With Thursday’s 4-3 shootout win over New Jersey, the Blues improved to 24-0 this season when scoring three or more goals. They are 8-14-7 when scoring two goals or fewer.
Despite those figures, and despite the fact that the Blues have no idea when they’ll get back Andy McDonald, Alex Steen and Matt D’Agostini from concussions, general manager Doug Armstrong said that he doesn’t feel obligated to make a move for scoring before the NHL trading deadline, Feb. 27.
“Our goal is to get healthy and see where we fit in,” Armstrong said. “Obviously our team needs to play to the level that they’re capable of playing. There are a number of players on our roster that aren’t having the season that they had a year ago. But I think it’s too easy for everyone involved to look for someone else to come in and fix the problem, when I think the answer is right down there (on the ice). And I’m very comfortable that they think the answer is right down there too. We need players that we know can produce offense to produce offense.”
The Blues are limited, too, with their payroll as the franchise awaits an ownership change that likely won’t be completed until after the trading deadline. Ownership OK’d a budget near $52 million this season so the club doesn’t have much wiggle room. “I’m not going to discuss the internal structure of the Blues. … We work under a budget,” Armstrong said. “The ownership has been strong. They increased our budget by 10 percent to start the season. That’s helped. That let us bring in the depth of a (Jamie) Langenbrunner, a (Jason) Arnott, (Kent) Huskins, (Scott) Nichol. So, I think ownership has been strong and we understand where we sit.”
Armstrong believes his underachieving offensive players will come through. Two of them, Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart, each scored a goal in Thursday’s win over the Devils.
“These players are still young,” Armstrong said. “I understand the patience necessary to go through it. You look around the league, my belief is the worst trade you can make is on emotion and with a short-term outlook. The best part of these guys’ careers is just beginning. We’re going to have these guys for a long time, and if we want to string them up every time they go through a bad stretch, then we’re never going to be a good franchise.”
The Blues are 3-1 since the NHL All-Star break, and after wrapping up a three-game road trip in New Jersey, they’ll return home to host Colorado on Saturday.
—The Blues pulled their starting goalie for only the second time this season Thursday against New Jersey. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock replaced Jaroslav Halak in the second period after he allowed three goals on 12 shots and the team fell behind 3-2. Brian Elliott entered the game and stopped all 15 shots he faced, including three attempts in the shootout, for a 4-3 victory. “I think it was one of those times,” Hitchcock said. “You just feel it on the bench. You’ve got full control, and then we just get real sloppy with the puck. It’s a reflection on the team. We needed a jolt and Brian came in and stood on his head. It’s not very often it works, but it worked this time.”
—The Blues were trailing New Jersey 3-2 early in the third period and had a golden opportunity to tie the score, going on a five-minute power play after a boarding major against the Devils’ Kurtis Foster. But after failing to score for the first 3 minutes, 55 seconds of the man-advantage, the Blues’ David Perron took a tripping penalty, nixing the chance. Fortunately for the offense, the Blues tied the game later and eventually beat the Devils 4-3 in a shootout. That’s the good news; the bad news is the Blues have converted only two of their last 35 power plays. “There’s no confidence with it,” Hitchcock said. “We’re forcing pucks into areas. We’ve got to figure out a way to calm it down a little bit.”
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I was really nervous. I wasn’t confident they weren’t going to call it a goal. But they reviewed it, called it a goal and that’s all that matters.” — Blues C Patrik Berglund, after scoring his 13th goal of the season in the team’s 4-3 shootout win over New Jersey Thursday.