Saturday, April 7, 2018

Blues jump over Avalanche with 4-1 win at Chicago, setting up showdown Saturday

St. Louis needs just one point to qualify for playoffs; Berglund registers second 
career hat trick, Hutton sharp in goal with Allen off to Denver to rest up for start

CHICAGO -- One big one down, one more big one -- a huge one -- to go.

The Blues got a big win on Friday, 4-1 against the Chicago Blackhawks, and moved one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche with one game left Saturday night against the Avs, with the final entry into the Western Conference playoff s on the line.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Patrik Berglund scores in the third period past Blackhawks
defenseman Jordan Oesterle in a 4-1 St. Louis victory Friday in Chicago.

The name "Hattrick" Berglund began to circulate on Twitter pretty quickly after Patrik Berglund recorded the second hat trick of his NHL career to help the Blues (44-31-6), who snapped a four-game losing streak (0-3-1), leapfrog the Avalanche for the second wild card.

The Blues have 94 points, Colorado has 93.

So here's the scenario:

With the regulation win Friday, the Blues can get any win or an overtime or shootout loss on Saturday and they're in. The only way the Blues miss the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons is a regulation loss.

Blues center Kyle Brodziak calls Saturday's game in Denver "a Game 7."

But after choking away a 4-3 loss to these very same Blackhawks (33-38-10) on home ice Wednesday that could have turned Friday into a clinching scenario, the Blues just wanted to get a good feeling, a positive feeling heading to Denver.

"The main thing was to just play a good game so we have a good feeling the rest of the night, a good feeling going into tomorrow's game," Brodziak said. "You always want to have that, you always want to feed off good energy and I thought tonight, for the most part, we played really smart hockey. We were managing the puck, we weren't easy to play against. We got the result, which was the main thing.

"Tonight was important for us to get a good feeling. Just to play a good game and get a good result. I think that was important for us. I thought last couple games we went through good stretches where we were playing really well but we had a few lulls and to go through a full game tonight and not that period where we had a lull was important for us and we need to do the same tomorrow."

The Blues got that good feeling, and Berglund was at the forefront. His second hat trick (first since scoring three at Montreal on Feb. 11, 2017) helped the Blues win a game they desperately wanted to put more pressure on Colorado, which now has to beat the Blues outright in regulation to move on.

For Berglund, it's been a roller coaster season, but since he was made a healthy scratch on Feb. 28 against Detroit, the veteran forward has 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 14 games. Prior to that, he had 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 40 games.

"It was putting more work in the gym, putting more work on the ice, more work in and after practices," Berglund said. "Just trying to find your confidence, shoot more pucks, do all that stuff. I truly believe, too, that hard work pays off and that's all I could do at that time. I'm happy where I'm at right now and hopefully I can keep going."

Carter Hutton, who made his first start since March 3, made 19 saves. He got the start in place of Jake Allen, who is still the planned starter for the game against the Avalanche and was sent to Denver earlier in the day ahead of the team to get a mental edge and some physical rest.

"I thought we did a really good job, battled," Hutton said. "I thought their goalie [J-F Berube] played really well. It's one of those ones, I thought I made a bunch of timely saves and then they get one on me, and then we go get one right back. I think for me, I make a big save on [Patrick] Sharp (in the third period). I think for me that's kind of a turning point in the game and then we go score, right. So that's one of those ones that you remember. 

"Sometimes it's not how many you make, it's just the timely ones. Tonight was just a battle for me, I think mentally, and I think I did a good job Truthfully, I didn't love the goal. I kind of got caught cheating a bit, but it's also been how long since I played. I think there's a lot of positives I can take out of it. For us, I thought we played a great structured game, especially that's what we're going to need tomorrow."

"I haven't played in a while. You're just getting back in the flow of things, right. But I honestly felt great. It wasn't a ton of work, but I thought there were some pretty good Grade-A chances that I made some good saves on. I thought I settled in there, playing the puck a little bit. That's something you kind of get a little more patience the more you play. I thought we did a great job of eliminating second chances. They've got some guys that can buzz and our 'D' did a great job."

Berglund's 15th of the season put the Blues ahead 1-0 with 1:43 remaining in the first period.

Kyle Brodziak, who had two assists giving him nine in the past 10 games, got a puck from Alexander Steen before a reverse pass to Joel Edmundson at the point, and Edmundson's wrister was redirected by Berglund from the high slot past Berube.

"I really think it's a really good play," Berglund said. "You get a really good tip and the goalie doesn't really know where it's at. You have a lot of bodies in front. If it doesn't go in, rebounds and all that will be around the net, so I think that it's a good play."

Hutton only faced five shots in the first period but made his best save on Alex DeBrincat point blank with 9:51 remaining.

For the second straight game, the Blues held a one-goal lead heading into the third period. They lost it for the first time this season in regulation on Wednesday in the loss, but not this time.

Even after Erik Gustafsson scored at 8:08 of the third to tie the game 1-1, there was sort of a sense of oh-no, not again. But Berglund's goal 16 seconds later off a loose puck batted out of mid-air that hit Brodziak in the slot after Robert Bortuzzo's wrister from the right point made it a 2-1 game and was a huge answer.

"It was obviously real important," Berglund said. "It's a very big game for us. It's good that we came back right away and then 'Schenner' [Brayden Schenn] made a great play to 'Schwartzy' [Jaden Schwartz] for that third one. After that, we felt like we definitely controlled the game more."

But first there was Hutton's save on Sharp with 8:39 remaining from the slot that could have tied the game.

"To (answer with the 2-1 goal), and then [Hutton] made a huge save on the one-timer when it was 2-1 in the slot," Yeo said. "That's what you like about him, he's hard on himself, but I thought considering how long he's been out, he did a good job for us tonight."

Schwartz's 23rd of the season came after Schenn forechecked the puck off Duncan Keith's stick and fed Schwartz in the slot for the one-timer at 12:40.

And Berglund completed the hat trick with a bouncing, rolling puck into the empty net at 18:49.

"I sure did get about a lucky hundred bounces on it," Berglund said. "We'll take it."

It sealed what was a solid road win.

"That was obviously the focus here tonight," Yeo said. "We knew we needed sort of a defense-first mentality. They're so dangerous some of the players that they have there, obviously. Kane, Sharp, those guys were, I thought that they were a threat, but we were on guard against it all night and did a pretty good job managing the puck."

The Berglund, Brodziak, Alexander Steen line had five points and was a plus-7 for the game.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Carter Hutton makes one of his 19 saves in front of Blackhawks
center Artem Anisimov on Friday at United Center.

"Yeah for sure, really solid for us, really solid for us," Yeo said. "That's what they've been doing. They actually could have had a couple of other goals tonight in the game, but they were doing it the right way, just as far as their approach to how they were defending and countering and just hard to play against."

Now, for the "Hattrick" Berglund name?

"I wouldn't believe that," Berglund said with a grin. "Doesn't happen very often."

"Yeah, I guess so. I don't know, I think he's going to hear about that last one," Brodziak said laughing. "It had a couple lucky bounces on the way in. We'll give him some for that though. He scored some big goals tonight, especially right after they scored in the third to tie it. To bounce back and him to score that one, that was huge."

* NOTES -- Alex Pietrangelo ties Bob Plager for second-most games played in Blues history among defensemen with 616. ... Just for informational purposes, since Yeo said the plan is to stick with Allen for the start Saturday, Hutton is 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .951 save percentage against the Avalanche this season, Allen is 0-1-0 with a 3.13 GAA and .864 save percentage against the Avs. ... Berglund has eight goals the past 10 games, including four against the Blackhawks; he scored the game-winner in OT here on March 18.

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