Blues winning 5-on-5 battle; defensive production could lead to more offense
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- With all the hoopla being made regarding the Blues' specialty teams, which rank at or near the bottom of the league, the team is persevering at even strength.
The Blues' 5-6 record through 11 games may not be much of an eye-opener, but consider the fact that they are dead-last on the power play (8.3 percent) and 29th on the penalty kill (72.2 percent), being eighth in the league in 5-on-5 situations is cause for optimism.
Alex Pietrangelo (left), Kent Huskins and Jamie Langenbrunner (15) are
part of a Blues team that is No. 8 in the league in 5-on-5 play.
After all, the majority of a 60-minute game is played at 5-on-5, where the Blues are scoring 1.17 more goals per game than their opponent.
"We've made a commitment to take care of our 5-on-5 game," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said, "because obviously things on special teams aren't working out for us right now. But I think it really just boils down to we've been working harder and sticking to our game plan, especially when we go down by a goal or two. We haven't really panicked and tried to overdue it. It's been a collective effort."
Sooner or later, the Blues will improve on a 3-for-36 power play, and they won't allow a power play goal at a 10-for-36 clip.
"Our 5-on-5 game, what we've generated and what we've given up, I think through the course of 11 games, you'd take most of that," coach Davis Payne said. "The problem is, it's a full 60-minute game that involves some special teams, so you've got to be good there, too."
* Getting more from their D -- On paper, it doesn't look like the Blues are getting quite enough offensive support from their defensemen. But in actuality, the numbers are higher than they were over an 82-game period last season.
Last year, the Blues got 38 goals, 123 assists and 161 points from their defensive unit. That averages out to 1.96 points and .46 goals per game.
Through 11 games, the Blues have six goals, 17 assists and 23 points from their blueliners, which averages out to 44.7 goals on the season, 126.65 assists and 171.35 points over the course of 82 games. That translates to 2.09 points and .55 goals per game.
Kevin Shattenkirk (22) leads Blues defensemen in scoring with 6 points.
Still, the d-men feel they can give more than they've produced thus far.
"It's something we chatted about over the weekend," Shattenkirk said. "How can we improve in the offensive zone? Whether it's moving around a little more and jumping down into the play. That's something that I haven't really brought to the table as much as I did last year. I need to start going more. I used to be in and out and having a little more movement in there. That's something that we're focusing on as a d-core as well."
Shattenkirk leads the way with a goal and six points, Alex Pietrangelo has two goals and five points, Kent Huskins has two goals and two assists, Carlo Colaiacovo has a goal and two assists, Roman Polak has three assists and Barret Jackman has a pair of helpers.
* No time for panic -- The Blues were out of the gates last season fast and furious. Their 9-1-2 start was a franchise best. But through 11 games this season, they've won five of 11 games and some panic has set in among Blues fans.
But considering that eight of their first 11 games have been played on the road, the Blues are not in a panic mode themselves after coming home off a 2-2 trip. Eight of their next 11 will be in the confines of Scottrade Center, where the Blues are hoping to be rude hosts.
"I think we're much closer than we were coming out of LA," Payne said, referring to their first four-game trip that resulted in a 1-3 record. "We played poorly in that last game on that western trip and have played some pretty good hockey since (Los Angeles).
"Obviously the Edmonton game (a 4-2 loss) is another game we dragged home here and have a long week before we play again. It's the last taste in our mouth that we don't really like. With that said, we've also played some pretty good hockey. We just need to make sure we reset ourselves here and make sure we're ready to go Friday for Vancouver."
When the Blues ran into issues last season, they were not able to curb those prolonged losing streaks and nip them in the bud.
The Blues had losing skids of three games or more five times, including a set of games in which they lost five and six games, respectively. That's something they'd like to be able to put a halt to and not allow to linger.
"We've had lapses where we haven't been at our best and it's cost us," winger Matt D'Agostini said. "Especially in Edmonton, we went through a good 10 minutes where we were giving up odd-man rushes.
"I don't know if it's a lack of focus or what. I don't know what it is. We've got to be better all-around. We can't take any shifts off because the minute you take a little second off, it will come back to haunt you."
* Title hopes -- The baseball Cardinals have had much, if not all, of the focus from fans in St. Louis, and an 11th World Series championship culminated with a parade down Market Street in downtown St. Louis.
The Blues, without a Stanley Cup since their inception in 1967, would love nothing more than to have fans celebrate in the not too distant future. The football Rams have a Super Bowl championship and the Blues don't want to be left out of the St. Louis title talk.
"We imagine it just about every day," Payne said, offering his praises to the Cardinals for a remarkable run. "It's our goal, no question about it. ... It's such a great sports town, and for us to deliver that to our fans would be the ultimate."