By Jeremy Clements
St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock delivered good news after practice this morning: “Alex Petrangelo is a go”. That should provide a much needed boost to a Blues team that at times has looked flat and lifeless. Arguably, Petro is the team’s best player. He’s on the ice in every type of situation, whether the Blues are up or down a man or playing full-strength hockey, Petro is on the ice. So you really can’t understate his importance to this team. Getting Petrangelo back is huge but it isn’t all the Blues need to get the series back to St. Louis.
The Blues need their road warriors to step it up. David Backes and Kevin Shattenkirk were the squad’s best offensive players away from Scottrade. Both finished with 20 points in 41 road games. Backes was the only Blue to score in double digits on the road, netting 11 goals, including 2 on the power play. Shattenkirk was also responsible for the Blues offensive success, accounting for a team-high 17 assists on the road. Not far behind Backes were David Perron and Alex Steen, who both lit the lamp 9 times on the road. The Blues need these four guys to get the offense going.
The Blues will have to get production from their power play. That speaks for itself.
Scoring is important (obviously), but winning starts with puck control. Puck control starts inside the faceoff circle and that’s where Scott Nichol and Vladimir Sobotka come in. Nichol posted the 3rd best success rate on the team, winning 56% of the faceoffs he took during the regular season. Sobotka was right behind him with a 53% success rate. More importantly for Sobotka was his success against San Jose in the first round of the playoffs. He won a team leading 62% of his faceoffs in that series.
The road might be the perfect place for Brian Elliott to bounce back. Believe it or not, there are times that playing at home can be more stressful than playing on the road. After allowing 5 goals in the second game of the series at home, the boo birds were out in full force. With no Jarslav Halak the Blues would have to rely on Jake Allen. That didn’t stop some from demanding a change in goal after the 1st period. The abuse from the fans would only increase at home if Elliott surrendered an early goal tonight. So I would argue that tonight presents one of the few times a player might welcome playing on the road. It’s not like Elliott was horrible on the road either. In fact, he put up better road numbers than Halak did. Elliot posted a 1.59 goals against average and a .940 save percentage during his 18 regular season road starts. Against San Jose he posted a 2.00 GAA while stopping 92% of the shots he faced. So again, the road might be the perfect place for Elliott to rebound.
The Blues are down 2-0 heading to LA but if they can do a few of the things mentioned above and embrace the same type of play that got them here, they might be capable of getting the series back to St. Louis and maybe even get through to the next round.