Players won't over-hype 6-1-2 record, taking it in perspective
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It would be hard to imagine staying on their current pace, but if the Blues can keep up with their current 6-1-2 mark for another eight segments, the possibilities are extremely intriguing.
How does a 126-point season strike you?
That's what the Blues would finish with this season should they stay on the current course. They've taken a possible 14 of 18 points thus far through nine games. Their point percentage (.778) is tops in the National Hockey League right now.
This current nine-game start is the third-best in franchise history, as only the 1997-98 and 2002-03 squads had better starts at 7-1-1, and both of those teams easily made the playoffs.
The Blues, particularly in the last few seasons, have had decent starts but nothing like this.
The 2008-09 team that made the playoffs started out 5-4-0 but needed a furious 25-8-7 finish after being stuck in the mud at 16-23-3 on Jan. 13.
So what should people make of this current start?
"Don't make anything (of it)," veteran defenseman Barret Jackman said. "We're still only a few games in. We want to keep pushing. We want to be a team that doesn't have any lulls, three- or four-game losing streaks. We want to be a team that if we get a loss, we take it in stride and we keep going back at teams. We want to be a strong finisher, a team that's strong in the middle and a team that's hitting stride as well at the end of the year."
The Blues, who have allowed the fewest goals in the Western Conference with 17 (Boston is tops in the league overall with 11 goals allowed) and are tied for second in goal differential at plus-9, are taking it all in stride. They're appreciative of the positive beginning but are looking at the big picture.
This is a marathon, not a sprint.
"We're pleased with it, but it's a start. It's a small snapshot," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "We've got eight more segments just like that. It's a lot of hockey left to be played and we understand that. But this is something we wanted to do. We wanted to set a standard right from Day 1. We wanted to make sure we got out and got after some of the early points knowing how valuable they are. They're not going to hand out any more points in the games later on in the season. It's the same two that are available now and we have to be ready for them."
The Blues, who have the fewest regulation losses with one, are beginning to get national exposure. ESPN's weekly rankings have the Blues at No. 1, while TSN in Canada has them No. 2.
But the players don't seem to be taking notice. They feel like they have plenty to prove.
"We like our record, but we haven't accomplished anything yet," forward David Backes said. "Nine games into an 82-game season, there's plenty of time to still establish ourselves as a real competitor and show that this isn't a fluke that we're going to come every day and outlast and outwork teams."
However, since the Blues have been behind the Eight-ball in previous seasons scratching and clawing while trying to earn a playoff spot, getting off to a good start and having other teams chase them for a change is nice.
"It was a focus that we wanted to get off to a good start because that's kind of been our Achilles’ heel the last couple years, getting off to slow starts and trying to play catch-up the rest of the year," center Jay McClement said. "I think we've started on our way to accomplishing that, but it's obviously very early. We're trying to break that down into smaller parts as far as making sure we're getting better every game and making sure we do what we need to do every night no matter what and no matter who we're playing."
The Blues have gotten solid play in their defensive zone, and goaltender Jaroslav Halak has been a key cog in that resurgency.
The forwards are playing a solid two-way game and it's allowing the defensemen to close those gaps and prevent quality scoring chances, which is a big reason the Blues have allowed only 17 goals.
But the Blues have played only nine games, which is tied for second-fewest to only Boston's eight. The schedule will hit the meat grinder here soon, but these Blues are ready to embrace all comers.
"We're sitting well now, and that's not a position we're real familiar with (because of) the starts the last few years," Backes said. "But we're committed to working every day and getting better and not resting on what we've accomplished."
Added Jackman, "We take it all in stride. It doesn't matter what we've done in the past few years, whether it's strong starts, bad starts or what. ... It's about keeping it going and trying to win every game."