Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blues making life easy for Halak

Team has only given up 33 shots through
two games; Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk get going on offense

ST. LOUIS -- They've blocked 31 shots, forced the opposition to miss the net another 15 times and their forwards are back-checking with authority, making it tough on their opponents to get pucks on goal.

What does it all add up to for the Blues? Only 33 total shots against through two games is a pretty good ratio.
(Getty Images)
Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak makes one of his 15 saves in
Monday's 5-2 win over Calgary.

Can they keep up a 16.5 shots per game average against? Probably not, but it's a good start to the season, and also good for their netminders as well.

"Shots are one thing," Blues coach Davis Payne said after Monday's 5-2 win over Calgary. "I think our guys did a good job getting in lanes. It's a source of pride for us. We had some key blocks in there ... good reads.

"Any time your shots are down, you've also got to look at the chances. I think we'll be happy with that way that comes out."

The Blues, who've outshot Nashville and Calgary by a combined 68-33, have split their first two games but feel good about where they stand in many areas. As long as everyone pitches in, the results will be there.

"Everyone has a certain role on this team," said forward Andy McDonald, who picked up two assists Monday. "On good teams, everyone recognizes their role and plays it.

"We had good contributions up and down our lineup. We had some guys step in and get big goals for us. ... It was tough (Saturday) night because I felt like we played a pretty good game, well enough to win. We outshot them, doubled them in shots, but we didn't get the result. We knew (Monday) we had to come out and continue with the same things but come out with the win."

Chris Stewart, who scored a key third-period goal to give the Blues a 4-2 lead, said it's common sense for the forwards to pitch in and keep the pucks away from their net.

"That's just simple math. The less shots you're going to give up in the d-zone is going to be less scoring opportunities," he said. "The more time you spend in their zone is obviously going to lead to more offensive totals. Any time you can double the other team in shots, more than likely you're going to come out with the win."

Another key source is the use of the defensemen in the offensive zone. Kevin Shattenkirk (one goal) and Alex Pietrangelo (one goal and one assist) were vital in that area Monday. The Blues' top offensive defensemen combined for two goals and an assist after being shut out Saturday.

"The big thing for us is not trying to force it and just taking the opportunities when they're there like we did tonight," Pietrangelo said after the win over the Flames. "I felt like the first game, he and I started pressing when we didn't need to. We've just got to keep playing strong in our own end and the offense will come."

Added Shattenkirk, whose goal in the second period put the Blues ahead (2-1) for good, "Our job is to be an offensive threat in the back end and we both really stepped up today and made ourselves available to get out there and get open for good plays."

The Blues were missing all their d-men in the offensive zone during an opening night 4-2 loss to Nashville.

"We knew it was an area we didn't use well on opening night," Payne said. "We wanted to make sure we did that.

"Their first touches in the offensive zone were good. Calgary's a team that gets in shot lanes very well and can counter off of that. We were pretty disciplined and executed pretty well there."
(Getty Images)
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) applies pressure to Calgary's Olli
Jokinen Monday afternoon. Pietrangelo scored his first goal of the season
and added an assist in the game.

Moving forward, as the Blues play eight of their next nine away from Scottrade Center, as long as there's balance in key areas, points are there to be had.

"We've got a good hockey team here," McDonald said. "I really like the balance we have on our forward lines. We have a lot of depth. We've got three lines that can score and a fourth line that's hard to play against. Other teams looking at that lineup (are saying) what do you really do when you have those lines come over the boards.

"We've got a strong back end and obviously, we're really strong in the net. ... We've got to realize we've got to continue to improve and build off of the good things we did (Monday)."

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