Thursday, December 9, 2021

Blues are battered, bruised and beaten physically, still finding ways to win

Springfield reinforcements filling gaps from missing players quite admirably 
with Walker's first NHL hat trick, Lindgren's effort in goal Thursday in 6-2 win

ST. LOUIS -- It's Dec. 9 of an NHL season, and here we are about to write in regards to the Blues about Nathan Walker, Charlie Lindgren, Dakota Joshua and Logan Brown and to a certain extent, Scott Perunovich.

Is this the Springfield Thunderbirds playing in St. Louis? 
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Nathan Walker (26) and Charlie Lindgren (39) were key contributors for the
Blues in a 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings Thursday.

To a certain degree, it is, and those players are helping the Blues in the interim.

Nathan Walker scored his first NHL hat trick, Charlie Lindgren, fourth on the Blues goalie depth chart, was rock silid with 29 saves, and Joshua added two assists for the Blues in a 6-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings at Enterprise Center on Thursday.

The Blues (14-8-4), 4-1-1 in their last six games and winners of six straight at home, are supposed to be down and out, out of luck, getting no pity from their NHL brethren as they played with 17 skaters for a second straight game.

Opponents are eventually supposed to be wearing them down with six players (David Perron, Robert Thomas, James Neal, Klim Kostin, Ville Husso and Jake Walman) down with injuries and Jordan Binnington, Tyler Bozak and Justin Faulk out due to COVID-19 protocol.

Did this really happen? 

How is this happening?

The Blues really don't care at this point. 

"Everybody has got to chip in and help," Blues coach Craig Berube, who along with coaches Steve Ott, Mike Van Ryn and Jim Montgomery are steering this MASH'ed up group these days, said. "We're getting the help from everybody. We're shorthanded, but everybody is doing their job and contributing in some way, which is important. Our veterans are doing a good job leading the way, playing solid hockey, playing the right way. I think that was the most important thing here tonight coming into the game, them leading the way."

Perunovich, Joshua and Brown have been here helping keep the train on the tracks. Brown had three points (two goals) in his first four games, Perunovich has been a mainstay quarterbacking the second power play unit and Joshua has been a nice plug-and-play workhorse on the fourth line.

But let's begin with Walker for a second. Here's a guy now in his third season in the Blues organization, meandering in the minors since the Blues signed him to a two-way contract in 2019, who had stints in each of the past two seasons up here totaling 13 games (he's played 25 NHL games with the Washington Capitals, Edmonton Oilers and Blues), was recalled on an emergency basis without cap constraints because the Blues played one skater short in a 4-3 overtime win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

Walker was called up on Wednesday and inserted into the lineup. This would be no depth addition, to skate as an extra forward. The Blues needed help. Walker was going to play, and he injected life immediately into them with two goals in the first period and completed his first NHL hat trick in the third.

Seriously, who is making up these stories? They're usually added to a book that ends with, well, a title? 


But for Walker, the night belonged to little man from Australia.

"It was incredible," Walker said. "I guess that was it. I was just happy we got the two points and we can move on to the next game now."

Put it in perspective: Walker had three goals in the NHL in 25 games; he scored his hat trick Thursday doing so with less than 10 minutes of ice time and finished the game with 12:56, and nearly scoring a fourth.

"Very happy for him," Berube said. "He's a hard-working guy. Really good teammate. Really happy for him. Happy for Lindgren - did his job. The team played well, though. We were pretty solid all game."

The Blues had talked about getting off to a good start, and Walker's first two goals provided that and a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

"I think they meant a lot to get us on the board early, especially playing shorthanded like that," Walker said. "If you can get a bit of a cushion, it's kind of nice for the guys. 

"I'm not taking all the credit for all three goals. Everyone on the ice did a lot of hard work to set those up. I'm not taking the credit for that, but getting to play with those guys and the way that they play definitely helps you out a little bit."

Walker completed his hat trick to make it 4-1 when he was in the slot and refirected Torey Krug's shot from the point past Thomas Greiss.

"I knew I tipped it and I saw the back of the net," Walker said. "I didn't know whether it might have hit 'Sunny' [Oskar Sundqvist] on the way in or 'Schenner' [Brayden Schenn]. I wasn't sure about that. I knew I tipped it and I saw the back of the net so I just figured I'd celly."

Let's go to Lindgren now. This guy was the backup to Joel Hofer in the AHL, and was called up when Binnington was put in COVID protocol and he was supposed to he Husso's backup here until Binnington got back.

But when Husso injured himself Tuesday, Lindgren, who was let go by Montreal Canadiens and signed a two-way contract for depth purposes with the Blues this past off-season, all of the sudden was thrust into the No. 1 role, backed up by Jon Gillies, who was signed Wednesday to a two-way contract.

This just sounds so incredible writing, and it's even more incredible writing about wins. But here we are, and Lindgren was solid in a 29-save effort, only beaten twice by former Blue Robby Fabbri.

"I think a lot of the nerves that I get is more so before the puck drops and then once that puck drops, you really just want to go out and play and feel the puck, and I thought Detroit, they were trying to put a lot of pucks to the net early and that always kind of helps just trying to get a rhythm," Lindgren said. "And I think our team scoring a couple goals early, that always helps to kind of settle me in and we end up potting six. So, really, really good team effort tonight."
Lindgren got a boost not only from the guys in the locker room before the game but during introductions of the starting lineup when the faithful in the arena gave him a rousing ovation.

"I noticed that. It caught me off guard a little bit," Lindgren said. "Honestly, it’s my first time starting in this building and boy the crowd is really something. They did a great job of motivating us and they were super loud. Just a super fun place to play."

Lindgren was playing confidently. He was aggressive on pucks, challenging shooters and not leaving rebounds in soft areas for the attacking players.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues goalie Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves Thursday in a 6-2 win over
the Detroit Red Wings at Enterprise Center.

"That's kind of my game," Lindgren said. "Ever since I’ve been playing goal, it's the battle, the compete, every single puck. The one thing I can guarantee you is I'll never give up on a puck. It's really the only guarantee I can give you and I think a lot of credit goes to Dave Alexander and 'Stewie' down in Springfield too, just helping me out and fine tuning things. I felt really good in there tonight."

Again, the question begs to be asked: how the heck is this team persevering right now with so many key contributors out and the reinforcements getting the job done?

They're not taking anything for granted and enjoying the ride for as long as it lasts. The Springfield Blues are on point these days and pulling their weight until the cavalry returns.

"I think it's awesome," Lindgren said. "We’re having a really good year down there, really good start, everyone's contributing. It's fun to see us five up here right now. We're pushing each other. We're trying to make every day count. And it's a great group of guys, I think, the leaders on this team, they welcomed us in and they've done such a good job with us. I think a lot of credit goes to the dressing room as a whole as well."

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