The Blues tied the club record with their 10th straight win, beating Minnesota 4-0 on Sunday in St. Paul, Minn.
The Blues also won 10 games in a row in January of 2002 and will go for a franchise record 11th straight win on Tuesday against Toronto at Enterprise Center.
"It's all good stuff," coach Craig Berube said. "The players are doing a great job. They're going out and executing every night and playing hard and doing the right things."
"I think the team's really caught their stride," goalie Jordan Binnington said. "We're playing well every game, having great starts and setting the tone. Hopefully we continue our success. It's definitely fun.
"We're playing disciplined and selfless and it's really helping. We're having a great time playing with each other and for each other."
The Blues completed a three-game trip against three of their pursuers in the Western Conference playoff race and they won them all by shutout, tightening their grip on a playoff spot that once upon a time seemed out of reach. And now, second place in the Central isn't that far away. The Blues are six points in back of Nashville and have played three less games; they are eight points clear of Vancouver, the first team out of the playoff picture in the West.
The 10 wins in a row matches the longest streak in the NHL this season, done by Buffalo, and is the team's eighth consecutive win on the road, which also matches the longest streak in the league.
Binnington stopped 31 shots, including 17 in the third period, as he posted his fourth shutout since had made his first start on Jan. 7. He also set a Blues rookie record with his eighth straight win. He had to make some tough saves in the third as the Wild had three power plays.
"Both goalies have done a great job during this streak and he was huge again tonight," Berube said. "He made some big saves at the right time for us, as did Jake Allen the other night against Colorado."
The Blues have recorded at least three consecutive shutouts four times, including a four-game stretch from March 19-26, 2016 with Brian Elliott posting three and Jake Allen the fourth. The other times, all of three games: April 7-11, 2013 (Elliott), March 22-27, 2012 (Elliott) and Dec. 1-6, 1988 (Greg Millen).
The Blues are second team in NHL history with a win streak of at least 10 games after ranking last in the standings with a minimum of 10 games played. The 2015-16 Ducks won 11 straight.
Vladimir Tarasenko extended his point streak to 12 games with a first-period goal and he added two assists. Ryan O'Reilly also scored in the first as the Blues quickly took control with two power play goals.
"That was huge," Berube said. "I didn't think our first period was overall great, we were a little bit sloppy with the puck. The power play contributed two goals, that was a big lift for us."
"I think we're making adjustments and just getting bounces," O'Reilly said. "We've been working at it. You can go out and get momentum and it's getting our game going. It gave us a spark. I thought they outplayed us in that first bit, getting that goal gave us confidence. It gave us the feel of the game back. It's what you need from the power play. You need spark and momentum.
In the second period, the Blues got a goal by Vince Dunn, who finished off a three-on-one break with his eighth goal of the season as the Blues defensemen continued their offensive attack and Brayden Schenn got a goal when he put the puck on goal and sliding Minnesota defenseman Nick Seeler carried the puck into the goal.
Tarasenko's goal was his eighth in six games and his 26th of the season. It came 19 seconds into a power play after Oskar Sundqvist was caught with a high stick. O'Reilly dug out a puck in a battle along the boards, stepped out in the open and fed Tarasenko, who was by himself.
"He's our scorer, we all know that," Berube said. "He scores goals, but he's not just scoring goals. If you watch closely he's working hard and doing good things and that's contributing to scoring too. He's doing a good job."
O'Reilly also scored, with 29.9 seconds to go in the period. Both goals came on the power play; the last time the Blues had two power-play goals in the same game was Nov. 28 against Detroit in what was Berube's fourth game as coach.
O'Reilly got his goal after Marcus Foligno was sent off for hooking. Minnesota couldn't clear the puck and this time Tarasenko returned the favor, setting up O'Reilly for his 22nd goal of the season (to go along with 38 assists.) It was the 24th assist of the season for Tarasenko and his 400th career point. It's the fifth straight game in which he's had more than one point.
"That was a great play from him there," O'Reilly said. "His shot's so dangerous some guys over commit and it opens up plays. He made a great pass across and I was just trying to get it to the net. He's playing good hockey right now."
BERUBE'S FUTURE WITH THE BLUES
QUESTION: What's the general vibe from the players regarding the coaching situation? Do they support Berube getting the job on a permanent basis?
TOM T.: I think the players are pretty focused on the here and now, and right now, Craig Berube is the coach and things are going well. With the way the team has responded to him, I'd say they're pretty pleased with the situation and I would think they would support him getting the job. With that said, if you're comparing him to Unknown Coach X, you'll stick with the guy you've got and are winning with.
Berube coached some of these guys in the AHL, and many of the guys as an assistant and now as the head coach. There's a comfort level with that.
Follow-up: It seems obvious with the current state of play that "Chief" will be named the permanent coach of the Blues. Will management name him in the near-future vs. waiting until the end of the year?
TOM T.: The only thing Doug Armstrong has said is that Berube will finish out the season. Certainly if the team keeps going the way it's going, it's hard to see them not keeping him. I don't think Armstrong will pull a Cardinals and quickly pull the interim tag. But I could be wrong.
HOW DID BLUES TURN AROUND THEIR SEASON SO FAST?
QUESTION: Watching Tuesday's game made me realize how far this team has come in just 30 days. The Blues were the New Jersey Devils just over a month ago. What happened — can you pinpoint it? Why did it take this long? What happens now? Are they buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?
TOM T.: I alluded to this in my story for Tuesday's paper, but the analytics for the Blues jumped up very sharply in mid-December. It's almost like they got an electric shock the jump was so sudden. That came about three weeks into the Berube Era. The on-ice events that correspond to the jump were the illegal-stick overtime win over Colorado and the practice session fight between Bortuzzo and Sanford. It's also very possible that it just took a while for Berube's message to sink in.
It's also possible that you or I could have been coaching the team and it would have eventually found that level, that the bad start was a combination of new faces not jelling, some bad luck and the standard ups and downs of the season. What ever it is, the team has an increased level of confidence and is nowhere near the fragile mess they were earlier. Let's face it: In November, the Florida, Tampa Bay and two Nashville games are ones they very likely would have lost.
Follow-up: What are the analytics that "jumped up" prior to getting the results?
TOM T.: The most significant one is what's called expected goals, or xG. It's based on who's taking shots and from where. After their slow start, the Blues are now 11th in expected goals for and second in expected goals against. (You can find this on corsicahockey.com, among other places.) So they're creating good chances while denying the other teams from having good chances. They're fifth in expected goal difference. For a while there, the numbers jumped and they were still playing .500 hockey. Now, it's to the point where they are playing up to their numbers and getting results.
If you recall, in that earlier stretch, there were times when Berube and players were saying they were playing well enough to win but weren't and they just needed to stick with it and they would get results. Turns out they were right.
STAND PAT AT THE TRADE DEADLINE . . .
COMMENT: With the Blues' success since the start of 2019, they should stand pat at the trade deadline. They’ll need depth across the roster come playoff time. Maroon has improved his game. If they trade Fabbri, they won’t get a big return. Re-sign him; he'll be back to normal next season. JayBo and Gunnarsson? They'll need veteran 'D' for the playoffs.
TOM T.: I used to think that the Blues would be limited sellers at the deadline, dealing pending UFAs like Bouwmeester and Maroon. Now, I don't see that happening. As long as the team keeps winning, they'll keep those guys. The team has somewhat amazingly morphed from a team that would be fighting to make the playoffs to a team that looks like it could actually do something in the playoffs. At the same time, I don't see them buying. They certainly don't need any more defensemen, and they seem to have plenty of depth forwards. If by some chance a goal-scorer was available at a reasonable price, they would be interested, but a situation like that seems unlikely.
I don't think there's any kind of market for Fabbri at the moment.
. . . OR BUY AT THE TRADE DEADLINE?
QUESTIONS: As long as the Blues don’t lose their next several games before the trade deadline, it appears they'll be buyers. But who could they grab that isn't a rental? No rentals, please! Kyle Palmieri was impressive with the Devils on Tuesday. Would Palmieri be a good fit and if so, what would it take to get him? BTW, I really like this MacEachern kid. I hope 'Army' doesn’t start shuttling him back and forth to San Antonio. What’s up with Fabbri?
TOM T.: I don't see the Blues getting a non-rental. The price would be too high. They don't have the draft picks to trade and are reluctant to deal prospects (at least the prospects that other teams would want).
I think MacEachern is going to stay around, though if they got in a roster bind in the next two weeks before the limits come off, he would be the likely guy to go down because he doesn't have to go through waivers. Amusingly, after the Nashville game on Saturday, he got called into the GM's office to sign his new contract, but he thought he was going to be told he was being sent back to San Antonio because Perron was coming off IR.
Again on Fabbr: Basically, he came back a little tentative from the shoulder injury, the coaches sat him, and other players did better, making it tougher for him to get back in.
WHERE DOES PERRON FIT WHEN HE RETURNS?
QUESTION: When Perron gets back in the lineup, does he eventually go back on the first line with O'Reilly? Would Schenn drop down to center the second line or play wing?
TOM T.: This has been a much-discussed topic the past few days. We discussed it at length in the press box Tuesday night and at practice Wednesday. I would think that the current O'Reilly line would stay the same. Perron would go on the second line, along with Schwartz, and Thomas would be moved up to center that line. Bozak would center a third line with Sundqvist and Maroon or Steen on the wings.
Then on the fourth line you would have MacEachern, Barbashev and either Maroon or Steen. Sanford would be the guy to come out. But I would think that Sanford and Fabbri would rotate through that third or fourth line from time to time.
WHAT'S FABBRI'S PROBLEM?
QUESTION: So what's the deal with Fabbri? Is it conditioning-related, lack of confidence that he won't get reinjured? Combination of both? Have we seen the last of him in a Blues jersey?
TOM T.: I don't think we've seen the last of Fabbri. When he has been healthy in previous seasons, he's shown he can play at this level and his price is still very reasonable, especially since he's not going to get much of a raise after this season. He's a valuable commodity and he's still young. (He's younger than MacEachern, for instance, and only five months older than Sammy Blais.)
Going into this season, it was hard to figure what the Blues would get out of him as he returned from two knee surgeries, and then when you throw a shoulder injury in, that's a lot to deal with. If he's fully healthy and fully confident, he can be a contributor. It just may take until next season.
COMMENT: Here's hoping that Binnington's solid goaltending continues. Allen looked like a fish out of water way too many times against Nashville. Not all the goals were his fault, but he seemed to be lost on a few plays.
TOM T.: The net right now belongs to Binnington until something changes, and it's probably going to take a lot to change it, meaning more than just one bad game. Allen had to be thinking after Sunday's game, oh great, I come back and face 45 shots. The Blues defense didn't make it easy for Allen in that game. Binnington does have a calm, steady style in goal, but the Blues defense has also made it easier for him.
Follow-up: Seems like Army’s best move was releasing Chad Johnson to make room for Jordan Binnington. At the time, it appeared to be a short-term solution. Chad Johnson stated how great it was to join a well-positioned team like Anaheim. Quite a significant change in the standings since then.
TOM T.: Who knew? Certainly backing up John Gibson would seem not to be a bad gig. It's interesting to remember that when Binnington was first called up, the Blues had no interest in playing him. Allen went every night until they had to use Binnington because they had a back to back. It's also interesting to remember that when Binnington came in in relief of Allen on a couple occasions, he didn't do anything that stood out and said 'Boy, they should start this guy.' But giving him a start seemed to push a magic button with Binnington. He's played great.
I also remember that when Johnson had a shutout early in the season, some members of the media (none of them me) wanted to know if Johnson was going to play more. I will say that when it comes to being quotable, Chad Johnson was far better than Jordan Binnington.
LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE 'D'
QUESTION: While better goaltending and Tarasenko getting hot are two of the most obvious reasons the Note are playing better, what is one of the more underrated reasons behind this turnaround?
TOM T.: I don't know if it's underrated, but the team's defensive play has jumped up. It is the five-man unit that teams live to see. Early on, you'd see defensemen pinch forward, the puck go the other way, and whoever was in goal was facing an odd-man rush. You don't see anywhere near the number of odd-man rushes you used to see. There defensive coverage is much better.
Also, they've gotten much better at keeping the puck in the offensive zone. One of the best ways to play defense is to have the puck 200 feet away from your net. That has helped them to wear down defenses more. And, again, the team's confidence has skyrocketed. They can weather storms much better than they have in the past.
MAROON IN BEAST MODE
COMMENT: Wasn't a big fan of the Maroon signing at the time and thought early on he was a detriment to the team. But lately, the 'eye test' shows that he's a beast with the puck down low, behind the net and along the boards. Other teams really struggle trying to knock him off the puck before he can cycle it along. Are there any advanced stats that can confirm my eye test?
TOM T.: I was trying to find some stats to support that without grinding the chat to a halt and I haven't, but I'm sure they're out there and I'll keep looking. But the eye test is certainly valid here. Maroon has been very strong on the puck and his ability to hold on to it has allowed for line changes while the Blues kept the puck in the offensive zone, which has created more scoring chances as fresh legs start going against tired legs.
IS SUNDQVIST A KEEPER?
QUESTION: What's the long-term outlook for Sundqvist (if there even is one)? Is he a keeper?
TOM T.: Sundqvist is definitely a keeper. The team likes everything about his game, offensively and defensively. I don't think he's going to be a top six forward, but he could be a third-line guy who can be moved up or down the lineup if needed. Though, for some reason, opposing players seem to go out of their way to hit him.
QUESTION: How does the game-night atmosphere at Enterprise compare to other rinks you've visited?
TOM T.: There are a lot of places with much splashier presentations. Vegas is renowned for its pregame routines and Nashville doesn't do on-ice contests between periods. They just introduce a band that performs from a stage on one end of the rink. I've seen some spectacular video presentations projected on the ice in places like Montreal.
Noise can be hard to compare from place to place, though I remember being at a game in Anaheim once where Doug Weight got hit, I forget if it was by a puck or a stick, in the face and it was so quiet you could hear him swear at the very top of the arena. Doug, being Doug, was embarrassed to hear that when I told him after the game and apologized profusely.
The Blues seem to do things like throw pies in the faces of "fans" of "other teams" more than any other team in the league.
BOTTOM LINE ON THE TRADE DEADLINE
QUESTION: With as well as the team is playing and as full as the roster is, will the Blues make additions at the deadline? How will the players feel if they stand pat? Do they expect moves?
TOM T.: Nothing big, but I also don't see them unloading players. If things stay as they are, I think Bouwmeester, Gunnarsson and Maroon will finish out the season.
I think the players would be OK with them standing pat because the team is finally playing as well together as they were expected to do so it's a fairly tight group. And any acquisition who would significantly add to the team would cost either a draft pick the Blues don't have or a prospect they don't want to part with. Pietrangelo said Wednesday that he didn't think most of the players knew when the trade deadline was. (I would think the pending UFAs might know.)
If there's someone the Blues can get for a mid-round draft pick, they would probably take a chance on that, but a Panarin type would cost way more than they are prepared to pay. I don't see the Blues outbidding for anyone in a trade situation.