St. Louis Blues (47-15-7) at Pittsburgh Penguins (45-19-5)
|Date & Time||Sunday March 23, 2014, 1:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Pittsburgh Penguins -116 / St. Louis Blues +105 --- Over/Under: 5.5
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It took extra time for the Penguins to get it done but they won for just the second time in five games on Saturday. This isn't the best time for a team's play to be slipping and right now the Penguins just look vulnerable. We saw it again on Saturday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Lightning but Pittsburgh has the great equalizer of talent that allows them to get through games like this. James Neal's winner game at 1:27 of the extra session to lift the Penguins to the 4-3 win. Evgeni Malkin scored back-to-back goals in the second period with the Penguins trailing by a goal to put them in front. It lasted for just under two minutes before the Lightning evened things heading into the third. Jeff Zatkoff got the start in goal and was a little shaky but did just enough in this one to get his team the two points. Zatkoff finished the game with 21 saves on 24 shots. It's hard to put a finger on it but there just doesn't seem to be that added element you see from a championship club with these Penguins. Yes, they're loaded with talent but we've seen them flame out in the playoffs many times since they hoisted the Cup in 2009. Their disasters on defense and in goal still look like they could be a problem come April and if they ever get to the finals and have to face a club like their opponent on Sunday it won't be pretty.
The St. Louis Blues head into this match up trying to bounce back after a miserable performance in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. Jaden Schwartz continue his stellar season with a shorthanded goal in the first period that gave the Blues the lead, but it would be the only goal St. Louis would score. Philadelphia scored twice in the second and added two more in the third to send St. Louis to a 4-1 defeat. This was a chippy game that saw the Flyers impose their will on the visitors, something that's not done to the Blues much at all. Ryan Miller was a little off in this one but still gives the Blues a much better chance in this post season than either Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliot would have. Miller will play a huge role in their success moving forward but there's still a question of whether or not this club has enough offense to really make a deep run. It's one thing to roll through the regular season, but playing a quality opponent that has time to prepare and make adjustments changes the dynamic dramatically. The Blues will need to start honing their game as we head down the stretch here and they look to try and secure a President's Trophy. There might not be another team in the league that can grind you down physically the way St. Louis can but the name of the game is still putting the puck in the net.
These two teams could easily meet in the Stanley Cup Finals but neither is going to get there unless they find a way to improve their deficient areas. St. Louis needs to score more and Pittsbugh needs to play better defensively, so this should be interesting to see how each team plays. Give the Blues to bounce back after a poor effort yesterday against a Penguins club that just hasn't looked all that great over the last four or five contests.