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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Blues have bounce-back week, re-enter playoff race

The Blues’ four-game winning streak over this span has landed them a spot in third place in the Central Division.

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Courtesy of Wikimedia

Wikimedia

Feb. 15, 2017

The St. Louis Blues made a strong case this week as to why they should be a playoff team.

After going 2-4 in the two weeks following the All-Star break, the team went on a five-game road trip and rattled off four straight wins, including two shutouts.

The streak began on Feb. 6, when the Blues visited the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite putting just 16 shots on goal, they took down the Flyers 2-0 with goals from Paul Stastny and Kenny Agostino. Agostino’s goal was his first as a Blue and just the second in his career. The club also received strong goaltending from backup goalie Carter Hutton, who posted a 26-save shutout, good for his third of the season.

The next night, the team flew to Ottawa to take on the Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Blues routed the Sens 6-0, scoring four of the six goals in the third period. Forward Vladimir Tarasenko lit the lamp twice, and rookie center Ivan Barbashev scored his first-ever NHL goal. Both teams had 30 shots on net, and Jake Allen turned away all 30 of Ottawa's for his second shutout of the 2016-17 campaign. Four players from St. Louis registered two points on the night.

The team’s third game of the road trip was against the surging Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 9. Both clubs had faced each other the week before, with the Blues dominating the Leafs in a 5-1 win. This game, however, had to be decided in overtime.

Patrik Berglund gave St. Louis the lead less than five minutes into the first period with his 14th of the season, but the Maple Leafs countered with a goal in the second. With no goals coming in the third period, the teams went into sudden-death overtime. It took Tarasenko just 20 seconds to send Maple Leafs fans heading for the exits, when he netted his 26th of the year for the win. Allen, getting his second consecutive start, made 31 saves on 32 shots.

But the team didn’t leave Toronto unscathed. Stastny left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Stastny was placed on the injured reserve Tuesday.

Two days later, in the final game of the week, the Blues traveled to Montreal to face the Canadiens. The Blues found themselves in another close game but were able to pull out the win by a score of 4-2 on the strength of a hat-trick by Berglund, despite being outshot by Montreal 22-30. Allen, who seemingly regained the starting goaltending spot from Hutton with his strong performances over the week, made 28 saves on those 30 shots. The team more than tripled Montreal in blocked shots, 24-7, but was severely lacking in the faceoff department, winning just 30.4 percent of the time.

Quick Notes

Mike Yeo is 5-1 since taking over as head coach.

Allen has strongly improved his play since the coaching change, winning four of his last five starts. His SV% has remained above .900 in those last five games.

Berglund had five goals this past week and was a +5 when on the ice. He has scored at least one goal in the past three games.

The Blues conclude their extended road trip Wednesday, when they play the Detroit Red Wings. The game starts at 7 p.m. and will be nationally broadcast on NBCSN.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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