Sure, it's only three games in a row. But the St. Louis Blues are playing some of their best hockey of the season and they are being rewarded for it in the win column.
Tonight's victory over Minnesota was a pretty big one. Minnesota was playing some very good hockey and came into the game having won four in a row against some very good teams: Calgary, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Vancouver. Vancouver? Ok, three good teams.
The Blues dominated time of possession and shots on net, but could only sneak one by Wild netminder Josh Harding, who played very well...but that's all the Blues would need as Mason was nails once again, stopping all 19 shots that came his way.
The early message from Davis Payne seems to be getting across to Blues players as their play has been much more physical and spirited since Payne has taken over as coach. The defense has been jumping into the play more, which gives the offense more options. At the same time though, there is always someone covering for a pinching defenseman.
So far, so good.
The note are now 3-2-1 under Payne and aside from the last two periods in Payne's first game behind the bench, the Blues have, for the most part, played excellent hockey...and if not for horrible no-call vs. Anaheim, they may have forced OT and gotten a win in that game.
Most notably for the Blues, the last two wins have come at home, where the Blues had trouble winning under Murray when they sported one of the worst home records in the NHL. But that looks to be turning around with two straight victories at home while playing good hockey under a new coach.
It also helps that Paul Kariya is back in the lineup. And while Kariya isn't lighting it up on the scoreboard, he's been active on the ice and adds important depth. Is he worth what he is making? Hell no. But salary aside, he plays an important role on this team and other teams have to pay attention to him.
If the Blues can manage a win vs. the Rangers on Thursday, they can conceviably pull to within 5 pts.of 8th place...which sounds great considering they were 11 pts. out not too long ago.
Baby steps. We'll get there.