Blues players have been broken records lately when discussing their difficulties scoring goals. They knew their six regulation goals in their six games previous to Sunday were not a fair indicator of their efforts offensively. Over and over, they insisted if they stuck to the program, good things would happen. Though restlessness had descended upon fans and media, it hadn’t affected the mentality of the guys in the locker room.
Do you believe them now?
Their claims manifested in a perfect storm of vindication Sunday. After a two-week scoring dry spell, the Blues opened the floodgates with authority on the Avalanche in a 5-1 win at Scottrade Center. There would be no scrounging for goals this time for St. Louis, who wasted no time asserting its will upon Colorado.
It began early in the first with Robby Fabbri. Perhaps a touch tentative with the puck during Saturday’s overtime, Fabbri handled it decisively in his first chance Sunday placing a wrister up and over Semyon Varlamov. The goal was Fabbri’s first of the season, his breakthrough symbolizing what was soon to come for the rest of the team.
“It felt like that was my first goal I got last year, just get that weight off the shoulders,” Fabbri said. “Just keep building off that now and keep going.”
The Blues had grown accustomed to playing from behind in recent games, but the name of the game Sunday was preserving a lead. Jori Lehtera followed Fabbri’s goal with one of his own—his first of the season, too—thanks to a slick pass from Carl Gunnarsson between two Colorado defenders. Both goals took place within the first four minutes, a stark change of pace for the Blues, who hadn’t scored a first period goal in their previous seven games coming into Sunday.
“It’s just funny how it is like that,” Paul Stastny said of how an early lead can change the game. “Then you can roll the lines a little bit. All the lines kind of find their groove because you’re just playing out there. Yeah, it’s easier when you have the lead like that… To get that first one, second one early, and just keep building on that was big for us.
“We took advantage of the crowd, the home ice. Kinda fed off the crowd after we got that goal, and we used their energy to help get us up.”
The integrity of the lead was tested thoroughly by a Kevin Shattenkirk hi-sticking penalty that kept the Blues on the kill for four minutes. After exiting that period unscathed, the Blues had some swagger.
“It was big,” said Jake Allen, who went on to stop 22 of 23 shots. “We had a lot of momentum there at the start. Easily, if we tuck our tail between our legs there and they get a couple goals, completely different ballgame.”
But the Blues held serve. The penalty kill continued to thrive Sunday, wiping away 12 minutes of a man-advantage for Colorado without surrendering a goal. St. Louis put the game out of reach with second-period goals from Jaden Schwartz, Scottie Upshall and David Perron before going to a defense-first approach in the third.
It’s fitting that after the whole the team went quiet offensively for a noticeable stretch, they all seemed to break out of it together. Each of the four forward lines for the Blues earned an even-strength goal in Sunday’s win. That a lack of scoring turned into a machine-like balanced offense so swiftly bodes well for the Blues moving forward.
Hitchcock was relieved to see the results of the Blues offensive developments but was downright effusive regarding the process.
“For a lot of guys personally, it’s monkeys off their backs,” Hitchcock said. “You wanna see value for their reward and all the work they put in, and man, they were putting in work. It was good to see that. But more important, how we scored those goals was really good to see, because we knocked people out of the box, took pucks off sticks, got pucks back and were really effective in doing it.”
After a weekend of winning, Hitchcock hopes to see the Blues replicate this work ethic and discipline as the season progresses.
"This is a big step if we take advantage of this in moving this thing in the right direction," Hitchcock said.
Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.