St. Louis Blues Cruise, Detroit Red Wings Lose: Blues Control Western Conference

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St. Louis Blues Cruise, Detroit Red Wings Lose: Blues Control Western Conference
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Carlo Coliacavo celebrates after assisting on a first period goal by T.J. Oshie

The St. Louis Blues silenced a lot of critics on Tuesday night, in a dominating 5-1 win over the rival Chicago Blackhawks.

As noted in a previous article, some of the primary concerns for the Blues going into the postseason have been their inability to beat elite teams, and their lack of offensive capabilities.

The Blackhawks are on the fringe of being considered "elite," but most would argue they are still one of the better teams in the NHL, and were riding a three-game winning streak going into the game.

The Blues made a huge statement in showing that they can not only play with, but also dominate an elite team that was playing some of its better hockey.

Just as importantly, the Blues' offense had a huge night, and may be starting to show the scoring potential that fans have long awaited. For the sixth time in the past seven games, the Blues scored three or more goals.

That number is so significant because the Blues are now undefeated at 34-0 when scoring three or more goals. During that seven-game stretch, the Blues have outscored their opponents 22-13, with their most dominant offensive performance coming Tuesday against Chicago. 

What an impact the return of Andy McDonald has had on the team. In the 13 games since his return, McDonald has posted 11 points, including eight goals.

The offensive woes of the Blues may finally be ending, and with the defense and goaltending that this team has, they could truly be the best team in the NHL. Now imagine where this team could be if and when Alex Steen, Jamie Langenbrunner and Matt D'Agostini return.

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The Blues are playing more confidently now than they have all season. On Tuesday night, they truly seemed to be skating circles around the Blackhawks, continuing their tremendous even-strength play with chance after chance, but also dominating on special teams.

After going 5-5 on the PK Tuesday, the Blues have now killed 31 straight penalties. During that span the Blues have faced the top-four power-play teams in the NHL in Edmonton, Nashville, San Jose and Vancouver, according to ESPN.com's statistics.

With the man advantage, the Blues have scored a power-play goal in four of their past five games, going 6 of 18 during that span—a 33.3 percent success rate.

At the Wells Fargo Center in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Flyers held off the Detroit Red Wings behind Ilya Bryzgalov's 37-save effort to win 3-2.

The Wings' loss gave the Blues sole possession of first place in the Central Division with 91 points, and St. Louis still owns the tie-breaker with two more regulation/overtime wins.

The Red Wings are finally experiencing some struggles with the injury bug, playing Tuesday night's game against the Flyers without Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Jimmy Howard.

Just an hour after the Wings' loss, the Vancouver Canucks were unable to gain a point against the Dallas Stars, as the Canucks suffered a disappointing home defeat. Mike Ribeiro had two goals and an assist as the Stars scored three times in the third period to win 5-2.

The loss for the Canucks left them at 90 points. The Blues not only gained sole possession of the Central Division, but also of the Western Conference with 91 points.

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The Canucks, Blues, and Red Wings have have all played 67 games, and St. Louis currently leads the conference in points and regulation/overtime wins.

At the close of Tuesday night, the Blues are the No. 1 team in the Western Conference. They continue to lead the NHL in shots allowed per game, goals against per game, and home wins.

Now, the power-play is on the climb, the penalty-kill is rocketing towards the top, the scoring is drastically improving and after going 5-1 on a 6-game road trip, their record away from Scottrade Center is starting to look pretty good as well.

They are just now finding their stride, and still may see the returns of Steen, Langenbrunner, and D'Agostini to improve them even further. 

The playoff seeding race should be a fun one to watch in the Western Conference during the final stretch of the season.

Earning the number one spot for the night is a huge step for the Blues. For now, however, it takes a backseat to the new jolt the club got Tuesday night in getting a couple of monkeys off of their backs: Beating an elite team, and showing they can score too.

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