It sure has been a crazy week for the St. Louis Blues, as they wrapped up a 5 game in 5 night stretch. After starting out 2-0 , the Blues went 2-2 over the next 4 games for a 4-2 preseason record with 2 games to go. While not a great indication of what the season will bring, the preseason does give us the opportunity to see players succeed on the big stage without it costing precious points.
Last Wednesday night the Blues hosted the Minnesota Wild and the game played out just like almost every game between the clubs. Jaroslav Halak was pitted against star Niklas Backstrom and both proved to be in midseason form. Halak faced 17 shots and stopped all except one, a Warren Peters shot that found the roof of the goal under Halak’s right arm.
Backstrom did Halak one better by stopping all 18 shots he faced before giving way to rookie Matt Hackett, who completed the shut out depite the Wild being out shot 14-1 in the third period. The Blues just could not find the answer in this game and fell for the first time in preseason, 1-0 to Minnesota.
The following night, the Blues were in Denver to face the Colorado Avalanche and newly acquired net-minder Semyon Varlamov. The Blues started AHL standout Jake Allen in goal and in his first taste of preseason NHL play fared very well. The Blues offense helped out by getting off to a fast start with Evgeni Grachev collecting his third goal of the preseason off a feed from Jamie Langenbrunner.
In the second period, another player fighting for a roster spot, Adam Cracknell put the Blues up 2-0 and Allen made that stand into the third. Colorado cut the lead to 2-1 midway through the 3rd before David Backes stripped the puck and scored on the empty net for the Blues 3rd goal. Shortly after, though, the Aves got back to within one when Milan Hejduk slipped a puck past Allen to make it 3-2. The Blues would hang on and Allen made 23 saves to earn the win.
Another night, another game as the Blues were in Dallas on Friday night to face the Stars. Fresh off the Stanley Cup win, Michael Ryder got the Stars going early on against Brian Elliott and rookie Matt Fraser added the Stars 2nd goal before the Blues could get their feet going. In the second period, Andy McDonald got his first goal of the preseason to pull the Blues within a goal.
The Stars answered with a goal fro Raymond Sawanda to give Dallas its two goal lead back. Alex Steen’s late goal in the third cut the lead to 3-2 but that was as close as the Blues would come, falling 3-2 in Dallas in the final game of their 5 night run. Brian Elliott took the loss and fell to 1-1 but still looked good and may have done enough to secure the back up spot.
After two days off from games, the Blues were back at it again on Tuesday when they traveled to Minnesota to face the Wild, this time featuring new faces Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. Jaroslav Halak got his second of three starts in the preseason but looked far from perfect this go around. The Blues and Wild traded goals throughout the game with Matt D’Agostini’s third period goal re-tying the game at 3.
As time was winding down in the third, preseason standout Evgeni Grachev gathered a pass behind the Wild net and found an open Carlo Colaiacovo who ripped the game winner into the net with about a minute to go. The Blues wrapped up their 3 game road trip 2-1 and now come home for the final two preseason games.
The final two games will be on Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche and Saturday against the Dallas Stars. On Thursday, Ben Bishop will get his final chance in a game to show the Blues what he has got before giving way to Halak for Saturday’s game. The Blues will also use the final two games to determine who will be on the final roster.
The Blues likely have two spots left on the roster fill and about 5 guys to fill them. Among those fighting for those spots are Grachev, Cracknell, Philip McRae, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves. The consensus is that Reaves will make it and either Porter or Grachev will occupy the other spot for now.
Decisions could be fast and furious as the season approaches on October 8th, so check back for the latest updates on the St. Louis Blues.