Jan 16, 2012, 11:06 PM EDT
If you look at the St. Louis Blues’ success through Ken Hitchcock’s eyes, it makes perfect sense that his team moved into a tie for first place in the NHL by beating the franchise that brought him his Stanley Cup ring.
The Blues even beat the Dallas Stars in a way that Hitch’s old squad won it all in 1998: by playing skin-tight defense and working hard all game long. St. Louis topped Dallas 1-0 thanks to a T.J. Oshie goal and a 27-save shutout from Jaroslav Halak.
St. Louis now has 60 points, which matches the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks’ marks. Technically speaking, the Rangers are No. 1 since they’ve played two fewer games than the Blues while the Blackhawks trail St. Louis for similar reasons. (Chicago has played in an extra contest.)
As impressive as the chase for the Presidents Trophy might be for a St. Louis squad that’s been nowhere near that discussion for several years, the Central Division race is more important. Just look at how little breathing room there is in what might just be the best division in the league:
I included the goals stats and home/away records for a few reasons. For one thing, it shows how important Hitchcock’s system – and not coincidentally, improved play from Halak and continued output from Brian Elliott – has been for St. Louis’ success. The Blues are obviously doing things differently than the Red Wings and Blackhawks. Excuse me for oversimplifying, but it’s essentially a battle of defense-first and offense-first teams.
(One might even say that the Blues are out-Trotzing Barry Trotz, to abuse the English language a bit.)
Looking at the away records of the top three teams in the Central, one could argue that the Blues and Red Wings need to win their division as much as any team in the NHL. (The Blackhawks are a bit better on the road with a 10-8-3 record, but they’ll fight just as hard for the crown.)
Long story short, both the Blues and Red Wings have reason to celebrate tonight, but they can’t take any nights off in this cutthroat division. Being in the conversation probably isn’t good enough for Hitchcock.
Check out highlights from the Blues’ 1-0 win below.
- What they’re saying about the Avs hiring Patrick Roy 1
- It’s official: Colorado names Roy sixth head coach in franchise history 37
- Couture accuses Kings captain Brown of diving 36
- Three reasons why the Rangers might buy out Richards 25
- Richards made a healthy scratch for Game 4 35
- Don Cherry: Canucks GM Gillis threw coaches ‘under the bus’ 27
- Playoffs Tonight: Bruins know series vs Rangers isn’t over 20
- Sens’ Alfredsson: We probably won’t win this series 21
- Discuss: Penguins overwhelm Senators to take Game 4 78
- Report: NHLPA director Fehr wants to address issue of fighting 112
- Report: NHLPA director Fehr wants to address issue of fighting (112)
- Question for commenters: What, if anything, needs to be done about the officiating? (101)
- Discuss: Bruins rally in third, take 3-0 series lead (99)
- Discuss: Detroit takes 2-1 series lead vs. Chicago (95)
- Video: Crosby scores hat trick, hits playoff milestone against Senators (91)
- Watch LIVE: Bruins-Rangers
- WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks look to even series with Red Wings
- PBT: Hibbert says Battier's knee to groin intentional
- OlyTalk: Lochte says Phelps will return soon
- CSN: Francona returns to Boston | Legacy?
- Tebow fact: He reminds Chuck Norris of Chuck Norris
- LeBron stuns Pacers with OT winner in Game 1