eh? But let’s look at two other Blues defensemen who were playing due to injuries to Roman Polak and Carlo Colaiacovo. Nathan Oystrick had 11:28 total time on the ice and finished at a plus 2 with an assist in his first game of the season. He also delivered some massive hits. Tyson Strachan showed very composed play in his own zone as well. He finished with just under ten minutes of ice time and also added a physical presence. With two regular defensemen out of the lineup, the Blues organization showed off their depth by plugging in others without missing a beat.
*Jaroslav Halak: Is this guy amazing or what? Thank you Montreal! Have you ever seen a goalie make the position look so simple? He is always ready for the shooter. He just seems so comfortable between the pipes. Trailing in this game 3-1, Halak made several outstanding saves. He kept the Blues in the game until they were able to gradually wear the Thrashers down. Halak has been outstanding so far this season. You can just tell how much confidence the defense has knowing he is there to bail them out if need be.
*Officiating: Holy Don Koharski! Was this one of the worst officiated games you have ever seen? Let’s name names shall we. Steve Kozari and Ian Walsh not only need their eyes checked, but maybe their hearts as well. Did they show up to officiate a hockey game or ruin a night out for everybody involved. Consistency in calling a game is the only thing players, coaches and fans expect and desire. Their performance was atrocious and should be looked at by the league. I would have rather watched Kerry Fraser float around than these two knuckleheads.
*David Backes. No article can be all positive right? Earth to Backes, Earth to Backes! The Blues simply need more out of him. Maybe his 31 goal season two years ago is too much to expect. But he needs to show that he is capable of scoring at least 20 goals. He does have the privilege of playing on the first line. He needs to be much more involved in the play. He needs to get back to going into the “dirty” areas. He also needs to drastically improve on faceoffs. Has his wife softened him up too much? The Blues need a hard-hitting, tough to play against David Backes to find his game and make a statement.
Next up, Thursday night against the highly skilled San Jose Sharks. Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and company will present a tough challenge for Halak and the Blues. Should be fun.
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.