Time for Blues to attack 1-3-1; power play feeling better
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- With all the hoopla surrounding the game between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay Wednesday night in which the Flyers and Lightning played a game of patience throughout the first period, now it's up to the Blues to dissect the Lightning's 1-3-1 formation.
The Blues and Lightning will play here Saturday night -- it also marks the return of former Blue Eric Brewer -- and the Blues will be faced with Tampa's different-than-usual system.
But according to the Blues, there's no big storylines when it comes to their matchup.
"I think you make too much of that," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after Friday's optional practice. "They play with structures, so how do you counteract the structures? It's like any team. If you allow a team to set up in their structure, they're going to beat you. It doesn't matter if it's 1-3-1, 1-2-2, 2-1-2 ... doesn't matter, they're going to beat you. So you have to attack the structure before they set up.
"It's like any forechecking system. It's the same thing as an offensive zone forecheck system. You've got to find a way to get by it before it sets its course. So for us, it's about not allowing them to control the tempo of the game. I think the other thing is it's easy to set up in a defensive structure when you've got the lead all the time. So for us, it's get the lead and force the other team to have to open things up a little bit more."
Blues players saw portions of the game or on highlights from Wednesday night and don't think it's that big of a deal.
"It was just a matter of Philly being stubborn," winger Matt D'Agostini said. "I think they were just trying to fluster Tampa, try to get them to come after them a little more than they obviously do."
D'Agostini added jokingly, "We're going to sit behind the net for the whole game (Saturday). ... They play with a D-man back there, so as long as we get good dumps, we can go in and hit their D and like last night, play in their end as much as we can."
* Power play close -- The statistics are what they are. They read that the Blues are back on the bottom of the league in power play efficiency, which translates into a 5-for-47 rating (10.6 percent). But under Hitchcock as coach, the Blues are 2-for-7 and even on the ones they didn't score, quality chances have been there.
"We've felt better the last couple games," D'Agostini said. "We've been moving it around and getting closer support to each other, just making things easier for each other ... better entries and stuff like that."
Hitchcock's 1-3-1 with the man advantage allows the Blues to get more pucks on the interior.
"It gives us a little more options, especially with that guy in the middle," D'Agostini said. "It helps the two guys outside get shots to the middle, and you've got that middle guy driving and we get net-front.
"We're just keeping it simple. Getting shots there and trying to go to the net. We've had some good looks."
* Stolen point -- Toronto's Ben Scrivens may have snatched the extra point away from the Blues Thursday night in a 3-2 shootout loss, but the Blues will look to take what they did from the second on and implement it going forward.
"We're just going to take the positives out in a game like that," said D'Agostini after the Blues outshot the Leafs 32-8 from the second period on. "We got off to slow start. A couple penalties hurt us, but after that, I think we turned our game around and played the way we wanted to for the next 40 or so minutes. We'll take the good out of it and move on with the point."
* Shootout work -- Hitchcock relied heavily on his assistant coaches when it came time to execute the shootout Thursday night.
With no knowledge of who's good and who struggles, the veteran Blues coach leaned on his assistants (Scott Mellanby and Brad Shaw were on the bench).
"They gave me a choice of five the day before that these are the guys," Hitchcock said. "And then on the bench, I asked both guys what works.
"It would help if we raise the puck. That would help. We would have scored twice for sure if we would have raised the puck. ... Once we get practicing on that a little bit more, we'll have tryouts and I want to see what guys do in a simulated situation. We put a little pressure on them and see what they can do."