Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Blues are Suddenly a Defensive Juggernaut

Two week ago the St. Louis Blues were bleeding goals left and right with seemingly no relief in sight. What a difference 14 days can make. The Blues are 6-1 since firing Ken Hitchcock and they have allowed just eight goals in those seven games.

It's pretty remarkable when you contrast that streak with the team's seven games leading up to Hitchcock's firing. In those games, St. Louis had allowed 32 goals against and went 1-6-0.

How's that for a ringing endorsement of new head coach Mike Yeo and the simplified zone defense he has introduced?

According to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Yeo has tinkered with Hitchcock’s man-on-man defensive zone coverage schemes, reverting to more zone coverage. He’s also changed the way defensive pairings handle puck retrieval, calling for more support and communication between partners.

Whatever the heck he's done, it's clearly working. The Blues pitched their third shutout in the last seven games on Wednesday night at the Joe Louis Arena, beating a downtrodden Detroit Red Wings team that lost its fourth straight and dropped to 22-25-10.

Carter Hutton made 25 saves for the Blues and the 31-year-old Thunder Bay, Ontario native now has four shutouts in his past six road starts dating back to January 14.

"We're a different team in here," Hutton told the media scrum. "We're defending harder in our own zone, giving up less high-quality chances, second chances and that's obviously helping everybody in here."

The Blues improve to 30-22-5 for 65 points. They now lead fourth place Nashville by three points but the Predators have a game in hand.