Sunday, March 16, 2014

Berglund's game hasn't changed, points have

Forward filling void left after Stewart trade, gaining more confidence

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- According to Patrik Berglund, nothing has changed since his return from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The physical characteristics are certainly the same, he's still a left-handed shooter, he still wears No. 21, and he still plays for the Blues.

But what has changed is Berglund's name popping up more on the stat sheet at the end of the night. More often bodes well for these Blues.

(Getty Images)
Two more goals Saturday night gave Patrik Berglund (21) six
goals in the past eight games.
Two more goals for Berglund Saturday night gave him 14 on the season. Not an eye-popping number considering the Blues (46-14-7) played their 67th game of the season against the Nashville Predators, but six of those eight goals have come in the past eight games and seven of his 31 points on the season have come in the past 10 games.

Again, it's not of the Sidney Crosby-type where multiple-point games come with regularity, but since the trade the brought in Ryan Miller and Steve Ott and saw the Blues lose Chris Stewart's 15 goals, Berglund has stepped up to fill the void.

"Ever since I've seen him play here, he's been a force," said Ott, who assisted on Berglund's second goal Saturday. "He's a big, strong body and playing the right way. That's why he's getting success out there."

Berglund went to Sochi and had an increased role in Sweden's run towards a goal medal, which was derailed by Canada that saw the Swedes settle for a silver. But coming back from the Olympics, Berglund has been able pick up where the Olympics -- and even the Blues season -- left off.

"When you get back, it's kind of a restart to get going," Berglund said. "You've been missing the boys a whole lot. You know it's down the stretch before the playoffs start. I just got back happy and I was ready to play.

"I think I'm playing the same way. I'm shooting the puck. Now it's finding its way in. It's obviously nice."

Berglund's first goal Saturday was a perfect example of what may be a change in his game in which he was able to fend off a defender and get a precise release off from the left circle that beat Pekka Rinne.

"I think he's able to do this because he can hang on offense a little bit longer," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Berglund. "He doesn't have the 200-foot responsibility to play down low. He's got the freedom to hang in a little bit longer. He doesn't have to play safety-wise and things like that. It's allowing and it's freeing up his energy to play maybe a little bit more on offense than he has in the past. He's always been the guy that's had to do the heavy lifting in our zone and it's hard for a guy, unless you're a real quick player, to be able to play 200 feet. ... He's got a great shot. 

"A lot of these goals look similar. He's flat-out blowing it right through the goaltender."

Berglund, 25, has always maintained his confident nature, even when he went through prolonged stretches without points or scoring goals. But in the Blues' system, there's so much more responsibility than just scoring.

"You can do a whole bunch of things out there that can get you confidence," Berglund said. "It's not just that the puck goes in. I've been doing other stuff that's been giving me the confidence to put one in. There's a lot of things out there you can do to gain confidence. You've just got to stick with it. If you can't score, you've got to do something else for the team and that's what everybody's doing for our team.

"I'm challenging more, holding onto the puck a little more, doing more and more cutbacks and trying to get more stuff going. It's been giving me more confidence and I've been getting some better chances to score. Obviously that's what I've been doing."
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Patrik Berglund (21) wires a shot over Abalanche
goalie Semyon Varlamov that turned out to be the winning
goal in a 2-1 victory recently at Colorado.

"He's played strong all year," said teammate Alexander Steen, who played on the same line with Berglund at the Olympics. "The same with him, nothing really changes in his game. He's very consistent the way he plays. Right now, he's got a little extra jump, he's feeling pretty good with it. He's scoring some big goals for us." 

Berglund's career high in goals (22), assists (30) and points (52) came three season ago and he's not on that mark. But if it translates into better team success, Berglund will trade it in a nanosecond.

"We're playing so well now," said Berglund, who has 14 goals, 17 assists and 31 points in 64 games. "We're really calm on the bench and really calm in the way we play. It's really huge that we can play this type of team game on the road. It's great for everybody that we're playing such solid hockey."

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