This time final yr, the Blues have been solely within the early levels of their worst-to-first NHL ascent. Now sitting atop the Western Convention, St. Louis’ all-stars consider there is no motive this season cannot have the identical Stanley Cup end.Ryan O’Reilly|Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire through Getty ImagesST. LOUIS – “How surreal is it to look again only one yr, realizing you have been climbing out of final place, and at this time, you’re the defending Stanley Cup champions, internet hosting an All-Star Sport?”
St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo thought in regards to the query, turned to his left and regarded goaltender Jordan Binnington up and down.
“Surreal, yeah,” Pietrangelo stated. “We have been speaking about it earlier. He wasn’t even right here final yr presently. Or no less than it was shut.”
Technically, Binnington’s superb run as a starter, which sparked St. Louis’ worst-to-first campaign to its first Stanley Cup title, started together with his shutout Jan. 7, 2019. However for the sake of the philosophizing Pietrangelo did Thursday night from his podium at 2020 NHL All-Star Media Day, 381 days mainly qualifies as a yr.
Issues couldn’t be extra totally different for the franchise at this time. And it’s not simply the Stanley Cup rings, or, as Pietrangelo added, the brand new observe rink or downtown renovations. It’s the expertise of going from the upstart, the horse charging from the again of the pack, to the frontrunner, pursued by each different prime crew. Sitting 30-11-Eight on the break, the Blues have six factors greater than every other Western Convention crew and maintain the league’s second-best factors share. Working from the highest of the standings isn’t one thing these Blues gamers are experiencing for the primary time by any means, however Pietrangelo does consider it brings out the very best in them.
“It’s made us a greater crew realizing each single night time we’re getting the very best,” he stated. “It’s pushed us to maintain that consistency up versus possibly taking some nights off.”
Consistency is correct. The 2019-20 Blues have put collectively 5 profitable streaks of no less than three video games, 4 streaks of no less than 4 video games, a seven-game streak and an eight-game streak. They’ve scored a number of objectives in 89.Eight p.c of their video games. They’ve scored 4 or extra objectives in 42.Eight p.c of their video games. They’ve allowed two or fewer objectives in 46.9 p.c of their video games. They’re prime 10 in energy play share, faceoff share, objectives towards and photographs towards, albeit their 5-on-5 possession numbers are middling. On the entire, they’ve been rock stable regardless of spending many of the season minus star goal-scoring proper winger Vladimir Tarasenko.
For middle Ryan O’Reilly, who, together with David Perron, gave the Blues 4 representatives at all-star weekend, a giant motive for the sustained success this season has been the shortage of needing to gel, which the crew needed to do early final season with so many new faces, together with his personal.
“This yr having been our group collectively extra, we’ve been so good at…we simply know our identification,” O’Reilly stated. “When issues don’t go effectively, we’re in a position to get again to it rather a lot faster. Therefore why we’re in a position to be on the prime of the division and preserve it.”
Coach Craig Berube, additionally available because the bench boss for the Central Division all-star squad, stated Thursday that he, in a way, has much less work to do with this model of the Blues.
“I believe final yr, I needed to do some various things to get our crew to consider in itself to attempt to pull our crew collectively to play like a crew and take that onto the ice,” Berube stated. “So there’s various things I needed to do final yr till we obtained to that stage the place we have been taking part in the best method and doing the best factor. I haven’t had to do this this yr. Knock on wooden, the crew’s been good. There are clearly issues you need to do as a coach day in and day trip, make things better, handle folks and gamers, however total, we’ve obtained good management, they usually deal with numerous that stuff. And that’s a giant factor for us.”
Possibly that enhance in total psychological power has offset the lack of Tarasenko. And if he recovers from his shoulder surgical procedure in time for the playoffs and shakes off the rust rapidly sufficient, he’ll qualify as a significant improve for a crew that already seems to be playoff prepared. The Blues definitely received’t catch anybody off guard this time round, however they’ve responded extraordinarily effectively to that concept thus far this season.
“I believe we’ve obtained nearly as good an opportunity as anybody to win once more,” O’Reilly stated. “I’m very assured in that. On the identical time, it comes with numerous work. That’s our mindset. We will’t win a Cup proper now. It begins by constructing and constructing. We need to be taking part in our greatest hockey by the point the playoffs come, and we’ve obtained to take it one sport and one collection at a time.”
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Tags: st. louis bluesConnect: Concerning the AuthorMatt LarkinMatt Larkin is a senior author at The Hockey Information and has been a part of the crew since 2011. He is your one-stop store for deep-dive participant interviews, predictions, statistics, fantasy participant rankings, participant security and hair ideas. Catch him weekly as host of The Hockey Information Dwell and The Hockey Information Podcast.