(HockeySTL)-- The Blues, fresh off of a five-game homestand, are the hottest team in the NHL. Having won 10 of their last 11 games and carrying the momentum from their recent success on home ice, the team is taking its talents on a four-game road trip.
The trip, which will include stops in Boston, Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg, will carry into next week and the Blues are hopeful the momentum they have gained will accompany them. But it won’t be easy.
Boston has struggled this season, but remains one of the top five teams in the Eastern Conference. Montreal, a team that has won six straight is no easy matchup, either.
“It’s a really tough trip,” said Blues forward Patrik Berglund. “Some really good teams. We just have to play the best we can.”
Tonight will be the Blues’ first road game since Nov. 4, which was two weeks ago. With a 4-1-1 road record this year, the Blues are tied with the New York Rangers for the fewest games played away from home. The players are ready for the increased challenge.
“I think it’s just sticking to the game plan,” said Blues associate coach Brad Shaw. “I think we’ve got a lot clearer identity as to how we need to play. You get that luxury playing at home and getting the matchup you want. But I don’t think much of that changes as we head out on the road. I still think we have to stick to what gives us success.”
The players know they will have to change their game plan a bit, due to the likelihood that with first change, they won’t get the matchups that they were getting on home ice. It gives their opponents an important advantage.
“We have to simplify a bit, play a lot more direct,” said Blues forward T.J. Oshie. “We are going to have a tough team in Boston. Maybe some of the stuff we got away with at home we can’t really get away with on the road. We need to play more simple and just shoot the puck and cover for each other.”
Two of the Blues’ games on the trip will be early starts. On Saturday, the Blues will face Ottawa at 2:00 p.m. CT and follow it up with a game against Winnipeg on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. CT. Combine that aspect with four games in six days and the outcome is a less-than-ideal situation.
“We realize it’s not ideal fatigue-wise and energy-wise, but we have a lot of back-to-backs where the second game is on the road so we have to get into a mindset that can give us success on a regular basis in those circumstances,” said Shaw. “This is a good test.”
The club also expects to have to compete with the four opponents’ A-games, something they have become used to matching up against.
“I think from the lockout year on, we’ve seen some teams’ best efforts,” said Shaw. “We are not sneaking up on anybody anymore. We are aware of how good we are and so are other teams. It’s made us a better team; I think we are adjusting to it still and there’s still some growth.
“I think that adversity of playing through tough opponents every night will help us at the end of the year.”
As the Blues landed in Boston on Monday, they did so riding a three-game win streak. If not for a loss against Nashville in their second game of the recently-concluded homestand, that streak would be 11 games. The Blues sit two points behind where they were at this point last season and despite the success, there is a realization that the team can be better.
“We are winning games and we are looking at film and there are still areas we can improve,” Oshie said. “We improve on those areas. We are never going to be perfect but there are areas where we can get better.”