Finding ways to win is a common term in our sport.
The good teams seem to have an easier time finding ways, even when their best players may be in a dry spell points-wise.
Great goaltending is the one constant around the NHL. If you get that, I like the odds that, most often, you will win.
Who am I talking about? You guessed it, the St. Louis Blues.
Let's first talk about how they built this squad. The Blues management team led by John Davidson, with plenty of help from Larry Pleau, Doug Armstrong and Al MacInnis, has drafted very well and, when needed, hasn't been shy from making trades to supplement their strong drafts.
A team that comes to mind with the same philosophy is the L.A. Kings, so to see both these teams at the top of the Western Conference is no surprise. The Blues have more cap space, which is in line with the Kings early on in their rebuilding process. Interesting footnote - both teams have 11 roster players that were drafted (the day this article was written, but we know rosters change frequently depending on injuries, etc.), with the rest acquired through trades or free-agent signings.
Now, let's get back to how they are finding ways to win.
Like the Detroit Red Wings, the Blues' top players have a tremendous work ethic. T.J. Oshie comes to mind immediately. He is highly skilled and not going to be outworked by the opposition or a teammate.
The top forwards - Brad Boyes, Oshie, David Backes and Andy McDonald - have had a harder time scoring the early part of this season, but that hasn't stopped them from being committed to a disciplined team game.
Interesting stat - the Blues are near the NHL lead with an average of around 34 shots per game on the opposition net, and yet they lead the NHL with the fewest shots against, allowing a sparse 26 per night at their goalies. That will always be a successful formula.
Timely scoring from role players
On the back end, even with some key injuries, their depth has jumped to the forefront; youngsters with very little NHL experience have not been overwhelmed when given ice time.
The ace up their sleeve has been the ridiculously sick goaltending from Jaro Halak and Ty Conklin. Most games, their goalie is the best player on the ice for either team. I just love the calm demeanour shown by Halak. He's been much better than I expected, not because I didn't think he's a terrific goalie, but often a player needs some time adjusting to his new environment. Conklin has demonstrated the unique ability to prepare properly in practice and, when called upon, which isn't often, he's mentally strong enough to will himself to excel.
Exciting times in the Gateway City. This is just another example of an organization doing it the proper way and, better yet, because they are terrific people, too.
(Photo of Jaroslav Halak by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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