When you have two rolling teams get together, something has to give. The Blues, who are on a four game win streak, three shutouts in the last six games, and no regulation losses in January, are fast developing into a dominant Western Conference team. The Detroit Red Wings don't have to develop - they're known as being consistently in the top echelon of teams year in and year out, and right now they're finding themselves in familiar territory at the top of the NHL.
With a win tonight, the Blues can be top of the pops, all by themselves. The trick is, they have to get a win. The last two trips to Detroit were not pleasant affairs, with the Blues blowing a two goal lead after two periods to lose (the only time this season that's happened) and then getting shut out on New Year's Eve. There's a home ice advantage in this series for sure, with the Blues taking their first two games against the Wings at Scottrade.
The Blues have the best home record in the NHL at 21-3-3, and the Red Wings have the second best at 19-2-1. Sixteen of those wins have come in a row for Detroit, who haven't lost at home since a November 3rd loss to the Calgary Flames. That's a tough environment to enter into a game there, but winning streaks have to end at some point, and the Blues'd love to snap this one.
Brian Elliott was in net for both losses so far this year, and Jaroslav Halak has been on an absolute holy tear as of late. He should be getting the start tonight. Elliott has a better career record than Halak, but you have to play the hot hand -- and there isn't one hotter right now in the league. The Blues' tandem allows a teeny 1.94 goals a game, which is tops in the NHL. Brian Elliott is back to leading the league in GAA, and Halak has worked his way up to 6th with a 2.00.
The goaltender above Halak? Detroit's equally stingy Jimmy Howard, who leads the league in wins with 26. He's a workhorse for sure, but Detroit's been hesitant to start back-up Ty Conklin whose numbers for the year aren't especially hot.
Alex Pietrangelo is on an ungodly (or Godly, if you believe Mike Babcock's "wand of God" theory) point streak. The defenseman has three goals and ten assists in his last nine games, but isn't all about firing from the blueline, He's a smart playmaker who coach Ken Hitchcock compared to Niclas Lidstrom when Hitch coached him for the World Juniors team. Intelligent play's contagious among a team, and the Blues are all catching the smart-hockey bug.
A win tonight one of the toughest opponents in the league would be more than a benchmark test. It should be motivation to complete the last half of the season the same way it started. It'd be a statement that these guys are for real. Get to win-straek breakin', boys.