Sunday, February 7, 2016

Building quality minutes key to moving forward

Blues found plenty of good in 4-1 win against 
Wild, looking to sustain the good, eliminate the bad

ST. LOUIS -- The things the Blues preached during their recent stretch of goal futility came to fruition for one game.

But now the challenge after a 4-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday at Scottrade Center is if the Blues, who picked up win No. 30 (30-17-8), can sustain the of one game.

That included a successful power play (3-for-6, which broke a string of 24 straight goalless power plays), a strong penalty kill (6-for-7), scoring those greasy, dirty goals, playing in the hard areas and getting great goaltending.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko (91) looks to make a pass with a trio of Wild players
defending on Saturday in a 4-1 Blues victory.

"Now we just have to keep going the same way," said center Jori Lehtera, who scored a power play goal and assist on another. "I think guys got a lot of self-confidence from this game. I think it's going to help us the next game."

The Blues had sustained zone time after winning offensive-zone faceoffs on the power play, which resulted in Vladimir Tarasenko's goal after a nifty pass from Paul Stastny through the crease, 

"A lot of movement, and when you do a lot of movement, guys end up in different positions," Stastny said. "When we have four lefties that can play different spots and 'DB' (David Backes) patrolling in front and popping up, they have to respect him. 'Steener' makes a good play, kind of sucks the guy in and then I throw across to 'Vladi' and instead of him rushing he polishes off a bit and bears down and puts it top shelf."

They got the goals from Lehtera and Stastny as a result of crashing the slot and collecting loose pucks or getting that fortuitous bounce, and on Troy Brouwer's goal, it was another example of working the puck well, getting sustained zone time to set up a one-timer in the slot.

"I saw more bodies to the net-front, yeah," associate coach Brad Shaw said. "The Stastny goal's a great example. That's not a classic hockey play, but it's a result of us with bodies and intent and effort. We probably get a fortunate bounce, but we worked real hard to get that bounce."

The Blues gave up a whopping 24 shots in the second period, mostly because of sustained offensive zone time on the power play by the Wild, but Brian Elliott, who made 38 saves, came up with some beauties during a 23-save period, including robbing Nino Niederreiter moments before Stastny made it 3-0.

"We got in a little penalty trouble again," Elliott said of the second period. "I was just talking with the guys. They were just throwing pucks and trying to whack away at it in the crease and that's how they ended up getting their goal. We did a good job of just making them kind of passing it around and not really have any wide open chances.

"We actually got to a lot of pucks and they managed to keep them in at the blue line; they're a pretty good team at that. If we cleaned that up a little bit, I'm assuming we wouldn't be seeing as many shots. It's stuff to work on and we escaped with two points."

Said Shaw: "Even the Stastny goal to make it (3-0), they just have a fantastic chance where it might be (Niederreiter) that gets stymied by 'Ells.' And then we go down 10, 15 seconds later and get a hard-working goal to go up (3-0). Both of those moments were real key moments in the game because you feel in the second that we weren't quite putting enough pressure on them and backing them off. They were sort of generating some momentum, especially through their power plays."

Elliott is 4-2-1 with a 1.43 goals-against average and .955 save percentage the past seven games; he's 7-3-1 in 11 starts since Jake Allen (knee) went down Jan. 8.  

"Brian has been the best player for our team for a long time," said Lehtera, echoing coach Ken Hitchcock's recent comments. "He played a good game today as well. That's nothing special anymore."

Stastny said, "He's just playing with confidence, playing good, we kind of rely on him. Whether it's him, whether it's 'Snake,' both of those guys, when they're playing their game, they're seeing the puck well, they're moving well. He's playing the puck a lot more too. Sometimes they dump it in and when he has a lot of confidence he does a lot more things than just play the net."

It wasn't the cleanest of wins for the Blues but one they'll take at this point. Building quality minutes and strong play will be the key moving forward, win or lose.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (right) left Saturday's game in the third
period with an apparent right knee injury.

"We had a good power play today. That's good for the rest of the year," Lehtera said. "We scored goals. ... Good puck movement, good shots and guys hit the net. Simple stuff.

"Good penalty kill today; we played well. ... We just fought through it. We played for our team. That's how you get rewarded."

The Blues were off Sunday and had no update on defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who appeared to take a shot to the right knee after a check by Charlie Coyle. Shaw said after the game Pietrangelo was "a little sore" and the team would see how Pietrangelo felt Sunday. He was able to skate off on his own power.

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