Sunday, April 23, 2017


NHL announces second-round schedule; Blues, Predators to open Wednesday 
in St. Louis; Paajarvi's OT winner top moment in pro career; winning wasn't easy

ST. LOUIS -- With all first-round playoff series concluding before any of the eight matchups needed a seventh game, the NHL announced the second round schedule for the remaining eight teams on Sunday night.

The Blues and Nashville Predators will kick off the Western Conference Second Round series with Game 1 on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center.

Game 2 will be Friday in St. Louis at 7 p.m. before the series shifts to Nashville for Game 3 on April 30 at 2 p.m. and Game 4 on May 2 at 8:30 p.m.

If necessary Games 5-7, times are to be determined, but Game 5 will return to St. Louis on May 5, Game 6 in Nashville on May 7 and Game 7 would be in St. Louis on May 9.

This will be the first meeting between the Blues, who finished as the third seed in the Central Division, and Predators, who were the Western Conference's second wild card, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Nashville won three of five games against the Blues this season, but the Blues won the most recent, 4-1 at home on April 2 that all but solidified the Blues as the No. 3 seed.

The Blues defeated the Minnesota Wild in five games, and the Predators swept the Western Conference No. 1 seed, the Chicago Blackhawks.

"It's pretty easy for us to look at what happened in the last series and not underestimate that opponent," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "So they're a great team and that's life in the Central Division for you, and the Western Conference for you. You get to advance from one good team and you get to go play another."

"A similar case to us, good goaltending, they played really well in the second half," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said of the Predators. "We've got a few days to look at them, try to find some things we can exploit, but it's about getting rest right now and getting ready."

"It's hard-working team," forward Vladimir Sobotka said of the Predators. "It's going to be same kind of series I would say. I watched them play against Chicago and they work hard so we need to get ready for this kind of team."

* Tarasenko up for award -- Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko was named a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy on Sunday night.

The Lady Byng Menorial Trophy is awarded to the to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. 

Tarasenko, who led the Blues with 39 goals and 75 points and tied with Jaden Schwartz in assists with 36, has just 12 penalty minutes in 82 games; he was named one of three finalists along with Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau and Minnesota's Mikael Granlund.

Three finalists are named and the trophy is awarded at the NHL Awards ceremony after the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The last Blue to win the award was Pavol Demitra in 200 and is one of three to ever win it for the Blues, along with Brett Hull in 1990 and Phil Goyette in 1970

* Paajarvi's hard work culminates to biggest moment -- Magnus Paajarvi, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime in Game 5, the first player to score in OT for the Blues in a series-clinching game since Pierre Turgeon did it in Game 7 against the Phoenix Coyotes, has seen his ups and downs since being acquired by the Blues on July 10, 2013.

The shuttle between St. Louis and Chicago seemed to have Paajarvi's name on it; he went up and down between the Blues and the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves five times between 2014 and 2017 and was placed on waivers twice.

Not once, but twice.

Most players in that situation would look for a different challenge, but not Paajarvi. He's stuck with the Blues and has signed a trio of contracts.

So to get his first career playoff goal -- and an OT winner to boot -- had to be his top NHL moment.

Has anything ever topped this?

"No," Paajarvi said. "... I'm proud of it, but I'm not satisfied."

Of course not, and why would he be? Paajarvi could have left the Blues and the NHL and went to Europe or someplace else to make a living and polish his game, but he chose to stay here, work hard and finally find his place in this lineup.

The former first-round pick in 2010 (10th overall) found a comfort zone and Yeo embraced his role and what he could mean.

"At some point, I would say most players would pack it in or start thinking about other options," Yeo said. "He's a high-character kid. Anyone who knows him knows that he's high charcter and he's very, very coachable. 

"I had a good conversation with him (Friday), just felt like he was playing a little bit safe the last few games. I thought there was a little bit more. I wasn't expecting the overtime winner, but I thought there was a little bit more offensively that he could push through, and he was 100 percent on board and the attitude he had right from the start of the game was impressive."

And being a part of Blues history now helps cement Paajarvi's spot on this roster. 

"I think we should be proud, but not satisfied," Paajarvi said of the series win. "We should enjoy this (Saturday) night. If we see each other (Sunday) or Monday, regroup and watch all the video of Nashville and get onto the next one. We can't be satisfied. We've got to play a better game. Jake (Allen) has really, really kept us in a lot of games. I think he won it in Game 1. We've got to step it up in order to beat a really good Nashville." 

* Anything but easy -- For those that look at the basics may think that the Blues' five-game series win was a walk in the park.

It was anything but.

The Blues may have won four of five games against the Wild, but one of the lowest scoring series in the first round had the Blues outscore Minnesota 11-8.

Games were air-tight, but the Wild won a number of statistical categories, including faceoffs, shots on goal and attempts. The Blues won the only won that matters: the scoreboard.

"I've always had a tough time with these guys. They're a good team," said Blues center Paul Stastny, who's played the Wild now in three of the past four years in the playoffs, including twice with the Blues. "They've knocked me out of the playoffs two times, two of the last three times for me. I had a feeling if I was going to come back (from a foot injury), I would be playing against these guys. I was happy coming in here helping out and kind of put a little more balance in our lineup."

"They're really heavy," Paajarvi said of the Wild. "They're super down low in the offensive zone. It was hard for us to get out sometimes. We play kind of similar sometimes, heavy o-zone. You want to control the puck down low. Jake Allen has been unbelievable for us. We've got to step it up here for the next round."

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