No longer afraid of failure: New Blues bring positive energy to -

No longer afraid of failure: New Blues bring positive energy to locker room

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(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS - Last season Paul Stastny caused a commotion when he admitted that the Blues were a team afraid of losing. He wasn’t wrong. That fear of failure sent the number one seed in the West packing in the first round.

A year later the team has experienced a literal and philosophical shake up. Six new skaters, including three rookies, will be on the ice to begin the playoffs Wednesday. That influx of new energy has shifted the atmosphere in the locker room in a positive direction. The feel around the room is one of excitement and not dread.

Read: Blues "excited" to face Blackhawks in the first round

“I think bringing new guys in kind of pushes that attitude out when you kind of break up the group a little bit,” Kevin Shattenkirk said after confirming the validity of Stastny’s assessment. “It's been fun because we've had new guys come in and bring a new sense of positivity and just bring a lot more to the table. It's been good to kind of feed off of that.”

That sentiment has been echoed throughout the season. Just a couple of weeks ago captain David Backes talked about players putting the team’s needs first unconcerned with individual statistics. It’s a feeling that held up through the endless string of injuries which resulted in the team losing 288 man games.

“The feeling around here I think is a bit different," said Backes. "As a cohesive group that's had to come together to overcome adversity with certain players out on a regular basis and now we've got everyone together. Not only have we overcome this but we've got all the skill and all the ability that we knew we had in training camp and finally having it on the ice at one time. It should be a good equation for the right result."

Tuesday marked the first practice of the year in which every Blues skater participated. An impressive feat when the only player to dress in all 82 regular season games is Troy Brouwer.

Read: Blues to boast healthy lineup for Game 1, including Backes

Despite the inconsistent lineups, St. Louis developed strong chemistry with the ability to roll out four potent and balanced lines along with three pairs of skilled defensemen. A combination that Shattenkirk calls the closest team he’s been part of since arriving in the Gateway City five years ago.

“Everyone seems to be finding their chemistry together which is great,” said Shattenkirk. “I think in years past we've kind of had to juggle around to find scoring and defense.”

Additionally Shattenkirk said the team’s close knit relationship benefited from no big moves at the trade deadline.

“We didn't feel like we were bringing in people to come save us. Now we're kind of almost getting acquisitions back with all the guys who were injured. I really feel like we have a really deep team here and a team that can do something special,” the defenseman added.

The club is succeeding with the guys GM Doug Armstrong brought in during the offseason, specifically Brouwer and Kyle Brodziak. Brouwer has played in 78 playoff games and gives the Blues something they didn’t have last year - someone who knows what it’s like to hoist the Cup.

“With Troy and his success winning a Stanley Cup, and his calm demeanor and his ability to share his experiences with the guys [helps],” said Backes. “Then Brodziak is a guy that's come up clutch, especially in the last couple of months, scoring some huge goals and shorthanded goals that we've really needed.”

On the other end of the spectrum the Blues expect to see the same quality contributions it saw all season from rookies Robby Fabbri, Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson. Fabbri racked up 18 goals, good for third on the team, while Parayko and Edmundson saw their blue line roles expand and grow.

“I think we can just continue our success from the season,” said Parayko, who took over Jay Bouwmeester’s role on the power play. The 22-year-old collected 33 points and led all NHL rookies with a plus-28. “We’ve all had pretty strong rookie campaigns. I think if we just come and bring lots of energy and push everyone every day to get better and work together as a team.”

What each of them will have to do is control their nerves for the start of the game with the crowd rocking the Scottrade Center and the rivalry between Chicago and St. Louis just a short drive up I-55.

“The chance to win a Stanley Cup means a lot,” said Fabbri. “You grow up watching and dreaming of it and now I’m getting my first taste of the playoffs. I’m pretty calm right now. I think it’ll be a little different five minute before the game but as of right now I’m pretty calm.”

The trio of rookies will lean on the veterans to learn how to take the extra jump of adrenaline and factor it into their postseason performance.

“You want to embrace it but at the same time you want to keep it under control because you don’t want things to slip through your mind while playing,” Parayko explained. “Sometimes you get too excited you find yourself forgetting about things. But if you get too low you don’t play up to your potential. So just finding the happy medium is going to be key.”

The biggest advice returning players like Shattenkirk can give is to not let the mistakes they make weigh them down and take them away from what makes them talented.

“I think that was something I worried about way too much in my first series was messing up. Being the problem rather than being the answer,” said Shattenkirk. The defenseman thinks Parayko and Edmundson can benefit from having each other to lean on throughout the series. “I think it’s nice that [they] have someone to talk to and kind of go through the experience together with.”

And in turn Parayko hopes when the veterans see how amped up the rookies are it gives them an extra boost as well.

“Hopefully they see how excited we are and it motivates them to get excited too. Everyone talks about its going to be crazy. It’s going to be intense. Everyone is playing their best hockey so it’s going to be a great first series – a great matchup. It’s going to be fun,” said Parayko. 

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