Friday, February 28, 2020

Six-game winning streak has found different avenues of victory for Blues

With Dallas coming to town Saturday, Blues used end of five-game 
winless streak to fuel current run with stretch run of games looming

ST. LOUIS -- Going back over the Blues' six-game winning streak, it's been a different chapter written in each of them.

There's been goalies standing on their heads before the Blues find a way in the end. There's been playing without a full deck and going into a building of a hot team and taking it to them. Then there's a not-so-complete game in which your goalie needs to be sharp, followed by a run-and-gun style of play before finally breaking through the wall of a team dead-set on allowing you to penetrate their barrier.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues celebrated their sixth straight win Thursday night over the New
York Islanders at Enterprise Center, 3-2 in overtime.

"That time when we were losing or not playing great stretch of hockey there, we started to find our game in Nashville and build and I think it’s really starting to show now and you have to find different ways to win hockey games," Blues center Brayden Schenn said. "You can’t win 2-1, 3-2 every night and some games are going to have to go to overtime, some are going to have to be high scoring games and I think we have the pieces in this locker room to kind of do whatever."

With the Blues (38-17-10) in search of 'Lucky 7' on Saturday against the Dallas Stars (37-21-6), circling back to the six-game winning streak has stories of their own.

Starting with a 3-0 home win against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 18, which followed a season-long five-game winless streak (0-3-2) in which the Blues had already been building their game the right way, had it not been for the heroics of Devils goalie Louis Domingue, the Blues win away and hide with that result with relative ease. They outshot the Devils 39-17 and blitzed Domingue with quality scoring chance after another.

Then in a 1-0 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 20, it was a carbon copy of what t he Blues did to the Devils, only this time, Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta was even better than Domingue was. The Blues peppered and battered Raanta to the tune of a season-high 46 shots, and needed a Ryan O'Reilly goal on their 43rd shot to finally wrestle the victory. The Blues caught Arizona on the second of back-to-back and it showed, outshooting the Coyotes 46-14.

Then it got tricky, and dicey, as the Blues went into Dallas the following night for their second of back-to-back games to face a Stars team that was 5-0-1 going into the contest and ready to wrestle away first place in the Western Conference and Central Division away from the Blues, who played the game without Alex Pietrangelo (sick) and Tyler Bozak (lower body). But the Blues promptly spanked the Stars, 5-1, with a diminant display from start to finish, and Jake Allen was 3:33 away from the Blues' third straight shutout.

Last Sunday in Minnesota, it was more of a find-a-way-to-win kind of game, and Jordan Binnington supplied it with solid goaltending, and the Blues used their opportunistic offense to grab a 4-1 win.

Tuesday came with a label of run-and-gun, and with all the lead changes, being down despite dominating the first 10-15 minutes of the first period, a 6-5 win came in come-from-behind fashion in the third period to overcome some penalty kill deficiencies. Zach Sanford (two goals, one of which was the game-winner and one assist) along with Ryan O'Reilly, Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz made sure it would be five straight.

And on Thursday, the Blues needed another comeback and overtime to slip past the resilient New York Islanders after a slow start, falling behind 2-0, then staying patient and fighting through New York's resistance, tying it late on a Vince Dunn goal and Colton Parayko winning it in overtime. After allowing 12 shots in the first period, the Blues allowed the Islanders five shots the final 45:25 of the game and outshot them 32-17 for the game.

"Yeah, a lot of different ways," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Good hockey on the defensive side of things for us. Out of six games, we've probably held our opponents to 20 shots or under in four of them. That's good stuff by us defensively. We had the one shootout against Chicago. Again, a good effort by us defensively. We had to work for the goals and we got it done.

"... We've managed to keep shots under 20 in probably four of them. That's playing good defense, doing a good job in four of five of them. Chicago game was a little bit of a run-and-gun game, just back and forth. I thought the Minnesota game, 'Binner' was really good early. They had some good chances in that game. He made some big saves and we capitalized on a couple plays and got a couple goals. I didn't think we were very good in that first period against Minnesota."

The Blues entered Friday with a five-point lead on the Colorado Avalanche and six on the Stars, but the Avalanche (three games) and Stars (one) each gave games in hand, but by winning, the Blues force those opponents to win their games in hand. And in winning, they proved they can win in all facets.

"I think for the most part, we're back to our success where there's someone else is stepping up every night," Blues center Robert Thomas said. "The 'D' had the two big goals last night, the night before, it was 'O'Ry's line, 'Sanny' was good and every night it seems to be someone else. In Minnesota, it was 'Sunny' [Oskar Sundqvist], 'Barby' [Ivan Barbashev]. That's our key to success. Every night, someone else steps up and we get scoring from everyone.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jordan Binnington (right) and Alex Pietrangelo (27) have been a big part for
the Blues, not only in a current six-game winning streak, but all season.

"We've got the desperation in our game. It comes in those third periods and we're finding ways to win, even though it's not our best game or it's not playing the style that we want to play. We're finding ways to win and it's very important around this time."

With 17 games remaining, the Blues need to keep the pedal to the metal if they want to win a division title and gain home ice. Not that they're incapable of winning on the road, like they showed in the playoffs last season, but with a 22-6-5 record at Enterprise Center this season, gaining home ice would certainly be an advantage.

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