Well, almost everything, anyway. If Winnipeg didn't suck so much it would have been everything.
The Blues won again last night, slowly choking the life from the Anaheim Ducks over 60 minutes of grind en route to a 3-1 victory. Jaroslav Halak was nothing short of brilliant, saving 24 of 25 goals and flat-out standing on his head at least a few times.
Oddly enough, though, Halak's performance in goal wasn't even the best goaltending performance the Blues received on the night. Ben Bishop, the behemoth goalie the Blues traded away last month just prior to the trade deadline, went one better on Jaro, making 25 saves in 26 chances as the Ottawa Senators beat the New York Rangers 4-1. Why is that so important? Because the Blues and Rangers were tied for the NHL's overall points lead before last night's game. Halak and Bishop, both winning, both helping the Blues move into sole possession of first place.
Unfortunately, the Blues had no players to trade to the dreadful Winnipeg Jets, who lost to the Canucks on their home ice last night. Really, Jets? Couldn't do us even just this one favor? Ugh. This is why Winnipeg sucks and it always will. Still, Vancouver remains one point behind the Blues, so as long as the Blues just don't lose another game this season they should be fine.
Speaking of point totals, the Note are now four full points clear of Detroit for the Central Division lead. Unfortunately, the Red Wings do have one game in hand over the Blues (and the Rangers have two, actually), but that's not a huge deal so long as the Blues' lead remains at least three points. So once again, just don't lose another game, boys.
Patrik Berglund has been playing really well of late. He's still not as consistent as you would like to see night in, night out, but he's playing bigger and tougher as the year has gone on. Perhaps a bit of that patented Hitchcock toughness is beginning to take hold in the big Swede. Judging by the things you hear fans say about Bergie on message boards and in the seats, it's going to take awhile before the average Joe really comes around on Patrik. Even so, it's been good to see Berglund playing a little closer to his 6'4" that what we've become accustomed to.
I really wish they had left the third goal as Kevin Shattenkirk's, rather than switching it back to David Backes. The reason? Because it would have been Shattenkirk's tenth goal of the season, and there was a really interesting stat on the postgame show. The last time the Blues had two defensemen in double figures in goals was the 1999-2000 season, when Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger managed the feat. The other notable thing about the '99-'00 season? That was the year the Blues captured the President's Trophy. Now they find themselves atop the standings once again, with two blue liners almost certain to hit ten or more goals. I don't think that's a coincidence.
A big part of the Blues' recent run of dominance has been the unbelievable excellence of the penalty killing unit. After last night's 3-for-3 killing performance, the Blues' PK unit has shut down 35 opponents' power plays in a row. The last one may have been their toughest test of all, a 6-on-4 in the final minutes of the game that saw the Ducks pull their goalie in hopes of climbing back into the game. No such luck, as the Blues killed off the opportunity and nearly netted a pair of empty net goals.
Speaking of special teams, the Blues scored two more power play goals last night. It wasn't all that long ago the Blues were dead last in the NHL with the man advantage. They're still not where you want to see them in terms of the overall standings, but the power play is slowly becoming a real plus for this team.
Even though I'm a little disappointed to see Shattenkirk lose the goal, seeing David Backes tie his career high in goals scored almost makes up for it. I have a feeling he'll probably be setting a new career mark fairly soon.
Andy McDonald (not MacDonald; I have the hardest time remembering that), is awesome. Berglund was in the right place at the right time last night, and did his job in knocking the puck home, but that goal was really more about Andy Mac's skill with the puck and his ability to create space with his speed than anything else. This is a different team with McDonald on the ice, and last night was a perfect example of what he adds.
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