Despite 2-2 overtime/shootout mark,
Blues are all-in when it comes to 4-on-4
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- If the overtime/shootout sessions were a Texas Hold 'Em hand for the Blues, they'd be all-in each time.
The Blues (4-1-2) have only played seven games this season, but four of them have gone to overtime/shootout period.
And instead of playing conservative with an extra point on the line, the Blues play with an all-systems-go mentality.
The Blues have won two and lost two in the extra time, but on each occasion, Blues coach Davis Payne is looking for ways to utilize his team's chances in the four-on-four battle.
"Our mentality in overtime is to play our game," Payne said. "We've got skill and ability and when we get the puck, we want to try and score that goal. On the flip side of that, when we don't have (the puck), we've got responsibilities. We've also got responsibilities to make good puck decisions. Four-on-four when we've got ability, we want to attack the areas that are available to us."
The Blues own wins over Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in overtime but have dropped games to Dallas (shootout) and Chicago. And in three of the four games, with the exception at Dallas, the Blues have outshot their opponent with the sole intent of grabbing the extra point available. Even in the loss at Chicago, the Blues outshot the Blackhawks 7-2. They've outshot their four collective opponents 13-7.
"We want to play at the other team's end," Payne said. "We want to be a good four-on-four hockey team. We know now that an overtime win counts a little bit more in a tie-breaker situation than the shootout win does. If it comes down to that, you want to make sure you've given yourself a chance as well."
It's a far cry from the days of Andy Murray's teams, which seemed to take the conservative approach on a number of occasions.
"You've got some highly-skilled forwards and defensemen, so I think we're able to make plays four-on-four and keep the puck," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "But it works both ways. The other teams are saying the same thing. The other night, we were able to get the balance and in Chicago, it went the other way. It's been entertaining so far in overtime."
The Blues took both shots in overtime against the high-flying Penguins. Once the puck entered Pittsburgh's zone, it never came back out, and Erik Johnson's finish off a forced turnover from T.J. Oshie finished off a 1-0 win.
"We make two good plays," Payne said. "One from the weak side that EJ gets his first chance on and then Osh steals a puck and EJ makes a good read.
"It's not really all-systems-go like a jailbreak-type scenario. EJ reads that we've got support in behind, EJ reads that we've got a puck in a real dangerous area and he jumps to a hole and it's game over. For us, that's an intelligent play, a measured play if you will."
* NOTES -- Of Johnson's 16 career goals, Saturday's game-winner was his third in overtime and sixth of his career. ... Center Jay McClement played in his 400th career game Saturday and became the fifth youngest Blue (27 years, 235 days) to accomplish the feat. ... The Blues' 10 consecutive home wins is a club record. They are the only team in the league this season with a 4-0-0 mark. ... Defenseman Roman Polak has six career goals, three of them are game-winners after Friday's goal that gave the Blues a lead in a 4-2 win over Chicago. ... Blues forward Cam Janssen was on the ice for skating drills Monday. Janssen said last week he would be ready for Thursday's game at Nashville, but Payne said Monday, "We're going to get through the first couple days that he's back with the group in practice. We've got an assessment to go through there in the next couple days." ... The Blues and Blues 14 Fund are offering Flashes of Hope, a new program for patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital who are battling cancer and other life threatening illnesses. The Blues' 14 Fund has provided a grant for this project, while Blues wives and girlfriends are heading up the efforts. Diana Davidson, wife of Blues President John Davidson, is leading the group as the volunteer chapter director. Blues players Eric Brewer, David Backes and McClement will take part in a photo shoot with cancer patients today at St. Louis Children's Hospital from 1-3 p.m.