Following an offensive explosion against the Arizona Coyotes tallying a season-high six goals. Jaden Schwartz led the way with four points including his first career NHL hat trick. Schwartz now leads the way for the Blues with four goals and three assists for seven points on the season.
After an impressive 25-stop performance by Jake Allen, Brian Elliott is projected to get the start for St. Louis. Elliott has three starts on the year and has been sharp with a .940 save percentage and 1.30 goals against average.
Elliott will face his toughest test on the road against Anaheim as the Ducks boast one of the league’s top offenses. Through five games, Anaheim has scored 18 goals putting them at fourth in the league with 3.40 goals per game. The trio of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler have combined for nine of the Ducks’ 18 goals on the year. The matchup to watch for is the top two lines for the Ducks against Elliott and the Blues defense. If the Blues defense can force perimeter shots while minimizing traffic in front, Elliott should be able to do the rest on the road.
Another key player to watch for is Magnus Paajarvi. After Paul Statsny went down in the first period with an upper-body injury. Coyotes’ Martin Hanzal collided with Statsny mid-ice in the first period before Mikkel Boedker later hit Statsny again in the St. Louis zone. Statsny left the game and did not return to the ice. Although Statsny is listed as day-to-day, he will not play in Sunday night’s game against the Ducks, so Paajarvi will get the start.
Paajarvi will play alongside Patrik Berglund and Joakim Lindstrom who have combined for just one goal this season. Paajarvi recorded just 12 points in 55 games last year in his first season with the Blues after being traded from the Edmonton Oilers. It will be interesting to see how Ken Hitchcock uses his new third line after the top two lines for the Blues have performed well to start the season recording nine of the team’s 12 goals.
On the blue line , the Blues boasts a formidable top four, but questions arise with the bottom pairing. Jordan Leopold and Barret Jackman have been on a bit of a decline from the prime of the careers currently at ages 34 and 33 respectively. So far, they have held their own with an even plus minus rating, but it is expected Leopold will be inactive in Sunday’s game to allow rookie Petteri Lindbohm to get his first NHL start. The 21-year old swedish defense men was a sixth round (176th) pick by the Blues in the 2012 NHL Draft. Lindholm is a big, physical defender standing in at 6’3″ and 198 pounds. Lindholm was difficult to knock off the puck for Finland in the 2013 World Junior Championship and was captain for Finland. Although, Lindbohm is a bit raw in his transition game and needs to mature physically by adding some weight to his 6’3″ frame before making the full-time jump to the NHL, Lindbohm possesses some of the traits to be a formidable defenseman in this league. If he does play, expect Hitchcock to use him sparingly and mostly in offensive zone face-off situations.
The keys to a victory for the Blues will be slowing down the Anaheim offense and filling the hole left by Paul Statsny. Winning in Anaheim is difficult statistically as the Ducks were the third best home team last season going 29-7-8. However, the Blues were the fifth best road team last season with an away record of 24-14-3. Expect a high tempo game with a lot of shots for both teams. If the Blues can hold the majority of Anaheim’s shots from tough angles, St. Louis should get their third win of the season. The play from the top two lines for the Blues will be crucial in order to keep up with the high-scoring Ducks.
But let’s not forget the Blues offense has average three goals per game so far this season as well, so don’t count out St. Louis to steal one at the Honda Center in Anaheim.