Brian Elliott will be starting in net for the Blues on Sunday. How do I know so soon? Because coach Ken Hitchcock rewards shutouts, and Elliott got a doozy of a shutout tonight against the Calgary Flames. A team that normally tends to give the Blues fits proved to be a very not-difficult opponent, and proved why they’re in the bottom of the Northwestern Division.
Calgary has not had a pleasant season thus far, and tonight compounded their issues. Sure, Elliott stoned them several times – most impressively on a Lee Stempniak breakaway – but they could not seem to get it together save for a stretch in the second period. The Blues, however, sensed Calgary’s timidity and went for it.
The Blues’ penalty kill is steadily improving, and tonight it got a bit of an unexpected gift: a short handed goal by the captain, David Backes. A clearing pass off the boards by Kevin Shattenkirk went directly to Backes, who split down the middle of Calgary’s defense and nailed a high glove goal into an open net that Kiprusoff tried valiantly for – but more or less out of frustration than anything else.
The Blues other goal of the evening was a beauty of a shot by Alex Pietrangelo, who got wide open in front of the net to wrist in his fourth goal of the season. He’s an outstanding defenseman, but he has the sense of a forward as to where exactly you need to be to get that perfect goal. A Backes check loosened the puck along the wall, from which he was able to pass it around the back of the net to a waiting Alex Steen, who dished it directly to Petro for the goal.
Despite the outstanding performance tonight by the Blues (who are now 6-1-2 under Hitchcock) and the stellar job that Elliott did in net, there is a bit of an issue to worry about. Vladimir Sobotka took a shot off of the face that left him hunched over on the ice dripping blood. He was helped from the ice and did not return; it looked like the puck struck him around the left eye/side of his face area. Hopefully he’ll come back soon, as he’s been one of the best players for the Blues all season.
With tonight’s win the Blues’ record is 12-8-2, giving them 26 points on the season, good for 6th place in the Western Conference. They are still just three points behind the division leading Blackhawks, and face the basement dwelling Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday at 5:00.