Here is a disturbing thought for the immediate rivals of the St. Louis Blues: This team is only now beginning to play to its full ability.
Never mind all those one-goal victories Ken Hitchcock racked up after taking over as coach. That was just the warm-up act.
This team – the one that skated over the Canadiens 3-0 in Montreal Tuesday night – is the one the rest of the National Hockey League should fear.
Much has been written about this team’s impressive depth. But now we’re finally starting to see its high skill level emerge as well.
Goaltender Jaroslav Halak has made it all the way back from his October swoon. With the whole league watching closely, he shrugged off enormous homecoming pressure and blanked the Habs.
A few months ago Blue fans were giving up on Halak. Even few weeks ago he still seemed like to fall into a No. 2 role behind the surprising Brian Elliott, who remained amazingly reliable through the first half of the season.
Now? Halak is playing with obvious confidence again, giving this team a legitimate 1-2 punch in goal.
Winger Chris Stewart is getting back to full speed among too. After scoring 15 goals in 26 games for the Blues late last season, he scored just four times in his first 29 games this season.
Earlier this season he appeared to be skating in oatmeal. The big fellow was in a nasty rut.
But in his last 10 games he has scored six goals, five at even strength. Moving next to David Backes has reminded him how power forwards are supposed to play the game.
Top offensive defenseman Alex Pietrangelo scored just two points in 14 December games. Such poor productivity was puzzling, given last season’s 43-point breakout.
But Pietrangelo has regained his 2010-11 form this month, scoring seven points in four games. Rather than merely jumping into plays, he is creating plays and sometimes finishing them, too.
For more on the Blues, check out my story at STLToday,com.