(HockeyStL) -- It has been ten years since the Blues last advanced to the second round of the playoffs. The Blues are now considered to be the favorites to bring the Stanley Cup to St. Louis, a feat that has never been accomplished since they were established in 1967. The Blues were able to advance to round two because of their team play, and their ability to come together as one. Yet, there was one line that shone bright, and will have to do it again in round two.
The line of Andy McDonald, Patrik Berglund, and Alexander Steen was an experiment by head coach Ken Hitchcock. McDonald and Berglund have played together periodically over the past few seasons, but the line didn’t really begin to click until Alex Steen joined. Steen was a late addition to the line after missing the majority of the season with a concussion, but the Blues found he complimented his linemates well enough to earn a permanent spot.
“We came together late as a line and I think Bergie and I played together off and on over the last couple of years,” said McDonald. “Steen’s been a late addition, so this week (off) gives us a little more time to practice and work together.”
Not that they really are in dire need of practice, as the players on this line contributed eight of the Blues’ fourteen goals in round one. The Blues’ scoring was led by McDonald who registered four goals, and Berglund who contributed three, but according to McDonald, their success was combined effort.
“It’s about balance. We have three different players on our line, and everyone brings a different thing, and for Bergie specifically he’s really learning how to use his size, he’s going into those hard areas and now you’re seeing him get those goals around the net. He’s screening the goalie, finding rebounds, and tipping the puck in. It’s great because it allows Steener to give us a little more room.”
McDonald missed 51 games this season with his second concussion in as many seasons, but his return led to the Blues’ playoff push that led to them holding the second seed in the Western Conference. McDonald was injured yet again before the playoffs with a shoulder injury that led to him missing six games late in the season. But this clearly hasn’t affected his game.
McDonald was arguably the MVP of the series, scoring four goals, and assisting on four of the Blues power play goals, but it was his positioning in front of the opponent’s net that was instrumental in his success.
“There aren’t too many goalies where you are going to beat them with a wrist shot,” said McDonald. “We have to make sure we have our guys going to the net, that’s the way we’ve played all year long, we stressed guys driving hard to the net, and sticking around there, and finding loose pucks. That’s the way we are going to have to play this series.”
McDonald and Berglund both were able to play this style of game in the first round, and it led to seven goals between them. Now they look to do the same against the Los Angeles Kings, who will be much stiffer defensively than the San Jose Sharks were.
“I think you concentrate on winning the game,” said McDonald. Concentrate on what you are going to do in the process and how you are going to play the game. If you play the game the right way and the way the coaching staff wants our team to play we’re confident we can come out with a win”
The Blues will start game one of the Western Conference semifinals with the same lineup as they used in game five of the quarterfinals, but whether or not the lines will be the same, remains to be seen. It is apparent that the Blues need all of their lines to step up to the plate and produce, but it always helps to have a second line produce like it did in the first round. The Blues will look for McDonald, Berglund, and Steen to lead the charge, and if they can dominate as they did in the first round, the Blues will likely advance to the Western Conference Finals.