The Blues have been outscored, outskated, and out special-teamed in each of their four losses. Tonight they face a Conn Smythe winning goaltender in an East/West duel of the Stewart brothers.
Anthony and Chris Stewart were supposed to face off against each other last season when the Atlanta Thrashers traveled to Denver to play the Colorado Avalanche. The meeting never materialized due to Chris Stewart's broken hand - but tonight the brothers'll be playing for bragging rights at the next Stewart family dinner. They practiced back to back today, and have hung out the past couple of nights in a row, but tonight the brotherly affection that's so notable between the two will have to be put on pause.
The brothers engaged in some good natured smack-talk to the Post-Dispatch:
"I'll take his head off," Chris said. "It's no joke with concussions going on and stuff like that, but there's not going to be any lost feelings."
"I'll knock him on his (bottom)," Anthony said. "You're not going to try and hurt him, but me being the big brother, I've sort of got to tease him a bit, get under his skin a bit."
St. Louis fans know all about Chris and his ability to dominate as a power forward. His brother is not of the same mold. Anthony is usually known for pulling 3rd line minutes - and the reason that is occurring is due to the Thrashers signing him and then giving him a chance. He had what one could consider a bit of a break-out year last season scoring 14 goals and 25 assists, but he was unable to continue his pace throughout the year as the Thrashers' season crumbled. He's not a power forward, he's a grinder - but he has a lot more ability than the Florida Panthers ever gave him credit for. He was initially less than thrilled about the Thrashers' move to Winnipeg (at least on Twitter before the tweet was deleted), and so the Jets didn't place a qualifying offer out there for the restricted free agent and he was claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes.
The bigger story tonight isn't between the brothers, it's between the pipes. Brian Elliott, who was stellar in the Blues' 4-2 defeat of the San Jose Sharks, is starting tonight for the Blues tonight. Jaroslav Halak was pulled after allowing four goals on 18 shots in the Kings' 5-0 curbstomping of St. Louis. There's not exactly goalie drama and intrigue here, as that comes when you have two solid goaltenders competing for a job. Instead, there's a huge question mark surrounding the Blues' latest "Goalie of the Future." Fans wonder if he will ever return to the stellar form he had in Montreal. Halak, for what it's worth, has offered no comment on what's going on with his positioning, his speed, or why he's so deep in the net his butt touches the back of the net. Coach Davis Payne hasn't elaborated any on the situation either.
Hopefully Elliott can match Cam Ward save for save, because Ward has had St. Louis' number in the past. He's 4-1-0 against the Blueswith a 1.58 GAA and a .942 SV%. Elliott also has a winning record against the Canes (4-3-0) but his numbers aren't as good as Wards are (2.65 GAA, .902 SV%).
Prospective line-combinations for the evening can be found at Daily Faceoff. Carolina's top line of Chad LaRose, Eric Staal, and Jeff Skinner will need to be neutralized if the Blues would like to win. Unfortunately for St. Louis, that's also the top line for their power play unit. The Blues are dead last in the league in penalty killing (68.6% effectiveness rate) and have allowed power play goals in each of their losses.
One thing's for certain - to beat Carolina they're going to have to score a lot more than 2.5 goals, which is their goals per game average right now, good for 18th in the league.