For the most part, the same Blues we have watched from afar over the past week and a half showed up Thursday at Scottrade Center. After floundering for nearly a month, St. Louis stormed through a five-game road trip, leveling every team in its path.
The resurgence under Mike Yeo continued on home ice Thursday as the Blues knocked off the Canucks, 4-3. In some ways, the Blues weren’t quite the team they have been recently in the win; across the board, they were disappointed with the way they came out of the gate.
“We came out tonight–we weren’t our best, that’s for sure,” Kevin Shattenkirk said. “I don’t think it was anything that happened last night or any lack of energy. We just got away from our game, what we’ve been doing so well the last five or six games.”
Despite the concerns with their play, the Blues never trailed in the game. In midst of what the team considered a sluggish start, St. Louis led 2-1, and nearly broke the game open in the second period.
They appeared to have extended a one-goal lead when the puck slipped between Jacob Markstrom’s legs and crept across the red line. The Blues were denied, however, as the referee blew the play dead before Markstrom had secured the puck.
While Shattenkirk just considered it a fluke play, it felt at the time like a tough break that turned into a potentially game-altering one when the Blues almost immediately conceded the tying goal on the other end. While the crowd felt it should have been 3-1, in a matter of moments, it was 2-2.
A little adversity compounding a less-than-stellar start to the game–the Blues of January would have folded. These Blues–the ‘new’ Blues? It didn’t phase them.
“It would have been easy for us to be frustrated and to go out and continue do those same things,” Yeo said. “It’s not easy–you can’t just flip a switch. But I think our guys really regrouped well in between the second and third period. Recognized the areas that we needed to do better and then went out and got the job done.”
One area that lifted the Blues in the third period was the power play. Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 27th goal of the year on a man advantage that carried over from the end of the second period. Alexander Steen extended the lead with another score a few minutes later.
Even as Jake Allen surrendered his third goal of the night shortly after, the Blues buckled down to keep a season-high six game winning streak alive.
On the second night of a back-to-back, with a rested opponent and some adversity along the way, Thursday meant a little extra to a jovial St. Louis locker room.
“I think we all knew that if we won this won it was going to be the sweetest one we’ve had in the last few weeks,” Shattenkirk said. “Because it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t one that we were just handed–we had to work for it.
The Blues are working, and they are rolling. Thursday’s win continued the impressive streak, and made it seven wins in eight tries since Yeo’s takeover. With the exception of some youthful infusion in the wake of a few injuries, this is largely the same team that Ken Hitchcock left behind just a couple weeks ago. Is it really as simple as a fresh voice uniting the players toward a common goal?
“We changed our strategy a little bit,” Tarasenko said. “It’s not a question of Hitchcock was better or good or something like that–both coaches are great. But we didn’t play like we were supposed to do, we didn’t play 100% before. But now, I hope we find our game. Try to play more aggressive and the main part is play for each other. If one guy makes a mistake, you see how many guys are blocking shots, back checks and all this stuff. Play for each other every moment, every day and every game and go small steps. Our goal is the Stanley Cup and that’s why we’re here.”
Whether it’s fair to Hitchcock or not, the players lost their luster when he was here. Whatever the reason or explanation, they have it back under Yeo. If they keep it for the long run, Tarasenko’s Stanley Cup goal may be more attainable–in this season–than anybody would have thought.
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