By Jake Shoemaker
After watching the St. Louis Blues defeat the Nashville Predators 4-2 in game 1 of the season, a few things stood out from the win:
1) Jaroslav Halak is Healthy
After a frustrating 2013 campaign where Halak was only able to play 16 games due to injury, the Slovakian looked healthy and poised in net on Thursday night. Halak stopped 28 of 30 shots and the two goals he allowed were not soft goals. The first goal, Mike Fisher’s one timer, came from point-blank range after St. Louis battled along the boards and failed to come up with the puck. Failed execution in front of the net by forwards on the backcheck left Fisher open for the score. The second goal, David Legwand’s tip-in, came off of an odd-man rush just moments after the Blues made a beautiful rush of their own that ended in a post-ringing shot. Nashville executed the 3-on-2 beautifully and it took a precise pass and an accurate tip-in to beat Halak. Long story short, Jaroslav Halak looks ready to have a monster season for the Blues.
2) St. Louis’ Offensive Depth is for Real
Offensively, the Blues showed just how deep they are on Thursday night. The Blues had 4 different goal scorers as they scored twice at even strength and twice on the power play. The most notable attribute of this Blues team was their unselfish play, perhaps best demonstrated on their third goal. David Backes, Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie executed the rush in an organized, team oriented fashion. Backes carried the puck to net and distributed it across the crease precisely to Steen who assessed his two options – shoot or pass – in a split second, ultimately electing to send the luck back across the crease to hit a net-crashing Oshie for the goal. At first glance it looked like Steen should have buried Backes’ pass, but the return pass had the defense and goalie disoriented and helpless. The chemistry between the three top-line forwards was evident. Additionally, the two power play goals came as a result of good spacing and strong front of the net presence. Chris Stewart battled to maintain position screening in front of the net for Steen’s slap shot goal from the blue line and David Backes did the same, ultimately winding up with a rebound goal, for Alex Pietrangelo’s shot on net from the point. The Blues did it all on Thursday, scoring with grit and scoring with skill.
3) The Blues’ Defense Contributes on Both Ends
Although the defense might try to take responsibility for Nashville’s two goals, the onus was not on the blue-liners for the mishaps (see the bit on Halak). St. Louis’ defense was perfect on the penalty kill, shutting down 4 Nashville power plays. The defenseman also earned points on 3 of the team’s 4 goals, and we’re responsible for starting the breakout rush on the other.