Remember that horrid road trip? It was doom and gloom for many St. Louis Blues fans after their team went 1-3-0 on their first road trip of 2011-12. Even though it ended just under a week ago, it seems that there are only high spirits going around the organization.
Why shouldn’t Blues fans and team members be wearing their happy faces? David Perron is skating with his teammates for the first time since November 2010, David Backes seems like he may be fine after taking a crushing hit from Flyers’ defenseman Chris Pronger and Matt D’Agostini is tearing up the rink with goal after goal.
Lest we not forget that Brian Elliott is playing some amazing hockey between the pipes.
In a surprise move, Blues Head Coach Davis Payne started Elliott in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. It turned out to be the right call as Elliott made 61 saves on a total 65 shots in both games, giving him a .938 save percentage for the weekend. Most importantly, Elliott backstopped the Blues to an even 4-4-0 record on the season.
Besides goaltending issues, the Blues’ blinding problem before this weekend was special team play. Going into Friday’s game against Carolina, the power-play was about as successful as Michael Jordan’s baseball career. They were ranked 29th, posting just 1 goal on 24 opportunities (4.2%). The Blues did register another power-play goal this weekend, putting them at 2-for-27 (7.4%). Even though that puts them at just 28th in the league, it is promising that this team did muster another goal with the extra man.
The penalty-kill was just as bad as the power-play. Going 15-for-22 (68.2%) before Friday’s game, the Blues closed out both games with allowing just 1 power-play goal on 5 opportunities. Their percentage rises to 70.4% and places them in 28th. Baby steps.
There are some individual players that you can thank for the back-to-back victories as well. Matt D’Agostini had a fantastic weekend, scoring a goal in each game. His overtime goal ensured a Blues victory Friday night and he was the one who broke the Blues’ power-play drought, stealing the puck from Flyers’ net-minder Ilya Bryzgalov and throwing it into the gaping net. D’Agostini now has a team-leading 4 goals on the season. This is particularly impressive since D’Agostini ranks 16th on the Blues in ice-time, playing in just 14:43 on average per-game.
Jason Arnott deserves some credit as well. Brought in to be a depth-guy that could get some points here and there, Arnott has been an offensive force to start the season. In Friday’s game, Arnott was right where he needed to be after a Jamie Langenbrunner shot rebounded to the slot. Scoring the first goal for the Blues in the game, Arnott jumpstarted his teammates as they rallied to score 2 more goals to win the game.
Saturday, Arnott was the reason for the start of the Blues’ 4-goal outburst. His clean face-off win early in the first period was the direct cause for Kent Huskins’ goal. It came almost right to Huskins’ stick, who blasted a wrist shot past Bryzgalov. Currently, Arnott leads the Blues in assists (4) and points (7).
With the Blues playing like this, it’s hard not to be excited for this team. If Elliott can keep his play at a high level and the depth guys keep coming through in key situations, this team could skyrocket in the standings in a short period of time.