Some strong play defensively has contributed to the Pittsburgh Penguins' fast start. They certainly could have used a better blueline effort against the St. Louis Blues in past years.
Winners of five straight, the Penguins look to shut down a Blues club coming off a big game offensively at Mellon Arena on Tuesday night.
Pittsburgh (7-1-0) is off to its second-best start in franchise history, falling just short of its 7-0-1 mark from 1995.
"We have high expectations here, and we have a lot of confidence as a team," Penguins star Sidney Crosby said. "When you have those things, you don't need to be perfect or to do everything exactly right. You just find ways to win."
Crosby continues to lead a potent Pittsburgh offense, scoring four goals to tie him with Tyler Kennedy for the team lead. The Penguins have also been outstanding defensively over their last four games, surrendering six goals.
Pittsburgh, though, has given up 13 goals in its last four games against St. Louis (3-2-1), losing the first three of those matchups before a 6-3 victory on Nov. 1, the team's only meeting last season. The Blues ended a three-game losing streak and a scoring slump with a 5-0 win over Anaheim on Saturday night, but a matchup with the Penguins could lead to a setback.
Pittsburgh opened a five-game homestand with a 4-1 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday night, limiting the Lightning to one goal in seven power-play opportunities.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 22 saves, and the Penguins blocked 19 shots. Defenseman Jay McKee had seven of those blocks, giving him 28 on the season.
McKee has quickly fit in after spending his previous three seasons with St. Louis, providing gritty performances and helping Pittsburgh post a 2.26 goals-against average.
Fleury is 7-0-0 with a 2.08 GAA, but has given up three goals in each of his last two games versus the Blues.
"Marc-Andre's been our best player every night, but we're all out there frustrating the other team," McKee said. "There are a lot of things clicking for us right now, especially defensively."
St. Louis' Ty Conklin had a solid effort against the Ducks, stopping 26 shots for his first shutout of the season. The Blues will likely go back to Chris Mason in net, but they come away from their last matchup with a much-needed boost of confidence offensively.
After scoring nine goals in two wins over Detroit in Sweden two weeks ago, St. Louis went 0 for 10 with the man advantage and scored five goals in losing its next three. Patrick Berglund and Carlo Colaiacovo quickly ended that trend, scoring power-play goals to give the Blues a 2-0 lead over Anaheim early in the second period.
Andy McDonald, meanwhile, had two even-strength goals and added an assist for his first points since returning from Sweden.
"The last few games our power play hasn't been great," said McDonald, who has three goals and three assists on the season. "We weren't moving the puck around very well. It was an area of concern."