Blues' young forwards happy to play without 'glass ceiling' provided by Tkachuk, Kariya

keithtkachukgoodbye.jpgThe St. Louis Blues more or less completed their transition from a mixed bag of veterans and newbies to one of the youngest teams in the NHL thanks to the retirement of Keith Tkachuk and the near-retirement of Paul Kariya this off-season. Some might wonder if this will harm the team’s chemistry, but the Blues seem to think that the removal of that “class ceiling” will be a major weight off the team’s backs. (Tkachuk weight joke … kind of intended.)

Budding power forward David Backes thinks of it as a passing of the torch, as he told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“It’s kind of a ‘passing of the guard,’ the way USA Hockey did it in the Olympics,” Backes said. “It’s happening here now. They were guys that you knew could get it done. But they’re not here anymore, so someone else has got to be the guy that’s going to get that clutch goal, or produce on a regular basis. It’s an awesome opportunity. Really, there’s no ceiling, no limit.”

Rutherford points out that the minutes that went to Tkachuk and Kariya (well, whenever he actually played) will go to the team’s younger forwards.

Tkachuk and Kariya averaged 30 minutes, 39 seconds of ice time per game last season, and now that ice will be divided among David Perron, T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund, among others.

“When players get more ice time, you’re into the game more,” former Blues defenseman Al MacInnis said. “You’re not thinking, you’re reacting. Most guys at this level, they bring their game to another level because of that. You’re not even thinking about making a mistake; you’re just going out there and playing the game.”

I’ve gone on record of saying that the Blues would be a great fit for veteran forward Bill Guerin and I don’t think all the “glass ceiling” talk would excuse the team from relying too much on an aging player. Still, if the team truly wants a resounding emphasis on those wet-behind-the-ears scorers, then they’ll get just that.

We’ll see if they break through that glass ceiling or end up wounded in the process.

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    Backes scores OT goal on his birthday, Blues even up series with Stars

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    The St. Louis Blues won’t be thrilled with the way they played in the third period, but in the end, they did just enough to come away with a 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars in Game 2. The Blues’ win means that the series will head to St. Louis tied 1-1.

    The Stars opened the scoring in the first period, but the Blues responded by scoring three unanswered goals (Patrik Berglund, Joel Edmundson, Troy Brouwer) on five shots. Stars coach Lindy Ruff had seen enough from starter Kari Lehtonen at that point. He yanked Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi at the start of the second period.

    Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the second period, but things got crazy in the third.

    With his team still trailing 3-1, Mattias Janmark split Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko before scoring a great goal.

    Moments after Janmark’s goal, Brian Elliott took a Jason Spezza blast off the mask. Elliott was shaken up on the play (he even lost one of his contact lenses), but he did stay in the game.

    Stars captain Jamie Benn (surprise, surprise) leveled the score by burying a goal by Brian Elliott with under three minutes in regulation.

    Like they did during their first round series against Chicago, the Blues took some time to regroup before finding a way to get the job done.

    The Blues’ power play went back to work after Antoine Roussel took his third penalty of the game. That’s when the birthday boy, David Backes, came through.

    That’s a nice way to celebrate your 32nd birthday.

    Game 3 goes Tuesday night in St. Louis.

     

    Jamie Benn’s late goal sends Game 2 to overtime

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    This definitely wasn’t the way the St. Louis Blues drew it up.

    The Blues entered the third period of Game 2 with a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t able to shut the game down on the road.

    St. Louis jumped ahead 3-1 after 20 minutes before Dallas decided to pull Kari Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi. The move didn’t provide any results in the middle frame, but something certainly sparked the Stars in the third period.

    Mattias Janmark cut the deficit to 3-2 with this beauty (notice how he split Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo).

    With less than three minutes remaining in regulation, Stars captain Jamie Benn tied it up (top).

    It’s safe to say this wasn’t a memorable third period for the Blues.

    Video: Brian Elliott takes a blast off the mask, stays in the game

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    A bit of a scary moment in the third period of Game 2 between the Stars and Blues.

    Less than five minutes into the third period, Jason Spezza took a shot that caught Blues goalie Brian Elliott square in the mask. Play was halted as Elliott remained down. It appears as though the shot to the mask also made Elliott lose one of his contacts.

    Thankfully, Elliott wasn’t seriously injured on the play. After being examined by the team doctor, he was allowed to stay into the game. He did need a new mask though (he got his original one back a few minutes later).

    You can watch the play by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    The Blues currently lead 3-2 late in the third period.

    Here’s some Twitter reaction:

     

    Lehtonen only lasts one period in Game 2

    Lehtonen
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    Kari Lehtonen might have been more hit than miss in the playoffs going into today’s action, but Game 2 against St. Louis was certainly a start he’d like to forget.

    Dallas outshot St. Louis 10-5 in the first frame, but the Blues still managed to take a 3-1 lead. Antti Niemi replaced Lehtonen for the second period which means, barring another goalie change, Lehtonen will actually end up with a sub-.500 save percentage this afternoon.

    The numbers obviously look bad and it’s hard not to blame Lehtonen in the face of that, but the Blues deserve a lot of the credit for those goals. Patrik Berglund had a great shot on goal for the first marker, Joel Edmundson‘s first career playoff goal came after a nice setup by Troy Brouwer, and when Brouwer collected his own goal it was off of a rebound during a power play.

    So to an extent, you could say Lehtonen looked bad due to circumstances that were very unfavorable to him. Nevertheless, the Stars needed to shake things up after what was unquestionably a bad period for them.