Each week throughout the hockey season, we’ll look back at the previous week and hand out three stars to deserving parties who are making an impact for the Blues. This past week, the Blues went 1-1-1, earning three points while only scoring three total goals. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that there won't be any stars handed out for outstanding goal scoring this week. That said, we’ll kick off this inaugural edition of Three Stars with a forward who doesn’t always get the credit he deserves unless he shows up in that night’s box score.
Third Star: Patrik Berglund
Despite the Blues’ recent struggle to put the puck in the net, Ken Hitchcock believes an uptick in scoring is on the horizon. He sees his team sticking with good offensive principles, continuing to work for quality chances, with success in the standings allowing the players' approaches to remain unphased by the lack of production.
One of those players committed to the mission is Patrik Berglund. Berglund assisted on the Blues only goal in a shootout loss to the Red Wings Thursday, and has gotten off to a solid start centering the third line. On a local radio program this week, Blues play-by-play man Chris Kerber cited Berglund as a player whose efforts have flown under the radar so far this season.
“People always want to see more production out of Patrik Berglund, but we are far enough into his career, I think you see exactly what you have,” Kerber said. “(He’s) a really strong third-line centerman that’s got some size. What he’s done with Nail Yakupov on his wing this season… Patrik Berglund has been the workhorse big guy to go get it in the corner.”
Berglund, like many of his teammates, hasn’t been scorching the net this season—he has just one goal to go with three assists. His mentoring of young line-mates like Yakupov and Dmitrij Jaskin, however, has been important to the development of those players, and is one of the reasons Berglund is this week’s third star.
Second Star: Jake Allen
To come up with three points in a week the team only scores three goals, it goes without saying that the goaltending needs to be exceptional. Carter Hutton started in goal for the Blues’ loss to Calgary last Tuesday, and though he allowed three goals on 29 shots, the support he received in front of him was minimal on a night several Blues admitted the team didn't play its best game.
That night off, however, gave Jake Allen the rest required to offer sharp performances Thursday and Saturday. In Thursday’s shootout loss, Allen stopped 26 of 27 shots faced before denying the Red Wings on six of eight attempts in the shootout. Though poor execution by the Blues offense precluded him from getting the win that night, Allen’s efforts resulted in a point.
He helped the team get over the hump and earn two points in the final game of the homestand Saturday when St. Louis beat the Los Angeles Kings 1-0. That night, Allen pitched his first shutout of the season and 12th of his career. Needing every single save, Allen went 27 for 27 in stopping the Kings attack, earning him second-star honors for this week.
The only thing keeping Allen from the first star this week is the unit that proved a tremendous aid to his successes.
First Star: Penalty kill
While Allen was sturdy in his two starts for the week, he couldn’t have accomplished what he did without the benefit of a sensational penalty kill. Thursday and Saturday, the Blues blanked opponents on power play chances, with both the Red Wings and Kings going 0 for 5 with the man-advantage.
Turnover from last year rendered the penalty kill an area of uncertainty for the Blues heading into the season. Assistant coach Brad Shaw moved on to a role in Columbus, leaving Rick Wilson in charge of the Blues’ penalty kill. As defenseman Jay Bouwmeester explained after Saturday’s win, the effect of the coaching change was minor for a group in St. Louis that has been successful on the kill for several years.
“There’s not a lot to change,” Bouwmeester said. “Most teams kill penalties the same. Essentially, you’re just trying to keep the chances to a minimum, keep everything to the outside, block some shots and clean up the stuff around the net. One thing we’ve always been pretty good at is pressuring up the ice and not letting teams come in, setting up in our zone real easily.”
The Blues currently rank second in the NHL in percentage of penalties killed at 93.9% (31 of 33). Only the Minnesota Wild have a better rate, converting the kill in 25 of 26 opportunities.
Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.