Archive for Jaroslav Halak

Why Are The Blues Struggling?

Posted in St. Louis Blues with tags , , , on December 4, 2010 by thomaskrulikowski

A few weeks ago, we did a write-up on the St. Louis Blues returning to their former glory. However, two injuries and a confidence-ridden goalie later, they appear to be playing themselves out of the playoff picture.

AP Photo/ Jeff Roberson

AP Photo/ Jeff Roberson

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The Blues are Back in Style

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 5, 2010 by matthewfobrien

Through the first ten games of the season the St. Louis Blues have posted an incredible 7-1-2 record which is good for first place in the Central Division and second in the Western Conference behind only the Los Angeles Kings. Led by Jaroslav Halak, the Blues are turning heads and giving their fans a reason to believe.

From the 1979-80 season up until the first season after the lockout, the Blues had made the playoffs every year. In fact, since the expansion that brought a team to St. Louis in 1967 the Blues have made the playoffs all but seven seasons, four of those seasons in the post lockout era, although they made a push last year but came up a little short. Now that they have a solid core of young, talented players, a coach who seems to have a plan that the players are all buying into, and a true all-star between the pipes, the Blues are back and better than ever.

The Blues are ranked 17th in the league in Goals For/Game with 2.70 but are second in the league in Shots/Game with 34.0 behind only the San Jose Sharks. They rank first in Shots Against/Game with 25.7, narrowly edging out the Flyers and are second to only Boston Goals Against/Game with 1.6.

Oshie looks to continue his point/game production

The Blues offense, led by T.J. Oshie (1-9-10) Matt D’Agostini (5-2-7) and David Perron (5-2-7), has no one with more than 5 goals and 10 points but has a remarkable sixteen players with at least 1 point. The Blues are also good enough to protect a small lead, as demonstrated against the San Jose Sharks last night. The Blues had a 2-0 lead in the third period and were able to control the puck and waste time down in the Sharks zone, limiting their ability to climb back into the game. It is the depth of the Blues both on offense and on the blue line that makes this team so scary.

The defense has also been playing incredible starting with Erik Johnson and Alex Pietrangelo, who could just be the players they’ve been looking for since Chris Pronger and Al McInnis played together from 95-96 to 03-04. Pietrangelo has 6 pts (all assists) in the first ten games and is a plus-7, while Johnson has 1 goal 2 assists and a plus-1 rating. These two see an ever-increasing amount of work being thrown their way because of their ability to step up and perform in clutch situations so far this season. They are the driving force behind the incredible defensive statistics the Blues are putting up so far.

Jaroslav Halak is nothing to overlook either. Although the Blues are one of the best defensive teams in the league, it’s also good to have one of the best goalies as well. Halak has three shutouts already this season, which is good enough to surpass Jacques Plante for the fastest three shutouts by a Blues goaltender in the team’s history. He has allowed just 14 goals in 9 games and is in the top 10 for every important goaltender statistic. He is 3rd in the league with 7 wins, has a .940 sv% which is good for 6th, a 4th best 1.53 GAA and tied with Tim Thomas for league lead in shutouts with 3. He is already been in Vezina talks for this season and he can keep it up I don’t see any goalie out there that can compete with him.

Although there may still be 72 games left there’s no reason to believe that the Blues won’t be playing through April. They will be a team to keep an eye on throughout the rest of the season and if they can keep it up a long playoff run is not out of the question. After all, Halak got his Canadiens to an Eastern Conference Final last year and the  Blues seem to have a much better team in front of him this year.

Game of the Night (11/4) Recap

Posted in Around the NHL, St. Louis Blues with tags , , , , on November 5, 2010 by thomaskrulikowski

Eh, so maybe T.J. Oshie wasn’t the star of the game last night, but who called that two goal differential?!

The Blues handled the Sharks last night for a 2-0 victory. The unanimous first star was Jaro Halak, who stopped all 25 shots he faced. This guy is in playoff form and it’s only the beginning of November. What a steal for the Blues!

In the opposite end, Niemi got the nod over Niittymaki which I had said in the game preview was unlikely but had wanted to see. Niemi played pretty solid and any time your team fails to score (especially with Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and the rest of the Sharks offense) it’s hard to win. Niemi made 27 saves on 29 shots, keeping the Sharks in it.

In the game preview I talked about puck control. Well, the Blues owned the puck. Despite going 0-7 on the power play, the Blues’ numerous extra man efforts allowed them to establish offensive presence and rag the puck. On the other side of things, being constantly short-handed, the Sharks could not find their game until the 3rd. But then it was too little, too late.

The key to the game was definitely keeping the Sharks off the PP. The Blues only gave the Sharks 3 opportunities with an extra attacker. And stopped them all.

Joe Thornton was ejected a little over five minutes into the second for what they deemed to be a blind side hit to the head on Perron. Missing Big Joe didn’t help their comeback efforts.

Looking at the replay this morning, I don’t think there was anything Joe could do. Honestly. Perron had his head down and Thornton came in laterally, which is legal, and because his head was down, caught him. But I would guess he gets suspended. They are going to extremes with this new head shot rule. Thornton does have a conference call scheduled regarding that hit, Darren Dreger has reported.

My only problem is that this ruled is being used to protect players who have their heads down. If they had their heads up, it would not be head contact. This year we will see a lot of suspensions while they work out the kinks. Hopefully, they make a clause about players lowering their head and/or the player being checked’s responsibility. If they don’t, we will have guys skating with their heads down all over the ice so they can’t get hit. But enough of this…here is the video of it:

Game of the Night 11/4

Posted in Around the NHL, St. Louis Blues with tags , , , , on November 4, 2010 by thomaskrulikowski

Every night we here at zelePUCKin will try to preview a game that strikes us a THE game to watch.

Our inaugural Game of the Night goes to….The San Jose Sharks visiting the St. Louis Blues @8 pm Eastern

St. Louis is only a point out of the Central Division lead and owe a great deal of their success to their new goalie Jaro Halak. The Blues are a team with a young core, who are finally hitting their stride together. Eric Johnson, David Perron, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and Alex Pietrangelo compose the core. The Blues are riding a four game win streak, and with their undefeated home record are strong favorites.

It isn’t everyday the San Jose Sharks come into a game as underdogs. But this year things have changed. San Jose sits in the middle of the Pacific Division. They are suffering from a downgrade in net as regular season all star (and playoff disappointment) Evgeni Nabokov left this off-season for Russia. Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki are the goalies for the team this year and have let up 26 goals against in 10 games played. It is not the amount of the goals they have let up that is concerning but, rather, the types and times they are let in. San Jose has fallen victim to soft goals at back-breaking times. Expect Niittymaki between the pipes in this one. Although, I would love to see Niemi get the nod.

This game will be won by puck control. Each of these teams likes to control the puck, and by that way control the tempo of the game. Which ever team can dictate puck control and tempo will surely have the better of the game. It should be a fast paced game with both of these teams owning the ability to capitalize on the rush. One big key to this game is the SJ powerplay. With the talent up front and defenseman Brian Boyle quarterbacking, the Sharks can be lethal on the powerplay any given night.

My guess: St. Louis stays out of the box and controls the puck for the majority of the game en route to a 4-2 victory.

Star of the game: T.J. Oshie

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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