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Upddaed: Blues defeat the SC champs, face the Islanders and WJC

January 5, 2019, 12:42 PM ET [17 Comments]
Jason Millen
St Louis Blues Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

Russia wins the Bronze 5-2 with Kostin scoring. Watch his response to the crowd after his goal


The Blues strange season continued on Thursday when, while without Vladimir Tarasenko, they earned a 5-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. The Blues have a better record against the better teams in the NHL this season. The Blues currently have only played the 2nd best through 6th best points percentage teams in the league, going 5-4-1 against them while only going 13-14-3 against teams 8th and lower.

Much like Monday night, the Blues put together one of their better performances on Thursday, outshooting the Capitals 42-25. Unlike Monday, they were rewarded for their efforts with the win.

Robert Thomas opened the scoring four minutes into the game. The play started with the Jaden Schwartz making a good support play to keep the puck in the Capitals defensive zone.

Seconds later, Thomas supported Brayden Schenn deep along the wall, getting the puck out of the corner.

Thomas moved the puck to Schwartz who slid the puck to Robert Bortuzzo for a shot from the right point. Thomas cuts hard to the net from the corner and makes a nice deflection on the point shot for the goal.

Blues killer Alexander Ovechkin would even the score a little over eleven minutes later. Jay Bouwmeester loses a key puck battle behind the Blues net creating the possession that leads to the goal.

Brett Connolly would give the Capitals the lead just three minutes into the 2nd period. There was plenty of blame to go around on the goal as Alex Pietrangelo slid himself right out of the play, back checking coverage was poor and Jake Allen lost the initial shot rebound. Unlike games earlier in the season, the Blues didn’t crumble after the goal but rather seemed to respond, putting up 19 shots in the 2nd period, almost double the Capitals.

The Blues would even the score on a power play goal from Colton Parayko about nine minutes later.

About four minutes later, in a bit of Blues karma, Oskar Sundqvist would get the game winning goal. Sundqvist creates the play by winning the following board battle:

Carl Gunnarsson, in his 1st game back, moves the puck to Pietrangelo who takes the shot from the right point. Sundqvist dives and puts the puck past Holtby.

Pietrangelo extended the Blues lead to two goals a little over five minutes into the 3rd period, putting a wrist shot past Holtby.

Tyler Bozak would later add a breakaway goal to finish off the scoring.

Other notes from the game:
- Carl Gunnarsson was plus four, had no points but was involved in a number of the goals including taking Tom Wilson out of the play because of a shot block in less than 13 minutes of ice time.
- David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly had two assists each.
- Parayko, Pietrangelo and Joel Edmundson combined for 13 shots.
- Schwartz had 8 shots though of course no goals.
- Bortuzzo stepped up and fought Wilson.
- The Blues owned the 3rd period, outshooting the Caps 14-2.
- The penalty kill finally got back on the right track, going 3 for 3.

In a very odd play Thursday, the linesman pushed O’Reilly to the ice after a face-off. I’ve only found poor video of the play so far but once the blackout is lifted, I will try and get a good clip for you all to see.

Tonight the Blues continue their Eastern conference schedule when they host the red hot New York Islanders. The Islanders have won five in a row and are 8-2 in their last ten games, now just one point behind the last wild card spot with two games in hand. The Islanders are 12-8-1 on the road and are 6-1 in their last seven road games. The Islanders have the 7th best points percentage.

As you would expect from a Barry Trotz coached team, the Islanders are 2nd in goals against per team. This is even more impressive when you consider they are 25th on the power play.

Matthew Barzal has avoided the sophomore slump while leading the Islanders in points with 38 in 39 games. Josh Bailey is 2nd with 31 points. Ryan Pulock leads their defensive corps with 18 points.

Barzal is still looking for his 1st point against the Blues and Bailey has struggled against the Blues with only 3 points in 12 games.

Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner have been splitting time in net this year. Greiss has a 91.7% save percentage. Lehner has a 92.9% save percentage. I imagine Lehner will get the start, having won six in a row and posting a 93.1% career save percentage against the Blues. Lehner is now confirmed as is the return of Jordan Eberle.

The Blues are 7-2-2 against the Islanders in their last 11 games though the Islanders four victories have come in the last six games.

Tarasenko has enjoyed success against the Islanders with 10 points in 10 games. Alexander Steen has also been good with 21 points in 22 games against them. Ryan O’Reilly on the other hand has struggled with only 5 points in 16 games.

Allen will get the start though he has struggled in January with a career 87.9% save percentage and against the Islanders with 88.2% save percentage and only 2 wins in 5 games. Having said that, Allen has at least a 91.3% save percentage in 5 of his last 7 starts.

Speaking of Tarasenko, he practiced yesterday and is expected to play today. With him back, it appears the lines will be very different and start like this:

Schwartz - Schenn - Thomas
Steen - O'Reilly – Perron
Sanford - Bozak - Tarsaenko
Fabbri - Barbashev - Sundqvist
Gunnarsson - Pietrangelo
Bouwmeester - Parayko
Dunn - Bortuzzo

It looks like Joel Edmundson may be out and likely that Pat Maroon is out. Also, as I predicted a week or so ago, the Blues swapped Jordan Binnington and Evan Fitzpatrick again as it is very possible that Binnington will see some NHL ice time either Monday or Tuesday because of the Blues back to back games with the Stars and Flyers.

Other Notes
World Junior Championship
Klim Kostin garnered some not to favorable attention yesterday after the USA’s 2-1 victory over Russia. Kostin was clearly frustrated by the loss. His frustration showed in his reaction to the booing of the Canadien fans who likely didn’t appreciate his circus and Neymar comments days earlier relating to the Maxime Comtois, Canada’s captain. If you are reading on the internet about this, don’t believe the false insulation about him tossing his helmet. He simply slid his helmet to the bench before getting his watch. He didn’t toss it off in disgust or slam it down. His reaction to the boos from the crowd on the other hand probably warranted a response.

Kostin’s reaction to the boos

Kostin’s reaction to his own behavior

I don’t see this as a big deal. I like that he was upset at the loss and can understand the emotion of the moment and how he could, especially given his age, utter a phrase he later wishes he hadn’t. Please follow me on twitter to keep up to date on things like this as I covered it last night unlike most of your other Blues writers.

NHL Champions for Charity
We’ve gotten some traction on the charity wager among the Central Division bloggers. More on that to come.

It’s a great day for hockey.
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