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Blues Shut Out Canadiens, Take Over Division Lead

Thumbnail image for Jaroslav_Halak_2011-01-13.jpg
Jaroslav Halak, star of the show.
The story line going into last night's matchup was supposed to be the return of Jaroslav Halak to Montreal for the first time since the Canadiens traded him to the Blues in 2010. There was plenty of buildup, plenty of anticipation. Enough, in fact, that there was really almost no way the game itself could have possibly done the story everyone was talking about justice. 

Well, unless Halak went in and tossed a shutout or something like that. But that sort of thing never happens on cue like it does in Hollywood. 

Final score: Jaroslav Halak 3, Montreal 0. 

Okay, so it was the Blues 3 and the Habs 0, but let's face it: this game was all about Halak going back home, and it couldn't have gone better. 

It was the second shutout in a row for the Blues, who haven't allowed a goal since the second period against the Edmonton Oilers. It almost doesn't seem to matter who it is between the pipes for the Blues these days; whoever it is is going to get the job done. 

The nicest moment of the night came after the game itself was over. Halak was named first star of the game to a standing ovation from the Montreal faithful, who took full advantage of their first opportunity to display their appreciation for the goalie who led them deep into the playoffs before being shipped here to St. Louis. 

Even better than the win and the ovation, though, was what the win did for the Blues in the standings. With the two points from last night, they moved into first place in the Western Conference's Central Division. The Blackhawks and Blues both have 55 points, but the Blues own the tiebreak for now over Chicago. Detroit is just two points behind, and Nashville completes the Central's four-headed monster of 50+ point teams with 50 on the nose. 

Notes: 

  • Halak wasn't the only player looking forward to a homecoming of sorts last night; David Perron is from Quebec and had family in attendance. He did pretty much the same thing he always does, making plays, collecting two points, and generally just making life miserable for the opposition. T.J. Oshie gets the most attention, and David Backes has the C on his sweater, but I honestly think Perron may be the best player on this team. Or at least the best player on the offensive end. 
  • Chris Stewart continued his renaissance with a two-point performance. Don't look now, but after an horrific start to the season Stewart is now in double digits in goals and creeping up on the team leaders. Backes leads the team with 14; Oshie and Alex Steen are at 13. As bad as his season was early, it wouldn't surprise me a bit to see Stewart leading the team in goals by the end. When he's on, he has a pure scorer's touch no other Blues player can quite match. 
  • Speaking of Oshie, he saw a points streak end at three games but still played a solid game. He wasn't quite the wrecking ball we saw on Saturday night against the Avalanche, but he was still the most active player on the ice, constantly in the middle of everything. 
  • The hit that sent Barret Jackman into the boards was nasty, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Jackman miss some time. He came back to the bench after heading down the tunnel right after the collision, but he didn't play after that. Jackman has played well this year, but he's still probably one of the more replaceable pieces the Blues have. If he's forced to miss games with an injury of some sort, I'm not at all concerned with the team's ability to fill in on the defensive end. 
Most encouraging of all was to see the Blues finally play the kind of game on the road they play pretty much every night at home. The Scottrade Center has been very kind to the Blues, but the road has been treacherous. Even now they still sit a game below .500 at 8-9-3, and what's worse they just haven't looked like the same team most of the time. Last night alone won't make up for months of poor away play, but it was certainly a good start. 

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