Despite the Blues needing a shootout to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 Wednesday night, they completely dominated the play for the majority of the game. Their forecheck was exceptional, aggressive and relentless. Just like it should be. As a result, they forced the Stars d-men to turn the puck over, which turned into scoring chances.
What impressed me about the game was how the Blues had the Stars on their heels and were frustrating them constantly. Their breakout from their own zone was great for the most part and their passing was great as well.
There are two things that stick out to me that were keys to the win and that the Blues have to do if they want to recover from this early season slump and return to serious contention in the Western Conference.
1. Special Teams - In the Blues' 9 wins, they have scored 9 power-play goals in 38 chances. They have also killed all but 5 penalties in those wins as well. Much of the team's succusss last year was due in large part to their superb special teams, which both ranked in the top 5 in the NHL. But this season it's the exact opposite. They have the worst power play in the league and a penalty kill that has struggled.
But in their win at Dallas, both special teams were great and the Blues killed off some big penalties, especially with 5 minutes to go in the game while preserving a one-goal lead. Erik Johnson netted a power-play goal on a beautiful cross-ice feed from Brad Boyes.
The Blues showed a glimpse of what they did well last year that worked so well which got results. And they know they have to play like they did against Dallas to get back in the heat of the west race for the playoffs.
2. This might be the most crucial aspect that the Blues did so well at Dallas and MUST continue to do from here on out. They threw everything they could on net, even if they were easy shots on goal, they did not hesitate to try and finesse the play and make that extra pass. Many teams are good because they pepper the goalie and once in a while, a rebound may squirt loose or the goalie can get beat on the first shot. The point is, the Blues have been missing the net on huge scoring opportunities when they just needed to play a simple game and get the puck on net.
In conclusion, while it has been painful at times watching Blues games this year, it was an absolute pleasure to watch the Blues take it to Dallas. They looked like they did when they closed the year as the hottest team in the second half of the season. And if they have any hopes of being in the playoff picture in April, they need to get every point as early as they can, so they won't need to go on such a tear just to make the playoffs.
The Blues have now won 3 of their last 4 g ames and it seems as if they may be snapping out of thie early season funk. They have shown what they're made of, they just need to show it on a moreistent basis.