St. Louis Blues: 5 Things We Learned from Opening Night Win over Detroit
The win begins a 2013 campaign that many hockey fans across the country think could end with St. Louis lifting the Stanley Cup for the first time in their franchise's history. Of course, we are still a very long way away from talking about the playoffs, let alone the Stanley Cup, but this season has started out great for St. Louis so far.
Here are five things we can take away from Saturday night's win over Detroit.
Vladimir Tarasenko Is the Truth
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Blues fans have heard so much hype about Vladimir Tarasenko, and on Saturday night they all got to see what the hype was about.
Tarasenko was the first star of the game, scoring two goals in his NHL debut and recording five shots on goal. The two goals Tarasenko scored were both helped by very bad defensive plays by Detroit. the first of the goals even came on a breakaway, the defense was so bad, but fans could tell all game that Tarasenko was special.
He showed great speed, incredible awareness, amazing stick handling and great finishing touch in front of the net.
Let's not put too much pressure on Tarasenko now. Just because he scored two goals in his debut does not mean that his transition to the NHL will be without its bumps along the way, but we certainly got a sense of how good Vladimir Tarasenko could be for the St. Louis Blues.
Defense Is Going to Be Great Again
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The Blues forwards put tremendous pressure on the puck. If you get past them, there are two great defenders standing right behind them. If you get past them, one of the best goalies is waiting for you in front of the net.
Try scoring against that.
That is what Blues opponents will be trying to do all season long, and it could be one of the most difficult tasks in hockey. St. Louis allowed an average of fewer then two goals per game last season, and so far through one game they appear to be on the right track again.
Sure, the team exploded for six goals tonight, but just like last year this team is built around defense first. The goals could come in bunches at times, but even when the Blues struggle to find the back of the net, they will be able to keep themselves in many games this season because of their defensive mentality.
Chris Stewart May Have Found His Role
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Chris Stewart scored 15 goals in 26 games in his first season with the Blues back in 2011. Last season he scored the same number of goals, but played in 79 games.
Stewart frequently found himself as a healthy scratch down the stretch of the season, because head coach Ken Hitchcock knows how talented Stewart is. It was not like Stewart was not trying or did not care, but he did not have that killer instinct for goals that Hitchcock knew was somewhere inside of him.
The killer instinct may have been unlocked tonight. Stewart scored on a power-play goal in the first period and then scored again on a beautiful move in the third.
What the Blues were missing last year was that big-time scoring threat?
Could they have two of them now in Tarasenko and Stewart?
Only time will tell.
Jaden Schwartz Was Quietly Impressive
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With the frenzy of goals that the Blues were scoring on Saturday night, it was likely very easy to miss Jaden Schwartz. Schwartz did not record a point on the night, but he played a very solid game on the second line for the Blues.
Schwartz had two shots on goal offensively and blocked two shots on the defensive end. He was very aggressive just like the rest of the Blues players tonight, and showed that he definitely belongs on the team.
On the second line with Schwartz, were Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart, who each scored on the night. I think we can expect to see Schwartz putting some goals in the back of the net very soon.
St. Louis Is the Best Team in the NHL
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It may be too early to make this statement, but I fully believe in it so I will just come out and say it now.
The St. Louis Blues are the best team in the NHL.
They have terrific young forwards who are extremely aggressive offensively and defensively. They have solid veteran leadership. They are all about playing tough defensively and letting that tough play translate into goals on the offensive end. Lastly, and most importantly, they are the best-coached team in the NHL.
The players, coaching staff, ownership and fans of St. Louis are all hungry for the organization's first Stanley Cup. We all know that the best team does not always win in sports, but right now the Blues seem to be the favorite to lift Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the season.