The St. Louis Blues have already shown themselves to be a top contender in the NHL’s Western Conference this season, with six wins in their first seven games. The team boasts a potent, balanced offense, top-notch goaltending and a lethal power play. If there’s been one weakness in the Blues’ game this season, it’s their penalty killing, which ranks 21st in the league.
St. Louis ranks second in the league in goals scored, third in goals allowed and second in power play percentage. They made strides towards improving their penalty kill in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, with a goal by Derick Brassard the only one they allowed in four chances. The penalty kill struggles were never more evident than in Sunday’s 5-4 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild, when Zach Parise scored twice as the Wild converted two of three power play chances.
The skill players are in place for the Blues to improve in shorthanded situations, with defensemen Barrett Jackman and Alex Pietrangelo logging the most minutes. David Backes, Vladimir Sobotka and T.J. Oshie are all adept penalty killers as well, and threats to break loose for the occasional shorthanded goal. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have still managed to be stellar in net, and will be the frontrunners for a second William M. Jennings Trophy if the penalty kill unit can keep even more shots away from them.
Friday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings gives St. Louis a great chance to improve their penalty kill – in a season opening 6-0 win over the Wings, the Blues killed off all four Detroit power plays, with Oshie adding a shorthanded goal.