Feb 20 2013; Denver, CO, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) covers up the puck during the second period of the game against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
(KSDK Sports) - There are three keys to the rest of the Blues season. The first and second keys are depth and consistency.
Counting tonight, the Blues have exactly 30 games to play and in a conference where the first place team has yet to lose, even once, making the top 8 will come down to who can overcome injuries and avoid losing streaks.
Injuries will happen, but I can't remember the last time a team lost an entire scoring line in one week. I'm sure it has happened, but the recent losses of Vladmir Tarasenko, Andy McDonald and Alex Steen are magnified by the shortened season.
So who will step up and provide the missing offense? Clearly, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, David Backes and David Perron must elevate. Chris Stewart has nine points (3-6-9) in his last eight games including a goal in the Blues' last outing, a 2-1 win over Columbus on Feb. 23. Stewart must continue to produce.
But no other player will be as important as goalie Jaroslov Halak.
In a recent post on Stlsportsminute, writer Corey Rudd wrote the following:
The player who must step up the most with the team short-handed is goalie Jaroslav Halak. The Blues have been a solid offensive team all season, in part, because of the contributions of guys like Steen and McDonald.
The Blues are sixth in the NHL in goals per game and have the league's best power play. While the offense has been solid, the defense and goaltending in particular has been shaky at best.
The Blues rank 17th in goals against as of Wednesday night and are dead last in the NHL when it comes to save percentage, stopping just 87.7 percent of shots faced on the season. The Blues have not had many games stolen by their goalies and now would be the perfect time for Halak to steal one against Chicago on Thursday night.
Schwartz and D'Agostini may step up their games, but it won't matter if Halak struggles between the pipes. On the flip side, Schwartz and D'Agostini could struggle in their increased roles, but if Halak is solid, the Blues can still win.
Usually people say the best defense is a good offense. At this point, the Blues' offense is a bit short-handed and a solid defensive effort and great game from Halak can help the offense more than anything else.
The Blues will need Halak to play well if they hope to make a push in this year's NHL playoffs in search of a Stanley Cup. With Steen and McDonald out of the lineup, Halak can start picking up his play Thursday night against Chicago.