Blues vs. Blue Jackets Preview
COLUMBUS, OH - The St. Louis Blues rank near the bottom of the NHL in goals per game. They're doing just fine, though, thanks to their goaltending tandem.
The Blues, off to the best start in team history, look to extended their longest winning streak in eight years when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Blues a –115 money line favorites in Wednesday's game against the Blue Jackets. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 71% of more than 95 bets for this game have been placed on the Blues.
St. Louis (9-1-2) has won seven straight for the first time since a nine-game run from Oct. 15-Nov. 5, 2002. That's due in large part to Jaroslav Halak and Ty Conklin.
Halak has gone 8-1-1 with a 1.46 goals-against average and three shutouts in his first season with the Blues. Conklin, his backup, was outstanding Sunday in his second game of the season and first since Oct. 16, making 27 saves in a 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers. He is 1-0-1 with a 0.96 GAA in 2010-11.
That spectacular play in net has easily allowed St. Louis to overcome its anemic offensive play. The Blues, tied for 21st in the league with 2.50 goals per game, have outscored opponents 16-6 and recorded four shutouts during the winning streak.
"Our goaltenders have bailed us out in real key situations, allowed us to play with a one-goal lead, and allowed us to either build upon it or solidify a victory," coach Davis Payne said. "As much as it is a team performance, what they're bringing to the table is not going unnoticed."
It's been hard to ignore the Blues' strong start, as they sit tied atop the NHL with 20 points despite having played the fewest games in the Western Conference. Alex Steen scored both goals against the Rangers and has seven points over his last five contests, helping compensate for the absence of winger David Perron, who missed the last two.
Perron has been suffering from headaches following a hit by San Jose's Joe Thornton on Thursday, leaving the Blues without their leading goal scorer.
"Guys are stepping up. It seems like a different guy every night," Conklin said. "(Halak) has been a pretty familiar face playing well, and the team has been playing well in front of him, too."
Columbus' Mathieu Garon has some success of his own this season. He lost 3-2 to Minnesota on Saturday, but recorded shutouts in his previous two games and is 4-1-0 with a 1.28 GAA.
Garon has started the last three contests in place of the struggling Steve Mason, who is 4-4-0 with a 3.30 GAA.
Rick Nash and Kyle Wilson scored Saturday for the Blue Jackets (8-5-0), winners of five of seven.
"I didn't have a problem with our effort, but our execution was off," coach Scott Arniel said. "The first 10 minutes of the first period our passing was ugly. Those that did get passes, they were bouncing off our sticks. We certainly created enough chances. It was all about finding that (third) goal before they got it."
Nash's goal was only his second since scoring twice against Anaheim on Oct. 20. Derick Brassard assisted on Nash's goal, giving him a point in seven straight games.
St. Louis and Columbus split six meetings last season.