The St. Louis Blues found the winning formula they were searching for.
Now they must take it on the road when they kick off a three-game trip on Tuesday against the Calgary Flames.
The Blues snapped a three-game winless skid with an impressive 3-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday, a victory in which goaltender Jordan Binnington was required to make only 18 saves.
“Just a tremendous effort, top to bottom,” Binnington said upon recording his second shutout of the season and 14th in his career. “We really bought in, and we played the right way. We were successful. We understand here that what we’re here for is to win and win hockey games, get points and make playoffs. … A great example of how we need to play.”
The Blues held one of the Western Conference’s wild-card playoff spots coming out of the holiday break but won only three of nine games before Saturday’s victory.
Handily beating the Capitals in the second half of a home-and-home set restored much-needed confidence for the club that has struggled away from St. Louis this season. The Blues sport a subpar 8-12-1 mark on the road, which must be improved upon during this trip to make a playoff push after the All-Star break.
“As a group, we weren’t happy with our effort over the last two games,” said Drew Bannister, who took over the coaching duties in mid-December. “(Saturday) was a complete game. As far as I’ve been here, that’s our most complete game from top down.
“They played the right way. Now the challenge is to continue to build on that and have consistency with that type of game.”
The Flames, who sit one point ahead of the Blues, having played two more games, have lost two straight, the latest a 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
A defeat at the hand of their biggest rivals was bad enough, but with the club’s playoff hopes on a razor-thin margin, it was all the worse.
“It’s frustrating losing, in general, doesn’t matter the opponent,” forward Blake Coleman said. “We keep giving ourselves these great opportunities to make a push and go on these runs and then we take two steps back. It’s getting down to where we can’t have these setbacks.”
The Flames will receive a boost for the game with No. 1 goalie Jacob Markstrom expected back in action after he missed the last three games due to a lower-body injury.
“I feel really good and excited,” Markstrom said after Monday’s practice. “Nice to be back practicing with the guys.”
Markstrom was at his best in the 10 games before being injured, in which he posted a 7-3-0 record and a .936 save percentage, and believes he was able to do what was necessary during his brief time on the shelf to return to that level of play.
“Just skating and working on the stuff we’ve been working on all year. I didn’t miss too many days skating and will keep working and doing what we’ve been doing.”
Even though he practiced fully with the team on Monday for the first time this season while dealing with his mental health, defenseman Oliver Kylington is not expected to play. The Flames will also be without forward Dillon Dube, who has taken an indefinite leave from the club due to “mental health” issues.
–Field Level Media
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