Yes, it is absolutely a cliche at this point, but the Blues are playing one of the biggest games of their season tonight.
The Vancouver Canucks are in town, and the Blues desperately need to get a win here. I know, every game the Blues have played the past two months has been the biggest of the year, but this one has an extra bit of urgency. With Detroit and Chicago coming up on the schedule, it's more important than ever to pick up those two points in the standings.
So how are the Blues going to beat the Canucks? Well, I'm glad you asked. Here are the three biggest keys to a Blues victory tonight, presented all numbered and easy to digest.
1. The kids need to finish
The last time the Blues and Canucks played, St. Louis failed to attack the net aggressively. They got plenty of shots on goal, but very few clean chances, and the result was predictable. When you go against Roberto Luongo
, who is as good a goalie as there is in the NHL, there's no such thing as a soft goal.
It's been a problem for the Blues in general lately -- scoring has gone downhill the past few weeks after a long stretch of outstanding play by the offense. And if it's going to get turned around, the young forwards for the Blues are going to have to be the ones to do it. Patrik Berglund and David Perron both played more confidently two nights ago against the Kings, and they came away with two goals and two assists, respectively. T.J. Oshie, Berglund, and Perron are the most skilled players on the ice for the Blues at this point; they need to go out there and make it happen.
2. How to stop the brothers Sedin
The Sedin brothers, Daniel and Henrik, are the biggest reasons for Vancouver's success this season on the offensive side of things. (One could always argue that Luongo is the real linchpin, and you would certainly have a solid case.) Between the two of them, they have 139 points on the season, with each of them playing in 72 games.
You want to stop Vancouver, you have to beat the Sedins. The Blues haven't necessarily done a great job of beating their opponents' best players on a regular basis this season, but they really need to do so tonight. The Canucks do have other players who can beat you on offense, of course, with Pavol Demitra the chief puck-handling threat, but if you can neutralize Daniel and Henrik Sedin, you're already halfway to a W against Vancouver.
3. The Power Play
Besides the tentative play of the young forwards over the past few weeks, this is the biggest reason for the Blues' scoring swoon of late. The power play, which has been fairly potent at times this season, has just disappeared for most of March.
For the season, the answer on the power play has been relatively simple. Either get it to Brad Boyes, or get it to Keith Tkachuk. Those two have accounted for 28 power play goals; the rest of the team has 37 total. Ordinarily, I would look at a stat like that and say that the rest of the Blues' players need to be more aggressive, get more involved, and just generally step up. But not now. These games are just too important. If and when the Blues have a power play tonight, they need to do exactly what works. Get it Boyes. Failing that, get it to Tkachuk. Don't try to get cute, don't try to spread the puck around. You get it to the guys who are getting the job done. Period.
I actually think they Blues are going to win tonight. I just have a good feeling. (Of course, last time I said that, it didn't turn out so well
.) With the nastiness coming up of ChiTown and the Red Wings, they need it. I think Murray's boys go out and get the job done.
Blues 3, Canucks 1.