Blues simplify power play, back on top of NHL;
Hitchcock finds "nice role" for Roy; passing trio of tests
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When the night concluded and the Blues scored three times on four power play opportunities against the Colorado Avalanche Thursday night, St. Louis was leading the NHL once again.
The Blues, who are 16 for 61 with the man advantage (26.2 percent) overall and 12 for 39 on home ice (30.8 percent), came into the game scoring only once in their previous 15 tries.
So what was the formula for getting back on track?
"We've simplified and started shooting the puck and found a few ugly ones in front," said captain David Backes, who scored one himself Thursday. "... We've hopefully learned our lesson that getting cute and scoring one out of 20 that are pretty isn't worth it when we can score a couple a game if we just do things the hard way and shoot the puck and find rebounds and put them in the back of the net."
The Avalanche and the Blues came in as the only teams to not have allowed a road power play goal. Colorado was a perfect 20 of 20 before the Blues broke that barrier.
"I think a lot of it has to do with how much we were shooting the puck," said right winger T.J. Oshie, who had a career-high four-point game (all assists) Thursday. "Guys were getting to the right spots and we were shooting it and getting some bounces.
"The last couple games, I don't know if we were getting those bounces because we haven't been shooting enough. (Thursday), we were shooting it and they found the net."
Of the 16 power play goals the Blues have scored this season, 10 of them have come directly off of winning the offensive zone faceoff, including two Thursday.
"That's one thing we've been pretty good at right from the start of the year is our power play getting stuff right off faceoffs," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "Don't let them get a chance to gain any momentum and that sort of thing."
* A perfect spot -- Forward Derek Roy, who had his first three-point game in Thursday's 7-3 victory against the Avalanche, found himself playing most of the night with fourth-liners Maxim Lapierre and Ryan Reaves.
Coach Ken Hitchcock has also implemented Roy on the team's top power play unit with Backes, Oshie, Alexander Steen and Alex Pietrangelo, and Roy was able to get the Blues on the board first with a power play goal early in the game.
"We've got to make plays," Roy said. "We've got to be confident in ourselves. I thought we did that. We had some great presence in front of the net by David and we had obviously Stewy (Chris Stewart) with that goal. We need some presence in front of the net. Us skill guys have got to make plays and work hard to get the puck back.
"We can make plays when we have the chance to, but at some times, the easy plays are to get the puck on net, retrieve it and keep battling for loose change in front."
Some would view it as demotion for Roy, who began the season as the Blues' No. 2 center but has since moved over to play left wing. But with the way Lapierre and Reaves are playing, adding an offensive-minded player may give that unit an even greater boost.
"He helps us a lot on the power play," Hitchcock said of Roy. "He's great on 4-on-4. He's become a great specialist for us. At the end, he plays anywhere between 13 and 16 minutes, which helps us a lot.
"We found a nice role for him. He brings real patience on the power play, he brings real patience 4-on-4, adds skill to a line. Lapierre and Revo are really playing well. It's become a really good line. ... What we've got going right now is a first line and three third lines."
* Passing the test -- The Blues came into the last three home games viewing them as a huge test.
All three teams (Pittsburgh, Phoenix and Colorado) were at or near the top of their respective conferences and teams that boasted strengths in different areas the Blues were ready to embrace.
Each posed a different challenge and if not for an overtime loss to the Coyotes (3-2 Tuesday), the Blues would have come away with all six points. But five of the six points on the table was not too bad of a result.
"You still want to play better all the time, but when we looked at this week, it was a big week," Bouwmeester said. "We had a bunch of tough games and we've done a good job. We've got one more and then we have a tough road trip. There aren't a lot of easy nights anymore. We kind of have some momentum and we just want to build."
Roy added: "We need to get some wins when we're at home." Especially since the Blues have played 11 of their first 17 games at Scottrade Center.
* One-timers -- The Blues (12-2-3), who play host to Carolina Saturday night, will be seeing the Hurricanes for the first time since March 15, 2012, a 2-0 Carolina victory in Raleigh, N.C. Carolina, which was playing host to Anaheim Friday, last visited St. Louis Oct. 21, 2011, a 3-2 overtime victory for the Blues. ... Brian Elliott will get the start in goal vs. the Hurricanes. Jaroslav Halak will play Sunday at Washington. ... For the second time in franchise history, the Blues have 12 wins in their first 17 games to start a season. They were 12-4-1 during the 1990-91 season. ... The victory over Colorado Thursday enabled the Blues to overtake the Avalanche in terms of points percentage (.794). ... Steen will come into Saturday's game leading the NHL in goals (16) and trailing only the Penguins' Sidney Crosby in points by one with 24. ... Blues D Kevin Shattenkirk has 10 points in his last 10 games (nine assists).