St. Louis completes pre-Olympic schedule in fine form Some improvement needed in areas

ST LOUIS – After a 4-3 home shootout win against the Winnipeg Jets to finish the pre-Olympic portion of the NHL calendar, the St. Louis Blues are sitting in great position when the regular season schedule resumes February 26th. The Note is having one of its’ finest campaigns in what is their 46th season and hope to win their first Stanley Cup.

St Louis Blues logo

With a record of 39-12-6 for 84 points through 57 games, the Blues are 1st in the Central division winning the point total tiebreaker over Chicago by having three games in hand. St. Louis holds the best winning percentage in the League at 0.737.

St. Louis also is second in the Western Conference and the entire league only trailing the Pacific Division leader Anaheim who have 87 points, but also with three games in hand. The Blues face the Ducks in Anaheim February 28rth. St. Louis was dominated by Anaheim 5-2 on home ice December 7th.

Still, the overall strong results are coming from several key statistical areas.

Offensively, St. Louis scores 3.32 goals per game, 2nd only to Chicago’s 3.37. While the Blues rank 19th with 29.8 shots per game, they rank 1st in scoring percentage by netting 11.13% of their shots, nearly a full percentage point ahead of 2nd place Anaheim with 10.35%. This proves St. Louis takes more quality shots in scoring at such a strong rate.

Defensively, St. Louis allows just 2.32 goals per game, 3rd to Los Angeles’ 2.10 and Boston’s 2.14. The Blues rank 2nd in shots allowed with 26.6 per game, 2nd only to New Jersey with 25.4. It is simple; allowing fewer shots typically means allowing fewer goals.

The balance needed for success in the offensive and defensive sides of the ice are best detailed with New Jersey’s current season. Even with leading the League in fewest shots against and ranking fifth in goals against (with 2.34), the Devils rank 23rd in points with 61 and a poor 24-22-13 record. They needed scoring and will not succeed without it.

Special teams are playing a big role with the Blues success this season as well.

St. Louis is 4th on the power play with a 21.7% conversion rate. The only trail Pittsburgh (25.4%), Toronto (22.2%) and Chicago (22.1), all worthy contenders for the Stanley Cup. The Blues have scored 45 goals, 24 at home and 21 away, and only trail Pittsburgh (48) and Washington (47).

On the penalty kill, the Blues are 4th with a 85.1% survival rate. They only trail New Jersey (87.4%), Pittsburgh (87%) and Montreal (86%). St. Louis has allowed just 30 goals against while shorthanded, good for 7th in the league allowing 17 shorthanded goals against at home and 13 shorthanded goals against on the road.

It is always a huge edge when a team scores first and leads at key moments during a game. When St. Louis scores first, their winning percentage is 0.868, good for 3rd only trailing Pittsburgh (0.903) and Colorado (0.882).

When they lead after the first period, their winning percentage is 0.889, good for fourth and trailing just Pittsburgh (0.952), Colorado (0.920) and Nashville (0.895).

However, when St. Louis trails after the first period, their winning percentage drops to 13th at 0.316. Anaheim leads in this category at a surprising 0.607, but most clubs ahead of St. Louis are in the high-to-mid 0.300 percentage.

When the Blues lead after two periods, they rank 14th in winning just 0.867 of their games, something which has become an apparent problem as they club has struggled to hold leads in the last few weeks worth of games. They will have to protect their leads in the final weeks of the season to be successful the rest of the way.

Individually, the Blues are getting scoring support throughout the roster. Currently, St. Louis has eight goal scorers in double digits. Two snipers have 20+ goals, Alexander Steen with 28 and Captain David Backes with 20.

Alexander Steen

Alexander Steen

In assists, fourteen players have at least ten with seven having at least 20 and two having at least 30 (defenseman Alex Pietrangelo with 35 and right wing T.J. Oshie with 32). In points, thirteen players have at least 20, nine have at least 30 and five have at least 40 with Alex Steen leading with 46 total points.

Defensively, the team is getting good scoring support from the backline. Three defenseman have more than 30 points with Alex Pietrangelo registering 41. Kevin Shattenkirk is 36 points and Jay Bouwmeester has 32. All three are Olympians.

As for plus/minus ratings, only left wing Magnus Paajarvi is on the minus side with a negative 5 in 37 games. The young left wing acquired from Edmonton for David Perron, Paajarvi has four goals and four assists for eight points. He is averaging just over ten minutes a game and just over 15 shifts a game with limited contributions over the last few weeks.

In goal, Jaroslav Halak has appeared in 39 games (starting 37 games) and holds a 24-8-4 record allowing 82 goals and 2.26 goals against per game, a save percentage of 0.915 and 4 shutouts. Brian Elliott has contributed heavily in a supporting role appearing in 24 games (starting 20 games) with a 15-4-2 allowing 46 goals against per game, a save percentage of 0.916 and 3 shutouts.

I’ll be providing previews of the games involving St. Louis Blues players participating in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Ten Blues players were named to Olympic teams, but Vladimir Sobotka will not be participating after suffering what has been described as a broken knee cap at the end of the Carolina game January 31st.

The United States will be represented by center David Backes, right wing T.J. Oshie and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Canada will be represented by defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester. Sweden will be represented by left wing Alexander Steen and center Patrick Berglund. Russia will be represented by right wing Vladimir Tarasenko. Slovakia will be represented by goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

Follow me on Twitter at @DMMORRELL.

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