Blues Continue Their Battle for Tops in the West
The Blues' rise to the top of the Central Division, second in the Western Conference, and third overall in the whole of the NHL, all started with a win against the Blackhawks back in early November, and, coming into tonight's game against their central division rival's they hope to keep the momentum they have built up continuing.
Although the 'Hawks have gotten the better of them the last two outings, a 3 – 1 loss on the road and 5 – 2 loss at home, a win tonight would even the season's match up at two games a piece. The Blues also take on the 'Hawks twice more in the month of March, and although the 'Hawks are still well behind the Blues, those six points that are up for grabs could cut the deficit to a narrow margin.
After a 6 game road trip, the Blues finally return home to face their central division rival with a new found confidence in tow. The Blues went 5 – 1 – 0 on the road swing, with the only loss coming in Vancouver, a 2 – 0 defeat to the Canucks. For a team that struggled prior to the All Star break playing on the road they have sure turned things around since. Their overall record has now broken the .500 mark, currently sitting at 15 – 14 – 3, helped out by their 7 – 4 record away from the Scottrade Centre since the break.
“We really took it as a challenge to learn how to play on the road. We’re starting to be comfortable when it’s uncomfortable. We weren’t like that before. We’re bending but not breaking now. We’ve learned that less is more on the road and that you don’t have to put on a show,” explained Coach Hitchcock. (EDMONTONJOURNAL.com)
“It’s not pretty at times,” Hitchcock said. “We don’t dominate teams. We grind and we work and everybody has bought into that. (EDMONTONJOURNAL.com)
The key is that everyone has bought into the system, and the style of play, that the Blues are currently playing. A system that Hitchcock began implementing as soon as he got the reins of the team way back in early November. Since that time, the Blues have gained at least a point in 43 of 54 games. A very impressive run, and also impressive enough that Hitchcock's name has garnered enough interest to be considered an early favourite to be the winner of the Jack Adams award.
It would not be too much of a stretch to consider such an early prediction. The Blues are well on their way to gaining their second Central Division title, and even, possibly, their second Presidents' Trophy as well. And it does not seem as if they are slowing down, earning enough attention to be number 2 on the NHL's Power Rankings this week, only behind top team the New York Rangers.
Now that they have finally gotten their road woes under control it may be time to step things up in the Central Division, starting with a win tonight against the 'Hawks. The Blues have had their struggles in the division this season posting 6 – 8 – 2 mark thus far. Along with the three games coming up against the 'Hawks in March, they also have three against the Blue Jackets, and one each against the Preds and Wings. With what one could call a 'favourable' situation, or as favourable as you can get when competing in the tough Central Division, they should be able to turn that around with a few key victories, hopefully, starting tonight with one against the 'Hawks.
With only 16 games left on the Blues schedule it is not a coast from here on in for them in any way. Although they have a pretty fair and balanced schedule for the rest of the games to come, they still have a gruelling 7 game road trip ahead of them. The good news, only two of the seven teams that they will be playing during that swing are currently in a playoff spot. Nonetheless, these next three home games, starting tonight against the Blackhawks, is key to keeping a good roll going.
Blues Briefs ... In other news around the Blues ...
Congratulations Doug Armstrong
Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Armstrong was just recently named to the management group for Team Canada through the 2013-2014 year. Congratulations Doug,Team Canada has gained a very helpful hand as evident by the team you put together this year with the St. Louis Blues.
Banged Up Blues
They are still able to get the job done and play a tough game every night out, but the Blues are still nursing some key injuries. It has been a long time since they have sported a full squad and are still waiting on the return of Kent Huskins (hand bruise), Matt D'Agostini (concussion), Alex Steen (concussion), Kent Russell (concussion) and Jamie Langenbrunner (fractured ankle).
The Blues find themselves with a week at home, where they will be playing three games. The first, tonight against the Blackhawks, and then on Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks, and finishing the homestead with a Saturday night affair against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team then takes off on their 7 game road trip and will be returning home on the 27th of March to play the Preds. Click Here to View the Blues Schedule for the Month of March..