VANCOUVER, CANADA - OCTOBER 26: Goalie Brian Elliot #1 of the St Louis Blues is congratulated by teammate TJ Oshie #73 after shutting out the Vancouver Canucks to win 3-0 in NHL action on October 26, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
The Canucks look a half-step behind the competition so far this season, and that continued on Wednesday night as Brian Elliott and the Blues shut them out, 3-0.
Two goals from Alex Steen and a solid performance from goalie Brian Elliott gave the St. Louis Blues three wins in a row, as they defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-0. On the flipside, Vancouver suffered its second loss in a row after being shutout for the third time already this season.
After Cory Schneider came in relief after Roberto Luongo's three-goal meltdown in last night's 3-2 loss to theEdmonton Oilers, ‘Nucks coach Alain Vigneault went with Schneider to start against the Blues. Similarly, St. Louis has been having issues with their starting goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, and it was Elliott was started in favor of Halak after the Blues won back-to-back games against the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers.
Ideally then, the beginning of this one was all about the Battle of the Backups. The first period went scoreless after both netminders made the saves that were needed to give their offenses a shot at some support. The second period started the same way, until Alexander Steen gained possession and scored off of his own rebound while the Canucks' defensemen were on their way back from the Blues' zone.
The Blues led the game in shots to this point, but the Canucks caught up toward the end of the period. In the finalframe, Vancouver began to play with a sense of urgency, taking shots in flurries and taking any rebounds around the crease -- but Elliott did not budge and kept his team with the 1-0 lead.
The closest Vancouver got to scoring, besides a few posts earlier on, came with 3:13 remaining as a shot bounced off of the boards and then off of Elliott's pads, slowly drifting toward the goal line. Elliott swiftly caught notice and covered the puck.
The save gave the Blues a bit of extra momentum to put the game away as Patrik Berglund handled a centering pass from Kevin Shattenkirk to finish Vancouver off for the night. The 'Nucks weren't even able to pull Schneider for the extra attacker and bowed out at home, losing 3-0 and giving Elliot the 10th shutout of his career.
Despite St. Louis' dismal offensive numbers earlier this year, Elliot's presence in net seems to have boosted the team's confidence. The Blues have scored at least three goals during their three-game win streak. Players like Steen, Jason Arnott and Shattenkirk are now looking like the players they need to be, and it seems that if they can remain healthy going forward, the Blues will be able to spread the offense.
On the flip side, while Vigneault argued that October is a month for typically-strong teams to work out their kinks, the Canucks have looked a half-step slower than what is to be expected, and it goes beyond any issues that Luongo has had this month. In almost all cases on Wednesday night, Schneider did what he could do to keep the Canucks in the game, but a few mental mistakes cost Vancouver in big ways as the Blues took advantage of by scoring.
Whether it was from a defensive breakdown or an untimely penalty twice in the middle of the power play, the Canucks did not help their cause in the game, and it looks like a chronic issue as opposed to a problem with a simple solution.
Both teams are still feeling out their identities for the season. St. Louis has added experience and is hoping that with fewer injuries this year, they can be the young and up-and-coming team we all expected to see last year. The Canucks will continue to try and work out those "kinks".
For more on this one from the Vancouver perspective, check in with our Canucks blog Nucks Misconduct. For more from the St. Louis perspective, check in with SB Nation St. Louis and our Blues blog St. Louis Game Time.