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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 8:57 am 
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Having already secured a playoff spot has not altered the motivation for the St. Louis Blues for the final week of the regular season.

"We've put ourselves in a good spot," St. Louis goaltender Jake Allen said. "We know we're in the playoffs, but we still want to try to keep working. More or less for us it's just playing well going in the playoffs, doing the right things."

That is certainly what the Blues have been doing lately as they begin a stretch that will see them play four games in the final six days of the regular season starting with Tuesday's home game against the Winnipeg Jets.

A 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday solidified the Blues' hold on third place in the Central Division. They are two points ahead of the Predators with a game in hand. The win improved the Blues' record to 12-1-2 in their last 15 games.

"We're still pushing ourselves to play a better game, we do that every single game," St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "Especially now that we've clinched, it's more about us finding our game and playing the way we want to play here moving forward.

"It's more about us playing our game and building what we want to build here at the right time of the year. We've done that up to this point and these next four games are going to be important to make sure we really crunch down the way we want to play."

One of the biggest reasons for the Blues' recent success has been the play of Allen, who has recovered from a mid-season slump. Since March 5, he has gone 9-1-2 in 12 starts. The only regulation loss was a 2-1 game at Anaheim.

"He's been outstanding," Pietrangelo said. "Every single night he's giving us a chance to win -- him and Hutts (backup Carter Hutton) and that's what you really want from the goalie. Making every single save that he needs to make, it's pretty impressive the way he's been able to bounce back and playing a lot too, which is a good sign that he's able to take those big minutes."

The Jets are in a different spot than the Blues entering the final week of the season as they have been eliminated from the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years. That will allow them to look at some of their young players in their remaining games.

The team recalled its top two prospects, Jack Roslovic and Kyle Connor, from the minor leagues on Monday and coach Paul Maurice said the two 20-year-old forwards will be in the lineup for some of the remaining three games.

Playing games without a playoff spot at stake is not something Bryan Little enjoys even though he knows the Jets have had a good run of late, having gone 7-2 in their last nine games, including a current four-game winning streak.

"You are playing against teams that are fighting for their playoff lives and they are a bit tense," Little told the Winnipeg Sun. "You can't put your finger on it. Obviously, you would have liked to have won these four games when it mattered and been in a better position now.

"But I'd rather be winning and playing well now than just rolling over and throwing in the towel. There's really something to be proud of, the way we are handling it."
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Blues • The Blues can clinch third Tuesday night in the Central with a win over Winnipeg and a regulation loss by Nashville. … The Blues are 0-3-1 against the Jets this season and haven’t gone winless in a five-game-or-more season series since going 0-7-1 vs. Nashville in 2005-06. The Blues’ 3-0 loss at Winnipeg was the last of a five-game losing streak that preceded their current run of 12-1-2.

Jets • Winnipeg is finishing strong with a win in four straight games and seven of nine. But right before that stretch the Jets lost six out of eight, and they are currently 10 points out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. Rookie F Patrik Laine is tied for seventh in goals with 34, but he has just one goal in his past eight games.

Injuries • Blues — D Carl Gunnarsson (lower body) and C Jori Lehtera (head) are questionable; D Robert Bortuzzo (upper body), F Paul Stastny (lower body) and F Robby Fabbri (knee) are out. Jets — D Ben Chiarot (upper body) and G Andrej Pavelec (knee) are day to day; D Tyler Myers (lower body) is doubtful; D Paul Postma (groin), F Shawn Mattias (shoulder) and D Toby Enstrom (knee) are out.
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The Blues face a Jets team that has had their number this season. Winnipeg has taken all four meetings thus far, including two games at Scottrade Center. The Blues' record in this year's series is quite an anomaly. Prior to 2016-17, the Blues had earned points in 14 of 15 games against the Jets since the franchise re-emerged in Manitoba. The good news is that the current-day Blues are a different animal. They have now earned points in nine consecutive games, including six straight at home (5-0-1). The Blues have been the NHL's best team since the beginning of March, going 12-2-2 over their last 16 games. In fact, it seems that it was the last matchup with Winnipeg, a 3-0 loss at MTS Centre on March 3, that was the catalyst for the their success. Since then, they have lost in regulation only once in 15 games (12-1-2).

What to Watch

Jake Allen is the show right now. Over his last 12 starts, he has gone 9-1-2 with a 1.32 goals-against average, a .955 save percentage and two shutouts. On Sunday, he posted 35 saves - his highest total at home this season - to become the first Blues goaltender since Chris Osgood (2003-04) to record 31 wins in a single season. Sunday's win also extended his point streak to seven games (5-0-2) which marks a new career long.

Milestones

Kyle Brodziak - 4 shy of 400 career PIM
Carl Gunnarsson - 7 shy of 100 career assists
Alexander Steen - 2 shy of 300 PIM as a Blue
Jay Bouwmeester - 4 shy of 100 PIM as a Blue / 9 shy of 100 points as a Blue / 9 shy of 400 career points
Magnus Paajarvi - 8 shy of 100 career points
Alex Pietrangelo - 2 shy of 300 career points
Nail Yakupov - 9 shy of 300 career games
Robert Bortuzzo - 9 shy of 100 games as a Blue
Scottie Upshall - 7 shy of 700 career games

Quick Hits

Alexander Steen logged his 162nd goal as a Blue on Sunday, surpassing Jorgen Pettersson as the highest scoring Swede in franchise history

Vladimir Tarasenko buried goal No. 37 on Sunday, reaching the 70-point plateau for the third straight season. The last Blue to accomplish that was Brett Hull (1995-98)

Joel Edmundson has recorded a plus or even rating in 11 straight games (plus-8)

Over their last six home games, the Blues have posted 41 takeaways compared to just 21 giveaways


This day in history:
1968 Blue shutout Flyers 1-0 in Blues 1st playoff game with the goal from Jimmy Roberts and Glenn Hall getting the SO.
1971 Bob Plager and Penguins Goalie Al Smith both recieve game misconducts in 1-1 tie
1976 Garry Unger becomes first player to score 200 goals for the Blues in 7-2 loss to Blackhawks
1979 Montreal's Ken Dryden becomes the first goaltender to win 30 or more games in each of his first seven NHL seasons and retires shortly after helping Canadiens win 4th consecutive Stanley Cup
1986 Wayne Gretzky sets NHL record with 213th point of season
1987 Islanders Denis Potvin becomes first NHL defenseman to score record 1,000 points scoring 2 goals in 6-6 tie with Sabres
1993 Craig Janney recorded his 2nd Blues hat trick and 100th point of season in 5-4 loss to Blackhawks
2004 Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes tie 6-6 in the NHL's last tie game

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 9:19 am 
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Lehtera listed as questionable, but he says he is ready to return. Yeo was non-committal:
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"Well (Lehtera) is a good player," Yeo said. "Let's be honest, there's a reason he played in the World Cup this year. Regardless of what his game has looked like at different points of the year, I've seen him perform at a really high level for us, I know what he's capable of. When he's ready, I would fully expect him to get a good chance and a good opportunity to prove that he belongs with the group, that he can add to the group and we have every reason to believe that he can too."

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/hockey/professional/morning-skate/lehtera-says-he-s-ready-to-return/article_4fc979ba-7f80-5f8f-9765-d9031f447eaf.html

Problem is, you can't keep him out forever if he is ready to return, even though the team has performed much better without him.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 10:16 am 
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Jori is playing LW on Barbashev's line in practice today per JR's Twitter. Jaskin is out.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:38 pm 
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As long as they keep #12 away from #91, the Berglund/Perron combo, and centering any line, they should be fine. I'm afraid Lehtera will have a good game on the 3rd line as a LW and Yeo will decide he should center #91 because of it.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 1:23 pm 
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theohall wrote:
I'm afraid Lehtera will have a good game.

Lol

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 1:42 pm 
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"Well (Lehtera) is a good player," Yeo said.


So long credibility.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 1:45 pm 
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Toasted Oates wrote:
theohall wrote:
I'm afraid Lehtera will have a good game.

Lol
I know, I know.

If he could produce more than Jaskupov as that 3rd line forward, fine. The problem is any time he does anything good, he's immediately re-united with Tarasenko and away goes the offense for the entire team with the shuffling effect that causes.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 6:13 pm 
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I think the best thing that ever happened to Pie was trading Shattenkirk.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 6:54 pm 
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Decent 1st Period by The Blues - especially on defence. Nice to be leading 1-0.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 7:11 pm 
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A 1-0 game turned into a 3-2 game in 4 1/2 minutes when one of the hottest goalies in the league allows 3 goals in 1:02 and Lehtera scores a goal. So, yeah, that's a thing that happened.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 7:11 pm 
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Great play by Barbashev & Lehtera!!! Blues back within one!!!

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 8:06 pm 
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theohall wrote:
Toasted Oates wrote:
theohall wrote:
I'm afraid Lehtera will have a good game.

Lol
I know, I know.

If he could produce more than Jaskupov as that 3rd line forward, fine. The problem is any time he does anything good, he's immediately re-united with Tarasenko and away goes the offense for the entire team with the shuffling effect that causes.

....and 91 & 12 are back together @ the start of the 3rd.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 8:11 pm 
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Super glove save by Allen. But it looked like his glove with the puck crossed over the goal line. Yes it's a goal. 4-2 Jets. Too bad.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 5:10 am 
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Toasted Oates wrote:
theohall wrote:
Toasted Oates wrote:
theohall wrote:
I'm afraid Lehtera will have a good game.

Lol
I know, I know.

If he could produce more than Jaskupov as that 3rd line forward, fine. The problem is any time he does anything good, he's immediately re-united with Tarasenko and away goes the offense for the entire team with the shuffling effect that causes.

....and 91 & 12 are back together @ the start of the 3rd.


So the 3rd line scores a goal. I know. Let's shuffle all the lines so no one scores afterwards. Brilliant!!!! (This is the same crap that got Hitchcock fired - over-reliance on one player based on one good play, instead of focusing on what's actually worked and keeping the working units together)

The prosecution rests. :facepalm: :doh:

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:50 am 
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Not a good game, to say the least. Not sure if it is just complacency or what. 3 goals allowed in 62 seconds can't all be chalked up to bad line combinations. The rest of the game though- I totally agree. Not a lot of chances being generated.

Better figure out how to fix what went wrong and fast- we don't want to head into the playoffs on a downward trend.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 10:59 am 
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What went wrong...

the 1st goal - Lehtera got completely lost defensively, Sanford was covering for Lindbohm in front of the net. Lindbohm is late getting there to help. Lehtera, follows Schmaltz towards the corner, instead of staying high and actually looking for someone to defend, leaving that point wide open. With Sanford not being a defenseman, he did not defend the front of the net well and the Jets split Sanford and Lindbohm with a perfect pass in front from Lehtera's uncovered point.

The 2nd goal can partially be laid on Allen. He over-committed to a shot on the short-side and Ehlers left him swimming. It's also a bit on the D, Pietrangelo in particular. With Upshall in good position on his man in front, Pietrangelo should have been defending that backside. Instead, Pietrangelo went to help Upshall in front of the net in the low slot. The combination of Allen over-committing and Pietrangelo going to the front instead of moving to that backside where the only uncovered Jet was headed led to an easy wrap-around goal.

3rd goal - after some horrible d zone play on the 2nd goal, Yeo leaves the same group of players on the ice. However, this goal was more of fluke with the way it bounced in. Even with the fluky bounce, it was a preventable chance with smarter neutral zone play. The really bad neutral zone play was an east-west pass by Brodziak that became a turnover with the 4th line late on a shift and the Blues forwards skating out of their own zone. When late on a shift, it's get the puck deep moving north-south. Horrible neutral zone play by Brodziak.

4th goal against Bouwmeester gave Scheiffle slightly too much space. This one wasn't as bad, IMO, and is the kind of goal that just happens. Don't see this one being prevented many nights. The Jets were just better in the o-zone than the Blues were defensively on this shift.

The 5th goal against the puck was going to Barbashev on the LW boards. He hasn't got the puck, yet, but Lehtera starts to fly the zone. You don't start thinking offense in Yeo's system until your guy has clear possession. Barbashev was being pressured well before the puck every got to him. That starting to fly the zone allowed Laine to get wide open dead in the center of the ice, where Lehtera had been before he started thinking offense first. Now there is a good idea. Let's leave the best scoring area on the ice open for one of the best new snipers in the game. :facepalm:

That's what happened. Almost all of them are correctable mistakes. That they all happened in one game is concerning. Not sold at all on the return of Lehtera who still seems to be playing defense under Hitchcock's old system. Not to mention the continued over-valuing of any contribution Lehtera makes offensively which leads to pairing him with #91 and juggling the top 3 lines vice keeping lines together which had been working prior to #12s return. Or even keeping the line together that setup #12s goal. Horrible coaching.

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