St. Louis, MO – The Anaheim Ducks wrap up this three game road trip tonight in St. Louis. The St. Louis Blues (15-10-2) came out of nowhere last season when Ken Hitchcock took the reigns and took the team to the top of the Western Conference. They have basically the same roster, but due to some injuries, this team has struggled at times to return to last year’s form. This is the third and final meeting of the season between these two teams, the Ducks won the first two (6-5 SO, 4-2). The Blues have won four of their last five, the one loss coming to the Ducks, including most recently, shutout performance over the Phoenix Coyotes.
The one thing that really helped propel the Blues to the elite of the Western Conference last year was the play of their two goalies. Both Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak put up ridiculous numbers. Elliott had a record of 23-10-4 with a 1.56 GAA and a .940 SV%, while posting 9 shutouts. Halak had a record of 26-12-7 with a 1.97 GAA and a .926 SV%, while posting 6 shutouts. Well, neither have returned to that form. Due to inconsistency and some injuries, rookie goaltender Jake Allen has made his NHL debut this season. Allen’s has been their best goalie so far. In just 8 games, he has a record of 7-1-0 with a 2.33 GAA and a .915 SV%, while posting 1 shutout. He will get the nod in net from Hitch. At just 22-years-old, Allen has shown very good technical skills. The one area that teams attack most is his glove hand, it’s his weakest area. But, this kid has some good potential who could become a franchise goalie for the Blues.
St. Louis has very good depth at the forward position. They are very solid down the middle with Alex Steen, David Backes, and Patrik Berglund. On the wing is where they currently have some injury problems. T.J. Oshie was day-to-day with an upper body injury, but was placed on IR earlier today.. Jamie Langenbrunner and former Duck Andy McDonald are all on injured reserve. Rookie Vladimir Tarasenko has been activated after suffering a concussion earlier this season and will return to the lineup today. Big, power forward Chris Stewart currently leads the Blues in points (26) and is tied with Berglund for the lead in goals (13). Stewart is a very big body who is extremely strong. Stewart, Backes and Steen are the hottest Blues right now. On the blue line, the Blues have two of the best young defenseman in the game. Alex Pietrangelo is an excellent all-around defenseman with excellent upside. Kevin Shattenkirk is more of an offensive-defenseman, but also with excellent upside. Both of them play a big part in the offense. Pietrangelo has recorded 5 G 13 A for 18 P and Shattenkirk has recorded 2 G and 17 A for 19 P. The rest of the defensive corps is a nice mixture of puck moving and stay-at-home defenseman.
Last season, the Blues finished 1st in the league in goals allowed per game, at just 1.87 GA/G. The team that finished 2nd had a GA/G of 2.07, just to give a clue on exactly how good they were last year. This year, not so much. At 2.89 GA/G, they rank just 22nd. Their offense has the reversed along with the goaltending. Last year, they scored 2.51 G/G (21st). This year, they have scored 3.00 G/G (7th). Tonight’s game will match two of the best power plays in the entire league up against each other. The Ducks are going at a rate of 25.6% (1st) and the Blues are going at a rate of 24.4% (3rd). The Blues, however, are slightly better than the Ducks on the penalty kill. Blues are 15th in the league in PK at 80.8%. Ducks are 26th in the league in PK at 78.3%.
Good teams find ways to win. That’s what the Ducks have been doing all season long. The goaltending play has been excellent with both Viktor Fasth, who looks to be absolutely fine, and Jonas Hiller both enjoying long streaks of good play. Fasth has a record of 10-1-1 with a 1.92 GAA and a .929 SV%, while posting 2 shutouts. Hiller has a record of 10-2-2 with a 2.56 GAA and a .922 SV%, while posting 1 shutout. However, Hiller has been absolutely phenomenal of late. He’s won four straight games allowing just four goals during that span and has posted a .965 SV% in that same span. Hiller will look to continue that streak tonight as he will start in net. Andrew Cogliano got off to a slow start offensively, but he is really turning it on lately. He has two goals in the last three and is now tied Ryan Getzlaf for the team lead in goals (10). Getzlaf continues to lead the team in points (31). Corey Perry is second on the team in points (24) but will miss tonight’s game while serving game two of his four game suspension for his hit on Minnesota Wild’s Jason Zucker. Both Brad Staubitz and Nick Bonino are still on the IR for the Ducks. Newcomer David Steckel will make his Ducks debut tonight and will center the fourth line.
Topics: Alex Pietrangelo, Alex Steen, Anaheim Ducks, Andrew Cogliano, Andy McDonald, Brad Staubitz, Brian Elliott, Corey Perry, David Backes, David Steckel, Jake Allen, Jamie Langenbrunner, Jaroslav Halak, Jason Zucker, Jonas Hiller, Ken Hitchcock, Kevin Shattenkirk, Nick Bonino, Patrik Berglund, Phoenix Coyotes, Ryan Getzlaf, St. Louis Blues, T.J. Oshie, Viktor Fasth, Vladimir Tarasenko