The Blues have been spoiled in their last six playoff series, having earned home ice advantage in each of them. This year, they will embrace what has become a rarity.
On Friday, for the first time since 2009, the Blues will begin a playoff series on the road as they look to carry their first-round success to Dallas.
The last time St. Louis began a series away from home, they were swept by the Vancouver Canucks. They believe the results will be much different in this try.
Blues players aren’t fearful of the road. In fact, in the regular season they seemed to be more comfortable away from home ice, posting a 25-11-5 away record versus a 24-13-4 record on Scottrade Center ice. Their 25 road wins were second only to San Jose in the Western Conference
“We have played a very simple, structured game,” defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said when asked about the team’s road game. “We have paid attention to our systems and I think that is one thing that is really important going into the game.”
But are there any clear-cut advantages to playing on the road?
“Could I tell you that on Monday,” coach Ken Hitchcock asked the media rhetorically. “I hope so. We need to win a game. We need to hold home ice. We need to win a game at some point in Dallas so we might as well get started here tonight.”
One positive element may be the limited distractions.
“You’re there for one thing,” said Shattenkirk. “You’re not going out to the grocery store and hearing people talk about the series. You are basically able to sit around with your teammates and focus in on what you have to do.”
Obviously, the Blues would love to steal two games in Dallas before coming back to St. Louis next Tuesday. They were able to do it last series against Chicago, winning the first two games at United Center. They would, however, settle for coming home with one win and with the series knotted.
“It’s a different animal, I think, going on the road,” said Shattenkirk. “If we can at least grab one, it’s a successful road trip. The one we want to grab is (tonight’s). We want to get off on the right foot here.”
In their first seven playoff games, the Blues have won two of three away from home ice, but have been outscored 11-10. If they can find a way to win in Dallas, they would wrestle back home-ice advantage and put themselves in a solid spot for the remainder of the series.
“That’s looking at too big of a picture,” said captain David Backes. “Yeah it’s on the road but it’s a good competition against a good team. We won the first two against Chicago that were in their building. We just have to go there and have a good performance regardless of the arena or what the matchup is.”
Dallas’ home arena, American Airlines Center, isn’t as touted as Chicago’s United Center, but no road game is ever easy in the postseason. The Stars won two of their three first-round home games over Minnesota and the surroundings won’t be kind to the Blues. Yet, the Blues see Dallas as just another city. And Friday is just another game.
“It’s a great atmosphere in that building," said Backes. "It’s one of those things where it’s in the south and people are gung-ho about any type of physical activity. They come out in droves and support their team and it’s green all around that city. You love to see the energy but when we go in there, we are looking to paint it blue.”