Blues looking to gain consistency; Yeo communicates; Brodeur
with goalies 2009 a season for new coach to draw on; Falcons or Patriots
ST. LOUIS -- There have been results in the past when the Blues have looked crisp, looked sharp and were saying all the right things in building consistency.
But consistent solid efforts have been far and few between this season.
After winning 5-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday on Bob Plager's jersey retirement night and the debut of head coach Mike Yeo, the Blues (25-21-5), who host the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (who were playing at home Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets) on Saturday, will get the chance to do so again.
"The emotion that we played with and I think we had last night we're going to need moving forward," captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "Obviously it's a little bit easier when you have the excitement of Bobby being around and all that, but I thought we had a lot on the emotional side of the game and a lot of people invested in each other. When you see guys doing the little things, blocking shots, setting picks, doing everything you want to see guys doing for teammates, that's when you notice everyone's invested. For me, it's obviously for me, I've said it a lot. Anytime you get to see it, it's a real good thing and I know 'Yeosie' came in with that strong message before the game and we went out and executed it.
"Getting down 1-0, we really seemed like it didn't faze us for the first time in a long time. The push that we had right after they scored was the best we've had in a while. It's always good to see that. A lot of energy in the building last night certainly helps us. It's going to really test us. We've got a really good hockey team coming in. We're going to need the same kind of mindset playing against Pittsburgh."
The Blues will face a Penguins team that they beat 3-0 in Pittsburgh on Jan. 24.
"We have to pretty much put aside everything that happened last night," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said after practice Friday. "We know there were a lot of different factors and emotional factors in last night's game, but I think that was the first thing that was addressed this morning was that obviously today's a new day, but the change that happened a couple days ago, that's not going to happen today, so we need to find new ways to motivate ourselves. The best way is we have one of the best offenses coming in the Penguins and a team that we answered the challenge in Pittsburgh and they're going to be coming out to hurt us and to be able to get a little bit of a taste of revenge.
"... It wasn't perfect obviously (on Thursday). No game is going to be perfect, but last night, those small details, those small efforts to recover for teammates if a mistake was made, those were present last night. We didn't get down after they scored that first goal. They had a bit of a bit of momentum shift to their side last night and they scored the goal, but we just kept rolling. I think that sort of resiliency is something that we need to keep in this locker room because it's not going to be 5-1 every night. We did a really good job of just sticking with it and doing those small things that matter."
Yeo, who won his first game as coach since Jan. 21, 2016 with the Minnesota Wild, is not trying to overload the players with too much information in the early going.
"The way we're trying to approach it is we're trying to be cautious, that we don't give them too much, at the same time, we want to push them a little bit and test them what they can absorb and how quickly they can absorb it and how we can apply it to games," Yeo said. "We'll use these practice days to try to teach and try to build some of the habits we're looking for and when it turns to game time we ask our players to trust their instincts and trust their game and just make sure we're focused on the effort and commitment part.
"... Loved the attitude our guys had last night. I loved that they scored first; we didn't change our game, we didn't change our approach, if anything, we dug a little harder into our game, think that had been a little bit of a problem before. Guys were trying to help, guys were trying to get us back in the game, along the way we were opening up and giving up more chances. I felt last night we did a good job of staying with it. I really liked in the second period the way we played with and without the puck. Obviously the goals are a byproduct of that. They didn't just happen by accident, we had the puck a lot more and got the puck in a lot better positions because of our play without the puck."
Players seem to have gravitated towards the early approach.
"We've slowed it down a bit obviously. Any time you have a new coach come in, the philosophies obviously change a bit and ends up being more teaching than anything this time of the year, too," Pietrangelo said. "It's always hard to try and implement some new things when you've done the same thing for 50 games. Mike's taking his time here with us. We're going to be on the ice a little more than we usually are, especially until it takes us to all get on the same page."
* Yeo talks -- One noticeable difference between Yeo and former coach Ken Hitchcock is it was obvious from the bench Thursday that Yeo likes to get behind players and talk, whether instruction, words of encouragement or trying to get guys going.
"Big difference there is he comes down and talks to you and he taps you on the shoulder," Shattenkirk said. "He's not telling you from the other side of the bench and in a way, you're not getting called out on the bench. He comes and taps you and wants you to do better. On the 'D' side of things, 'Wils' has a little more freedom to tell us or he might rely that to 'Wils,' but that was one thing that was a bit of a change last night. You make a mistake, you almost had a second to stew it over yourself and replay it and correct it yourself rather than have someone else kind of in your ear about it. It's good when you have that responsibility as a player to hold yourself responsible."
It's obviously a way for the 43-year-old Yeo to get immersed with the players as quickly as he can after being in the background under Hitchcock.
"I would say so, especially early here," Yeo said. "It's probably a little different if you're four years into working with a group and you have an idea if the players need to be left alone or when you've built those habits and it's so instinctual for the players at certain points they come off the ice and you can tell by their body language and you're probably better off leaving them alone. In this early part right now, I think that's what's needed right now, not just myself, but all the coaches, we have the mindset that we're coming to the rink every day and we're focused on getting better and helping the players and trying to bring the group together.
"I don't think that was ever a concern. I know that the players had a great deal of respect for 'Hitch' and the coach he is and the person he is. So I don't think it's a matter of a change of vocie. What it was was a shock to everybody. It put the accountability and focus back on ourselves. We got a jolt from it and we saw it help us last game and our challenge now is to know there's no carryover from that and we can't just expect and assume that things are going to be all great again tomorrow. Because of that jolt, we prepared and we got focused the right way and we have to find a way to do that today."
* Drawing in experience -- This isn't Yeo's first rodeo regarding a head coach being fired in-season.
Yeo was an assistant with the Penguins in 2009 when Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien in-season, and the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup that season.
Yeo would love a repeat performance with the Blues, but there is something he can draw off that experience and try to apply it to the situation he has here.
"That would be really ideal because we won a Cup that year. We're miles away from that," Yeo said. "What can I draw on it is, that was the end result, and that's what everybody remembers about that story, but there was a ton of work that went into making that happen. We didn't just snap our fingers and turn things around. It took us a little bit of time and then we got on a roll, and when we got on a roll, that was when we defined our game and that's what we're looking for right now. It's important to me that ... you play a game like we did last night, and typically I don't really care what the other people think about us, but when you start hearing words like determined, fast, these are the types of things that help build your identity and that's what we're working at now."
"He's got a lot of experience that have helped him up until this moment," Shattenkirk said of Yeo. "That's probably one of them, being able to adjust to that change in-season. He came in here yesterday and the day before and just hit the ground running. I don't think he wanted it to feel like it was as big of an event as it was because it was big, but he in a way, downplayed it and we just got right to work. That's allowed us to focus on the right things and not really take a second to sit back and think about it and talk about it. we have a lot of games in succession here, so we really don't have a lot of time to worry about what's happened in the past and he's done a good job of it. Whether he learned that before or not, we're lucky that he's kind of guided us in that way."
* Brodeur working with goalies -- Blues assistant general manager Martin Brodeur has focused more recently on the on-ice duties with goalies Jake Allen and Carter Hutton more so than the player personnel decisions after it was announced Wednesday that Brodeur and goalie developmental coach Ty Conklin would serve in the role of goalie coaches the remainder of the season after Jim Corsi was fired.
Brodeur, who holds a number of records in the NHL, including most victories (691) and shutouts (125), was on the ice again working with both Allen and Hutton.
It's unknown how much Brodeur will be on the ice and how often, but it's been quite a bit in the early going.
"It's great. What can you say," Yeo said of having Brodeur on the ice. "You don't know, when you get a star like that what kind of commitment, but he's all in. He's at the rink and he's very, very excited about trying tho help the goalies get better and miprove and how lucky are we to have someone with that type of knowledge, tactically, the things he's learned along the way, for me, the biggest part, the most important part, is the mental part of it.
"I think he's very much enjoying it. That's a good sign. I think that any great coach, we all want to win, if there's not a side of you that wants to help the individuals grow, then I don't think you're very good."
* Line chemistry -- One thing Blues fans always seemed to get frustrated with was Hitchcock's persistent line juggling.
Yeo didn't alter much, other than on defense, from Tuesday to Thursday in an effort to not make things too complicated and it worked out well.
Moving forward, Yeo was asked if playing guys regularly together on a consistent basis was the best thing moving forward.
In a perfect world, Yeo would like to do that but knows that's not always going to be the case.
"That's what we would love to be able to do," Yeo said. "That's not always the case. It doesn't always work that way. If we can give the guys a chance to continue to grow and develop some chemistry with each other ... the thing that I've always found through the years is we're trying to build a team game here, and the consistency comes from your team game and knowing and what to expect from your teammates, where the puck's going to go, where your linemates are going to go when you have the puck. Those are the types of things that we're trying to get back to here. Even if you do make an adjustment, even of you do make a line change, that consistency should still be there because we're all on the same page. That being said, all things considered, we definitely prefer to keep things together a little bit more. "
* Yeo's tie -- Upon further review, Yeo's debut tie had a range of mixed emotions from the players in the locker room.
If one doesn't remember, Yeo addressed in his postgame remarks that the players razzed him about wearing the color scheme.
"It's turquoise. I told him the first game as a Blue and he picked a turquoise tie," Pietrangelo joked. "At least pick a blue one. Maybe he's colorblind and thought it was blue.
"I'll have to talk to his wife to get him a new wardrobe."
Then again ...
"I didn't mind it," Shattenkirk said. "It was frowned upon by a lot of guys in this locker room. I think he might be going with a simple blue or red tomorrow night just to be safe.
"I think with my first game, I'm not sure I'd be wearing a turquoise tie behind the bench, but he had simple black suit on, so it wasn't too bad."
* Falcons or Patriots? -- With Super Bowl LI on Sunday in Houston between the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons and AFC champion New England Patriots, it was a variety of picks among Blues players.
Alex Pietrangelo -- Something's telling me to pick Atlanta; I don't know what it is, but it's tough to look past the Patriots. Any time you see what Brady and Belichick have done together, it's uh ... (Shattenkirk chimes in -- make the pick!) ... I'll go with New England just because I think that's the right thing to do.
Boston University's own Kevin Shattenkirk -- Patriots. Why? Tom Brady's going to throw it right down Goodell's throat. That's why. And Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, he's a Boston College guy; I've got to root against him. He's a little preppy boy from Boston College.
Ryan Reaves -- I'll never go with the Pats, so I'm taking Atlanta. I hate the Pats.
I think their offense is just so explosive. I think they have a good defense, but I think it's going to be a shootout to be honest. I just think Atlanta's offense is a little more dynamic right now. Matt Ryan's on fire and Julio Jones is killing it and they've got other receivers that can do it, too. The Pats missing Gronk hurts them a little bit, but I just hate the Pats.