Monday, October 24, 2016

Perron maturing quickly for Blues

Former 2007 first-round pick coming off hat trick, 
more well-rounded player in second stint with St. Louis

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- David Perron and David Backes have been close friends for years.

Ever since Perron was drafted by the Blues in the first round of the 2007 NHL Draft, Perron and Backes grew a bond that remained strong when Perron was traded to the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins and last season, Anaheim Ducks; it continues to remain strong.

They talk when given the chance, had dinners together when Perron visited St. Louis or vice versa, Backes and the Blues were on the road to face Perron wherever his home was.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Perron (second from left) celebrates with teammates Robby
Fabbri (15) and Colton Parayko after scoring Saturday.

Now that Perron is back with the Blues and Backes and fellow veteran Troy Brouwer are gone, the Blues (4-1-1) have a bit of a different makeup to them. But Perron, fresh off his third career hat trick (second with the Blues) and second-career four-point game in a 6-4 win Saturday against the Calgary Flames (the Blues' opponent today at Scottrade Center), he was asked about pressure and filling some shoes vacated by the aforementioned duo.

With no disrespect, he's had enough.

"I can't believe we're still talking about those two guys," Perron said after practice Monday. "They're gone. We've got to move on. Vladi (Tarasenko's) got four goals already and could maybe have eight goals the way he's playing. They're good players, but it's game six; we've got to stop talking about those guys. We're going to get goals differently than they were maybe getting their goals, but it's not negative. Look how many tips we got last game. I scored one, 'Stas' (Paul Stastny) scored one and then there were other opportunities like that. We might not get the clean shot with the screen maybe as much as when David or maybe when Troy was in front, but I hope that's the last time I talk about those guys."

Perron is right. Backes and Brouwer, who will return with Brian Elliott tonight for the first time since leaving St. Louis this past offseason, are gone. They are not coming back, and it was a strong statement that the Blues are able to move on without them. There are capable players in the locker room that can fill the void and are more than capable of getting results. Maybe not the way those players got them but in a different capacity.

Perron, who signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract to return to St. Louis, is one of those players needed to fill some of the voids left by the departed veterans. And although Perron produced no points through the first five games, the hat trick Saturday was a culmination of what Perron and coach Ken Hitchcock feel was a reward for being a responsible player and doing the other necessary things in regards to the team game that make the Blues successful.

"I felt just as good the other games as I felt the last game," Perron said. "That's what hockey does sometimes to you. It's kind of crazy, but I'm pretty satisfied the way I was playing before that. I think Vancouver might be my best game of the year and I didn't get any points there. It's the way it went, but that's why you stick with the process, you stick with everything. Going the right way and it finally came for me in Calgary, but there's other times in my career I had goals or points sometimes and it wasn't the same feeling. Then the first six games here when I wasn't scoring, I've got to keep up with the good stuff and keep improving."

Perron mentioned puck retrievals, getting on the forecheck, doing "all the little things that will create scoring chances and then not giving up anything." He's more mature (obviously being 28) than when he was first here and a more responsible player.

"I saw it coming to this, both Doug (Armstrong) and I did," Hitchcock said. "We could see some of the evolution in his game when he was playing in Anaheim. So when we watched him play with the Ducks, we could see some of this maturity in his game and we thought we could be a good fit for us.

"To me, for David, it's just a reward for the the hard work. He's played awfully well. On the road trip in two of the three games, he was arguably our best player. He's had a number of great scoring opportunities. Nice to see him get rewarded, but I just think he's working at a high level and competing at a high level and then he's letting his skill take him from there and it's been impressive. It's been good to see. Wherever we play him, he adds to the line. That line obviously had some great chemistry for the first time. Jaden hasn't played center ice for a little while. That's the first time that line was together and they showed great chemistry great cohesion on the ice. It was great to see."

Perron, who will likely skate with Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz again tonight, wasn't looking for any sort of reward offensively. He felt as long as he was doing the right things, everything else would fall into place. Now he'd like to sustain it consistently.

"I was just playing, quite honestly," Perron said. "I was just happy to play well. For sure, you want to contribute, but there's other times I thought about it way more and it wasn't going the right way, so this time, I just kind of kept playing, stayed in the moment, played hard, made sure I took care of myself off the ice and all the things that you're supposed to do as a pro. It came through (Saturday). It's just one game. You've got to keep going and keep playing well."

Perron never got any penalty killing time in his first stint with the Blues, but now Hitchcock trusts him more and uses him on a penalty kill that's now 19 for its last 19.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Perron (57) celebrates after scoring one of three goals in a 6-4
victory Saturday against the Calgary Flames. Perron had four points.

"There's nothing different for next game," Perron said. "I want to keep doing the same things. I think playing PK is a great thing, too, because it keeps you in the game even more, it keeps your legs going. A lot of times, they're shorter shifts, like 15-, 20-second shifts, so it's actually better. You're almost gaining energy from that and obviously the focus to play defense on those shifts kind of carries on over to the 5-on-5 game. I've played well in that regard, too.

"... I never really got the chance to play PK back then. I don't know how it would have went, but I'd like to think that I could have done it, too, back then. It's a different scenario now. I think when it's 10 years on the league, you learn a lot through all those years and through the different teams that you go to and organizations, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. You can learn from that."

And so far, Perron has learned the team concept, and if it continues, it will bode well moving forward.

"I don't know if you like killing penalties. I think it's a necessary part of the game, but I don't know many people that really like doing it because you're making sacrifices, but I think from a team standpoint, he's really filled a void for us," Hitchcock said of Perron. "He's won faceoffs for us on that side of the ice, he's competed on pucks, he's got pucks all the way down the ice, he's a smart guy to put pressure on people. I just think it shows the maturity in his game from where he was when he left here to where he is now. You trust him in every situation; it's a good sign."

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