It was only a month ago when the St. Louis Blues were floundering through the 2011-12 season. The team was sitting with a lackluster 6-7-0 record and they were coming off a boring 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild—their third loss in four games. They had the worst power play in the league and looked like a mediocre team that was headed for a mediocre season. Fans expected much more from the team that was sitting in the 14th spot in the Western Conference.
Enter Ken Hitchcock.
Since Hitchcock took over the head coaching duties from Davis Payne, the Blues have gone on an 11-2-3 streak to springboard the team up the standings. They’ve gone from a team that was on the outside of the playoff hunt to a team that is only a single point behind the Chicago Blackhawks for the lead in the Central Division. They’ve used an 11-3-1 record at home and have become one of the best 5-on-5 teams in the league. Yeah, they’ve been pretty good.
Then there are games like Saturdays contest against the San Jose Sharks when they prove that they can win in different ways. The 1-0 win over the Sharks featured a power play goal from Kevin Shattenkirk to deliver the victory for the Blues. How dangerous will this team be when they figure out how to consistently score on with the man advantage?
No matter which way you cut it, the Blues can thank their defense and goaltending for their success this season. The team is leading the league with a 2.03 goals against average this season. Even more impressively, they’ve only give up 1.50 goals per game in the 16 games since Ken Hitchcock took over the team. Brian Elliott has come out of nowhere and is leading the league in goals against average (1.45) and save percentage (.947) among goaltenders with more than two starts this season. The 12-2-0 record isn’t too bad either.
The success has been a long time coming. For the last few season, the Blues have been a team that looked like they were on the edge of turning the corner. With Hitchcock installing his coaching his philosophy and adding a little life to the locker room, the team is starting to fulfill their potential. But are they good enough to compete with the likes of the Blackhawks and Red Wings for the Central Division crown?
We’re now over two days removed from last Friday’s tilt between the Bruins and the Rangers, but the coaches from both teams seem unwilling to move on.
Moments after that game, Claude Julien claimed that Henrik Lundqvist did some “acting” on the ice to sell a goalie interference call on Brad Marchand.
On Saturday, Alain Vigneault fired back by saying that Julien needed to get his eyesight checked. Vigneault also compared Aaron Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton in the 2011 Stanley Cup final to Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan in Friday’s game.
Now it was Julien’s turn to address the “issue” at hand.
Julien clarified his original comment about Lundqvist and he also tackled some of Vigneault’s comments.
“I think it’s pretty obvious what I said . . . I thought Lundqvist sold it,” said Julien. “Not for a second did I ever question Henrik Lundqvist as a person, or a goaltender or any of that. We all know how good he is as a goaltender, and I know he’s a good person. I’ve met him at the All-Star games and all that stuff.
Julien on his eyesight: “As far as my eyes, I’m not the one that compared Beleskey’s hit to Aaron Rome’s [hit]. We’ll just leave it at that.”
It’s time for both sides to move on.
It was a scary sight.
Carlo Colaiacovo fell to his hands and knees after taking a cross-check to the throat from Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson (above).
Arvidsson received a five-minute major and a game misconduct, while Colaiacovo suffered a dented trachea on the play.
After the game, both Dan Bylsma and Peter Laviolette agreed that there was no malicious intent on Arvidsson’s part.
“I don’t think there was intent there to maliciously cross-check,” Bylsma said. “They kind of lose the puck, turn and his stick is right at that level and delivers a blow. When you look at it, it’s a pretty stiff cross-check to Carlo’s neck.”
“It was tough for Arvidsson,” said Laviolette. “I don’t think he had any bad intentions. He just ran into somebody and the stick got caught a little bit high, but just a tough turn of events.”
The Sabres defenseman left the game and was treated at a nearby hospital, but there is some good news to report.
According to the Buffalo News, Colaiacovo was released from hospital and he was able to travel to Detroit with his teammates.
It’s unclear how long he’ll be out.
There’s been a lot of movement between Montreal and Saint John’s lately and that continued on Sunday.
This time, it’s forward Daniel Carr who’ll be getting a stint with the big club.
Carr has no prior NHL experience.
The 24-year-old spent four years at Union College before joining the Canadiens organization as an undrafted free agent.
In his first season as a pro, Carr scored 24 goals (led the team) and 39 points in 76 AHL games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2014-15.
This year, Carr has seven goals and 15 points in 20 games.
Montreal is without forwards Torrey Mitchell, Brendan Gallagher and Alexander Semin.
Brian Campbell doesn’t score as many points as he used to, but he came up with a huge goal against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.
With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Campbell skated into the slot and beat Petr Mrazek with a perfect wrister to end the game.
It was also a pretty nice passing play between Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Huberdeau and Campbell.
Dylan Larkin opened the scoring in the second period before Reilly Smith leveled the score with just over five minutes remaining.
The Wings have blown a lead in three straight games.
Detroit was up 2-0 and 3-2 in their last game, against Edmonton, before they finally closed the game out with an overtime goal by Niklas Kronwall.
They weren’t so fortunate against the Bruins on Wednesday, as they lost 3-2 in OT after leading 2-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation.
This was the first meeting of the season between Detroit and Florida, but they’ll see each other three times between Feb. 4 and Mar. 19.