Friday, September 22, 2017

Husso, kids earn good marks in 4-0 win over Capitals

Goalie gets 27-save shutout, Thomas 
scores twice for Blues in impressive effort

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On paper, the baby Blues were up against it vs. a veteran-laden Washington Capitals lineup.

But needing to show something playing three games in three days, many of the young Blues players were thrown into the fire pit against a tough Capitals squad that dressed a decent number of their top players, including former Blue T.J. Oshie.

From Ville Husso in goal to Vince Dunn, Jake Walman, and Niko Mikkola on the blue line to Robert Thomas, Tage Thompson, Jordan Kyrou, Klim Kostin and Conner Bleackley at forward, an the long-awaited return of forward Robby Fabbri, the young Blues came to play on Friday and downed the Capitals 4-0 at First Capital Arena.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robert Thomas (second from right) reacts after scoring on Friday against
Washington in a 4-0 Blues victory.

Thomas scored twice and he and Bleackley scored first-period goals for the Blues (2-1-0), who entertain Dallas on Saturday before playing Pittsburgh on Sunday. Husso made 27 saves in his first-ever start for the Blues, and many of the same players that played Friday were all part of a 5-3 loss at Dallas in the preseason opener that exposed, at times, flaws in players' games, made vast improvement in this game.

"They played hard," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "First off, a lot of them showed improvement for me from the first game that they to this game. That's what you're hoping to see. I thought the first game these guys payed in Dallas, there was a lot of wait to see what other team was gonna do and I thought they were more aggressive and assertive tonight. It was a good sign."

Starting with Husso, a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, it was his first start of any kind in a NHL game, and he made the most of it with a 27-save shutout. Husso's now stopped 36 shots in games during this preseason (he made nine saves in the third period and overtime Wednesday of a 3-2 overtime win over Columbus).

Husso played calm, he was confident, aggressive in the blue paint, challenging shooters from the tops of the paint, square to pucks and stood his ground when bodies were collapsing around him in the crease.

"It's been really good camp for me," Husso said. "When we came here, I was thinking to just play hockey and don't (feel) any pressure. It's been good camp for me so far.

"... Nice that get to play the whole game. It was a good game."

Thomas, the 20th pick in the 2017 NHL Draft who was a minus-3 in the game against the Stars but didn't play particularly poorly, felt that there were lessons learned from his first NHL game that he applied to Friday; he went to the dirty areas and sacrificed himself to make plays, went to the net twice on his goals, which were set up by a nice backhand feed from Dmitrij Jaskin in the first period and an even better pass from Ivan Barbashev for his second of the game in the third, improved vastly.

"It was definitely difficult in the first one, get thrown into it against some of best players in the league," Thomas said. "Definitely a good adjustment game and I learned a lot, took positives and brought into this game. I thought I had a pretty good game offensively and defensively. It was a good experience and start to move forward.

"I thought I got into dirty areas well, goals in dirty areas, got to go there. The one thing I learned in Dallas, you've got to go there to be successful. I applied that to the game tonight and it worked out pretty good."

As for Fabbri, who is coming off a left ACL tear sustained against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 4, it was his first game after the original play was to play Tuesday in Dallas. 

He played 19 minutes, 8 seconds and had three shots and split on two faceoffs.

"Good. That was exciting, Fabbri said when asked how he felt. "Good to get back out there again. You really see the difference there in a game than a scrimmage against the guys. I thought it was a good first game and was just glad to get my feet wet and keep moving from here.

"The biggest thing is try not to get too frustrated with the things out there. It's tough just come back in and be the same player right away. It's going to take a few games here. We're really going to be working here the next couple weeks to get ready for the season."

The mental aspect of the game was probably one of Fabbri's biggest adjustments. It's one thing to get hit by teammates who know not to hit you where the injury occurred, but to do it against the opposition is a different story.

"I'm not going to lie and say going into the corner against a couple guys isn't in the back of your head, but the first few encounters there, it's gone now and I started throwing the body around and got pretty confident out there," said Fabbri, who played on the left wing with Ivan Barbashev and Beau Bennett. "Glad to get that out of the way and get some hits in and really feel that."

Thomas pit the Blues ahead 1-0 by driving the net and converting Jaskin's pass at 17:40.

Bleackley made it 2-0 39 seconds later by collecting a rebound in the slot of a Nate Prosser shot and beating Braden Holtby.

Husso kept the Blues in the lead with a number of solid saves, including a sprawling right pad save on Tom Wilson's backhander in the second period.

"He was really good," Yeo said of Husso. "For a guy I didn't know a lot about, he's been impressive all through training camp."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robhy Fabbri made his long-awaited return to the lineup Friday, his first
game since Feb. 4.

Thomas made another rush to the net and converted Barbashev's slot feed after Kyrou started the play at 12:22 of the third, beating former Blues netminder Pheonix Copley for a 3-0 lead, and Kostin's pretty goal at 16:28 off a saucer pass from Wade Megan made it 4-0 and a solid all-around effort by the Blues.

"Thomas and Kyrou both elevated their game tonight," Yeo said. "Both were very impressive. ... Part of it is knowing what to expect a little more, I liked the attitude they brought into the game. They wanted to show they had more than they showed the last time and that's a good sign.

"I thought Magnus (Paajarvi) had real strong game. They played a hard-fought game, lot of team play was strong. When we needed someone to step up, they did it."

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