It's Cardinals Night at the Blues game tonight, with the battle of the struggling goaltenders on the docket.
It's always difficult when you get a terrible schedule to start the season off, and the Blues certainly wound up with one of those. It's not tough necessarily based on the difficulty of the opponents, but rather the time away from home. In October, they played only three home games, winning two. Their eight game road trip(s) finished with a 3-5 record. That's not how to start a season. The Blues are 5-6-0 on the year, haven't shown they can play consistent road hockey, have top lines that aren't producing well, and have a goaltender who may or may not snap out of this funk. Oh! And the special teams are still terrible, with the power play clipping along at 8.3% and the penalty kill second to last with a 72.2 effectiveness rate. Neither of those numbers are good, but hey - they flung themselves at the net Sunday night in Edmonton and managed to get a puck in on a power play, so there's that. Whether or not that was on purpose remains to be seen.
They're holding a night in honor of the World Series champion Cardinals tonight, and pitcher Chris Carpenter laced up his skates for a session with the team. One can only hope that the fight the Cardinals showed the last two months that led them to the title rubbed off on the top two offensive lines. Chris Stewart finally broke his scoring slump with an assist on Alex Pieterangelo's goal Sunday, and captain David Backes scored his third goal. That's not enough. The pressure that a team should exert in a sixty-minute game isn't there for the Blues, or at least wasn't there until they let themselves blow the game in the second period Sunday. Backes scored, and the Blues promptly allowed three goals - instead of building on the momentum, they coasted through that period.
Jaroslav Halak, who should be in net tonight, looked better in Edmonton. While allowing four goals, he did stone Taylor Hall on a breakaway and managed to keep the game from being a total blowout. The second period was a prime example of what happens when a defense leaves a goaltender out to dry. Whether that's a confidence issue or not, it shouldn't matter who's between the pipes. Defend him. Taylor Chorney, acquired from the Oilers in early October after Carlo Colaiacovo was injured, should get a chance to skate tonight.
The Canucks are still trying to figure out how to shake the Stanley Cup finals hangover they have. They're currently 6-6-0 on the season and have seen a middling performance from starter Roberto Luongo. They've been having special teams issues as well, going 0-for-5 on their power play chances last night, and they allowed the Minnesota Wild to get 45 shots on goal in the 5-1 loss.
Tonight's a game between two desperate teams who want to live up to expectations. Let's see if the Blues can draw some inspiration from a team that defied them.