Red-Hot Power Play Has Blues in the Hunt
Wednesday, 02.20.2008 / 10:59 AM CT / St Louis Blues - Features
By Chris Pinkert - St. Louis Blues
In the last two games, both critical matchups against division rivals, the Blues have gone 6-for-13 with the man-advantage.
The result? Two consecutive victories in which the Blues have outscored opponents, 10-2.
“I thought the guys moved the puck around very well and found some seams they opened up. We’re happy with the movement and guys really took advantage,” said Blues defenseman Barret Jackman after Tuesday’s 5-1 win against Chicago. “We’re hanging around for loose pucks. Sometimes the best power play is when you just get some bounces.”
The pucks weren’t bouncing in the Blues’ favor earlier this season. In a stretch of seven games from Dec. 26 to Jan. 8, the Blues’ power play had gone 0-for-31 before Keith Tkachuk ended the drought with a power play goal in a 6-1 win over Columbus. The scoreless stretch was enough to knock the Blues down to dead-last in the league when it came to power play conversion percentage, a place they’ve spent the majority of the season.
“We’ve had those chances all year, it just hasn’t gone in for us,” said Blues coach Andy Murray. “I don’t know what the difference is. We’re not doing anything different, we’re not teaching anything different.
“Pucks are just going in for us right now.”
The Blues scored three power play goals in a game for the first time all season on Sunday in a 5-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. They followed that effort with three more power play goals on Tuesday vs. Chicago. The Blues have moved out of the league’s basement in the power play department and up to 29th with a 14.4 percent conversion rate.
Thanks in part to the recent production with the man-advantage, the Blues have gone 4-0-1 in their last five games and have climbed back into the playoff picture. As of Wednesday morning, the Blues were just three points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They can’t afford to let up now.
“That’s what we have to do, we don’t really have a choice,” said Blues captain Eric Brewer. “We’ve got games in hand, but you still have to win those games and we have to win games on top of those just to keep above water.
“We’re still not at that point, but we’re clawing our way back.”
It seems each game keeps getting bigger. While the team squandered opportunities against Colorado and Tampa Bay earlier this month, the Blues have made up for it lately with dominating performances. The Blues will play the Phoenix Coyotes twice next week in what could prove to be pivotal matchups in shaping the Western Conference playoff race.
Brewer says Murray shouldn’t have to motivate the team for any of these upcoming games.
“If he has to light a fire under us right now, we’re probably in the wrong sport,” he said. “We all want to be in the playoffs, and if you don’t, you probably shouldn’t be here.”
“(We’ve) still got a long way to go, still some big road trips coming up,” Blues goalie Manny Legace said after Sunday’s win over Columbus. “If we can play like we did tonight every game the rest of the way through, we should make it.”