ST. LOUIS – The Blues’ Justin Faulk isn’t a guy who cares much about statistical stuff. You can mention any sort of data trend and he’ll brush it off like a forechecker.
But this one was a new one NHL record, so it might pique his interest, right?
With their 3-1 win over Anaheim on Monday, the club now has the longest winning streak in league history following a losing streak of eight or more games.
“It seems like one of those stats that you just call a stat and make it up because you are short of information on the day,” Faulk said, laughing.
OK, so the defenseman swatted that away just like he did a loose puck in front of the Blues’ net in the third period, followed by his game-winning power-play goal with 4 minutes and 13 seconds remaining in regulation. But although Faulk and the rest of the team weren’t popping champagne at Enterprise Center, it doesn’t mean that it’s not an impressive feat.
Philadelphia (2017-18) and San Jose (2005-06) both dropped 10 consecutive games and responded with six consecutive victories. The Blues eclipsed that Monday with their seventh straight win. One more and they would equal their eight-game losing streak with an eight-game winning streak. And, interestingly, that opportunity will come Wednesday at Buffalo, which has lost eight in a row itself.
“We want to play well,” Faulk continued. “We’re building and that’s what we’ve wanted to do since the beginning of the year. We just know that we have to commit to the details of the game every night, and there’s never an easy night.
“It’s nice that we’ve won seven in a row, and what happened before was we weren’t happy about, but we’ve just got to keep trying to build something and know that it’s a long year and we have to be ready and keep coming together as a group.”
The Blues may well continue building, and who knows where the season goes from here? Exactly two weeks ago, they had lost the last of those eight games — 5-1 in Philadelphia — and, admittedly, The Athletic was analyzing the team’s trade options and whether they would consider firing coach Craig Berube. They were tied with Columbus for 32nd in the NHL standings with six points. Now they’re in 16th place in the league (20 points), in the first wild card in the Western Conference, and just three points behind third-place Winnipeg in the Central Division.
How did this happen?
“That’s the guys,” Berube said. “They dug in and started doing things the right way and getting that team going on the ice. That’s the biggest thing for me. It really boils down to, again, how you play the game. Our puck battle has been extremely high in this run, even starting before that. Competitive, way more competitive.
“(But) it’s just about your puck play. Not making careless plays with the puck, it’s so important in this game. I get you want to make plays and there’s plays to be made, but it’s understanding the situation, and it’s understanding the pressure that’s there. It’s so important.”
The more responsible play is producing incredible results.
The Blues’ goal differential during their eight-game losing streak was minus-26, and in their seven-game winning streak, it’s plus-13 for a swing of plus-39.
That’s it Pavel Buchnevich, who has 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in the last seven games, and was named the NHL’s No. 2 stars of the week. That’s it Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas, who each chipped in nine points in that stretch. But it’s also a player like Noel Acciariwho had two goals Monday and leads the Blues with four during their winning streak.
“We just needed to stick with it,” Acciari said. “We know we’re a good team and we’re relentless. We just didn’t give up on each other. The pucks have started going the right way, we’re starting to get some bounces, and I think the confidence for some guys is starting to come back from that eight-game skid.”
Acciari, according to Faulk, is the epitome of what he was saying earlier.
“It’s a prime example of committing to the details of the game,” Faulk said. “He works hard, he forechecks, he hits, he blocks shots, he’s willing to sacrifice for the group. He’s playing well, and it’s great to see him get rewarded for it. He’s a competitor, and he shows up every night, he brings the same game, and that’s all you can ask for from guys.”
In fact, Acciari, who signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract last summer, leads the Blues in several of those categories: hits (61), blocked shots by a forward (19) and face-off winning percentage (57.9 percent) .
“He’s played well from the get-go for me,” Berube said. “The effort he gives every night, and the details in his game are excellent.”
Meanwhile, the Blues’ goaltending continues to be phenomenal.
Jordan Binnington won his sixth straight game Monday, and in that span he’s got a 2.00 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage, stopping 188 of 200 shots. If you throw in Thomas Greiss’ win over Washingtonthe duo has denied 235 of 251 shots (.936 save percentage).
The Blues’ second game in three days against last-place Anaheim on Monday might have been a chance for the team to get Binnington more rest. But a few days after Berube said Binnington “is our guy” and “you’ve got to make decisions on feel,” the club went back to its starter.
“Obviously I like being in,” Binnington said. “Greiss has done a great job throughout the year, and it’s nice to see him get that victory last game. So we’re just taking it day by day. I don’t even think too much about it.”
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) November 21, 2022
The Blues are limiting their goals against lately with a defense that has been without two of its top-four.
Colton Parayko missed three games with an upper-body injury. He returned Monday and logged 22:11 of ice time, contributing three shots on goal and three blocked shots.
“I thought he had a solid game,” Berube said. “Skated well, closed plays out, good at what he does.”
But the Blues played without Torey Krug, who left the pre-game warmups early because of an undisclosed injury that happened at the morning skate. However, Faulk stepped up Monday, and the team also got another good performance out of the rookie Tyler Tucker. In four games and more than 51 minutes of five-on-five play, he has still not been on the ice for a goal against.
“You want to have a healthy lineup every night, but we’re confident in our group back there and we think there’s a lot of depth there,” Faulk said. “Guys can fit in seamlessly with whoever they’re playing with each night. ‘Tucks’ has only played a handful of games now, but he’s played well and he’s confident out there. You can tell he’s making plays. He’s skating hard and he’s fit in and done a good job for us.”
After seemingly every Blues skater was playing poorly, the opposite appears true now, and they’re all performing well.
“You just keep working, you keep trying, you keep grinding,” Berube said. “As a coach, and as a player, that’s what you do. You’ve got to work your way out of it. It’s not just going to be given to you; it’s not just going to happen. We’ve got a good team here. There are good players. I knew eventually it would turn around at some point.”
(Top photo of St. Louis Blues’ Robert Thomas working the puck on Monday: Michael Thomas / Associated Press)