(St. Louis, M0.) Since Ken Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne as head coach, the St. Louis Blues have had a rebirth. They have learned to play together and how to use eachother’s strengths to get the best possible results. The key to the Blues success: balance.
The Blues have six forwards who have put up double-digit goals this season: David Backes and T.J. Oshie have 14 a piece, Alex Steen has netted 13, Jason Arnott has accounted for 12 and Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart have 10 each. Since they spread the offense around, there is not a true offensive superstar who stands above the rest. It is that balanced attack that might prevent a guy like Backes from joining Brian Elliot in Ottawa for the All-Star Game. But I don’t think anyone is complaining, after all the Blues are winning, and that is really all that matters.
Defensively the club can boast that they have three defensemen who rank in the top 15 in plus-minus. Kevin Shattenkirk (+17), Alex Pietrangelo (+14) and Barret Jackman (+13) have all shown the Blues defense not only protects well, but that they can also produce. Shattenkirk has 23 points on the year, good enough for 18th in the league and not be outdone, Pietrangelo is right behind him with 21 points which puts him 26th. Having defenders who can play on both ends is extremely important. They can give the goalie extra confidence by clearing pucks and clogging lanes, and they can also help spread the offense by hanging around the blue line on the offensive side of the blue line.
Then there are the netminders. Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak have been unbelievable this season. When Halak fell off the face of the earth, Elliot stepped in and promptly stood on his head, earning shutouts and victories while Jaro could regain his form. Halak has learned to stand tall in net again as of late and looks to be getting even better. Statistically, both netminders are two of the best in the game. Elliot has posted 5 shutouts this year, 2nd best in the NHL, meanwhile Halak has posted 3 of his own which puts him 7th. Both also goalies find themselves ranked in the top 15 in GAA. Elliot’s 1.68 GAA is good enough for 8th in the league, while Halak is 15th with a 2.08 GAA. Having two serviceable goalies allows Hitch’ to have flexibility and the peace of mind that regardless of who is in net, they won’t have a huge fall off because one of them is a “backup”.
The name of the game for the Blues is balance. Offensively they don’t depend on one guy, they have multiple defensemen who have the ability to produce and two goalies who are capable of stopping the most potent offense on any given night. This team has shown the ability to contend with and even beat some of the “elite” teams in the NHL. If they continue to play as a team, they could be very dangerous once the playoffs start.
Thanks for reading.