Thursday, May 4, 2017


Blues have belief system they can overcome 3-1 series deficit; Reaves defused 
fight in scrum; Blues moved past questionable call, Laviolette on Yeo comments

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It has been done 28 times, and in a 100-year history of the NHL, that doesn't sound like a lot.

But the Blues are faced with that 3-1 series deficit in the Western Conference Second Round against the Nashville Predators, and with Game 5 set for Friday at Scottrade Center (7 p.m.; NBCSN, KYKY 98.1-FM), and would love to be the 29th team to win a series after being down 3-1.

As a franchise, the Blues have done it twice; in 1991 against the Detroit Red Wings and in 1999 against the Phoenix Coyotes, and with the series being as tight as it has been, the Blues, from experience in the last round against the Minnesota Wild, have that belief system that they can win a game.

A single game. 

Don't look past anything other than Game 5.

"One hundred percent," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "It's kind of one game at a time right now. You don't want to look at it as winning three in a row. It's one of those things where you're looking at winning the next game, winning the next shift, winning the next period, just the little things like that. I think if you're winning each shift, winning each period, things will go your way."

And that's why the Blues feel like they can prolong this series. 

"I think so," center Paul Stastny said. "I think if we didn’t feel like we were in the games, it’s a different mood. Every game has been a one-goal game. The first game in Nashville (Game 3) we didn’t play that well and we were still in it and played better at the end. The last game was probably our best game of the series and it was basically a coin toss of a game. They’ve been like that all the time. You don’t want to look at the big picture. You just want to look at one game, just knowing how hard it is to win one game. It goes both ways. I think we’ll leave it all out there and feed off the crowd when we have to, but I don’t think there’s any mindset in here that thinks tomorrow is going to be our last game. We’re going in there tomorrow to win and that’s all we can focus on. Whatever happens we can worry about that after the game."

Veteran center Kyle Brodziak, a healthy scratch in Game 4 but is expected to be back centering the fourth line in Game 5, echoed those thoughts.

"It's one game at a time," Brodziak said. "Our biggest focus right now is coming out and playing our best game tomorrow. I don't think as a group we've gotten to our best game yet. Obviously you've got to give them credit, they're playing well. They're preventing us to an extent of getting to our game and we've got to find a way to break through and have our best game and then we'll take it from there."

The Blues, who held a full team practice minus Alexander Steen (nursing a lower-body injury), simply have to go into the game with confidence to win a hockey game. That's all, and coach Mike Yeo believes they can.

"The character and the leadership that we have on our team," Yeo cited as two reasons. "I think we've faced adversity before. We know we have a tough hill to climb here, we know we're playing against a real good team and we're aware of where we're at in the series. Our mindset is on tomorrow's game. 

"I think that's what we did effectively and was a big part of our success the last part of the season. We didn't look at the hill that we had to climb, we didn't look at who was in the lineup, who was out of the lineup. The guys focused on the job they had to do and we took care of the moment that was in front of us and that's what we have to do again tomorrow."

* Reaves defused fight? -- Blues right wing Ryan Reaves has taken some criticism over his minor roughing penalty, along the roughing called on defenseman Joel Edmundson, that ultimately gave Nashville a power play opportunity in a 0-0 game early in the third period.

Ryan Ellis scored to break the scoreless deadlock, and the Blues went on to lose the game 2-1. 

But in how that whole scrum developed, Reaves was actually doing referees Dan O'Rourke and Jean Hebert a favor, one they didn't see that way obviously.

The play started with Edmundson and Nashville's Cody McLeod tussling, and as all the players converged by the Nashville bench, Reaves comes in and grabs McLeod, ultimately defusing what would have turned into a fight between Edmundson and McLeod.

With McLeod trying to engage Edmundson, the Predators' fourth-line right wing knew he would be taking a 20-plus minute player off the ice for the Blues, and was more than willing to sacrifice himself for five, even 15 minutes if 10-minute penalties were tacked on, that way the Blues would lose a top-four defenseman, and Nashville loses a player that would play, say, 10 minutes tops.

By Reaves locking up McLeod, it defused the situation to where everyone was engaged 1-on-1, and it would have made the penalties relatively easy to call and keep the game 4-on-4, even 5-on-5.

Or so everyone thought. 

But O'Rourke and Hebert took two Blues players off (Reaves and Edmundson) and one for Nashville (McLeod), and the Blues didn't understand why and were never given a reason.

It ultimately changed the complexion of a game that was terrific to watch up until that point with strong goaltending, hard-hitting checks, edge-of-your-seats action. But once Nashville scored, the Blues were chasing the game and could never get on level footing in a game where neither team gave an inch.

So by Reaves actually doing the right thing, he got penalized by the judgmental decision the Blues obviously didn't like, one that could have been avoided had the officials saw what was a defused situation in the first place.

* Laviolette on Yeo comments -- Predators coach Peter Laviolette was given light of Yeo's comments postgame that the Predators are lobbying for calls.

"I think everybody gets upset once in a while," Laviolette said. 'We’re going to just keep our focus on the ice. I think we’ve done a good job of trying to stay whistle to whistle, trying to stay disciplined. We’re going to keep our focus on that."

The Blues have certainly moved on from it.

"That game, you know, it went back and forth," left wing Scottie Upshall said. "It was physical with both teams. Both teams had numerous chances to score. I thought both teams played a disciplined game to stay out of the box. But that game's gone now, boys. We're focused on being the better team come Friday, being a team that Nashville hasn't seen play yet because we still have another level. And the fourth game is always the hardest to win. We realize that. So do they. We're going to be at our best. It's going to be a good fight on Friday."

Yeo, two days removed, doesn't want to go into it anymore.

"We don't have the luxury or the opportunity to get caught up in anything other than our own game and our own focus for tomorrow," he said. "Obviously if something happened last game and after the game we were emotional about it, we came to the rink yesterday, we addressed it, we talked about it, we moved on since then. If we're doing a good enough job, we'll draw some more power plays, if we're doing a good enough job, we'll stay out of the box and if we're disciplined. Our mindset is every player going out there and focusing on his shift, or his next shift, and trusting our process."

* For the record -- The Blues don't have anyone on their roster that has overcome a 3-1 series deficit but would like to add a whole roster full of players with this squad.

But ... forward Vladimir Sobotka, unfortunately for him, was on the losing end of one of four teams to lose a 3-0 series lead when Sobotka's Boston Bruins lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinal in 2010, and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo's Pittsburgh Penguins lost a 3-1 series lead in 2014 against the New York Rangers.

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