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Saturday, March 16, 2013

St. Louis Blues: Penalty killing unit has been excellent of late

The St. Louis Blues have been ravaged by injuries at the forward position and are just now starting to get healthy. Alex Steen returned for Thursday night's win over the Phoenix Coyotes and Andy McDonald and Vladimir Tarasenko may not be far behind.

With all of the injuries, several unheralded Blues have had to step up their play not only offensively, but defensively as well. The Blues have done just that non only in five-on-five situations, but on special teams as well, particularly when killing penalties. In fact, as pointed out during Friday night's episode of The Cruddy Show, the Blues' penalty killing unit has been stellar of late.

During the team's last 12 games, the team has killed 37 of 42 penalties, which is good for killing the penalty successfully 88 percent of the time during the stretch.

Early in the season, the Blues penalty killing unit struggled while the power play thrived. Now, the trend has reversed and the Blues penalty killing unit suddenly looks like a strength of this team.

The penalty killing unit has improved for several reasons. The obvious reason is the play of rookie goalie Jake Allen, who has provided stability between the pipes.

The other main reason the penalty killing unit has been so effective of late has been the play of guys like Chris Porter and Vladimir Sobotka, who have both stepped up in a big way with increased roles because of the injuries. Sobotka is a regular member of the penalty killing unit, but Porter has come up from Peoria and has been a stable, reliable player in his ice time.

As the Blues turn towards the home stretch of this shortened season, head coach Ken Hitchcock will hope to see the penalty killing unit to continue to play well.

And when the Blues get McDonald, Tarasenko and T.J. Oshie back from injury and playing good defense, the Blues could become one of the scariest teams in the NHL come playoff time.

The Cruddy Show is a St. Louis sports talk show and podcast.  Listen to The Cruddy Show every Tuesday and Friday night live at 9:30 pm CT on BlogTalkRadio.com to hear the latest in St. Louis sports.  You can download each podcast on iTunes and follow (@CruddyShow) on Twitter!

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