To stay in the Western Conference playoff chase, the St. Louis Blues have had to earn points against some of the NHL’s tougher teams.
Since Drew Bannister took over as interim coach, the Blues have defeated Dallas twice, won at Florida and Carolina, beaten Vancouver and the New York Rangers at home, and earned a point in an overtime loss to the Boston Bruins at home.
The Blues’ challenge continues Monday when they host Philadelphia, one of the league’s more improved teams. The Flyers are riding a three-game winning streak.
“We’ve been getting points against some really good hockey teams,” Oskar Sundqvist said. “Just keep that in mind, just keep playing and building our game, it’s a new week next week and we’ve got more tough games coming up.”
The Blues are 3-1-1 in their past five games and 8-4-1 since Bannister replaced Craig Berube as coach.
“I think we’ve been playing really well against the top teams in the league,” Kasperi Kapanen said. “I think we’ve been winning a good amount of games. We’ve just got to just play smart, play smart and not make the perfect play sometimes and keep it simple and we’ll start winning some more games.”
Goaltender Jordan Binnington is 3-0-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in four starts this month.
“We’ve been playing good, especially Binnington and our defense,” Sundqvist said. “Binner has been stopping the first opportunities and we’ve been good at helping him with the second and third chances.”
After finishing 31-38-13 last season, the Flyers have stayed in the middle of the Eastern Conference race. They endured a 1-3-3 lull during the holiday season, then rebounded to go 4-1 and move nine games over .500.
Coach John Tortorella has the Flyers playing a disciplined defensive game. They have also been getting strong goaltending from Carter Hart and Samuel Ersson.
Ersson (11-5-3, 2.33 GAA) blanked the streaking Jets at Winnipeg on Saturday while making 35 saves.
“It obviously helps when our goalie is our best player as well and keeping us in there and made some great saves,” Flyers right wing Cam Atkinson said. “We just wanted to keep it a simple road game tonight.”
The Jets had won eight straight and had earned points in 14 in a row.
“I think we came in tonight knowing what they’ve done the last 12, 14 games here,” center Scott Laughton said. “They’ve been playing good hockey. First in the NHL. They play hard, so it was a big win for us to come in here and steal two points. We got contributions from everyone, and it was good to see.”
Sean Couturier was a late scratch Saturday with an undisclosed injury and Jamie Drysdale missed the game due to illness. Atkinson picked up the scoring slack with two goals, snapping a 26-game drought.
“Long time coming, longest in my career that I’ve gone without scoring,” Atkinson said. “A little snakebitten there, but just stuck with the process and tried to get to the areas where I’ve scored a lot of goals in this league. Found a way to get a couple tonight, and it feels good.”
–Field Level Media
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