Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2-0 start has Blues confident, cautious

Team begins three-game trip tonight in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Blues' trip back to the United States a season ago was a long one but filled with positive results after a pair of victories to open the 2009-10 season.

The Blues had just swept the always tough Detroit Red Wings, winning both games in Stockholm, Sweden. The plane ride home was jovial to say the least.

But there was a fortunate feeling of being 2-0. That's not the case for the Blues after winning games to open 2010-11.

"The way we won the two games this year compared to the way we won them last year," forward Alex Steen said. "The two games in Sweden, I thought we played alright, but I thought we were fortunate to win those two games. I thought Detroit played better than us and we ended up getting the wins. But now, we've outplayed our opponent in two games."

The Blues' 2-1 overtime win over Philadelphia and 5-1 domination of Anaheim has the hometown team feeling good about the prospects of moving forward. They begin a three-game trip today in Nashville (7 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM) but keeping things in perspective.

"We've got to continue to do the things that gave us success in the last two games," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "It's only two games, but we won our first two games last year and not many right after. We know we're going to play a lot of good teams and if we play our game, play the way we did (Monday) for 60 minutes, but we'll do pretty well."

The Blues, who will also play in Dallas Saturday before concluding the trip in Chicago on Monday, have been stingy in their own end, as the defensive zone play has limited the quality scoring chances in front of goalie Jaroslav Halak.

The Blues have allowed a total of 44 shots through two games -- they've taken 79 themselves -- but the quality scoring chances have been limited to a handful at best.

"We talk a lot about the return. We talk a lot about the intention of that return," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "I thought (Monday) was even better than the third period against Philly. ... Five guys have got to work in conjunction. It's no different than the four guys and the work that they do on the PK. Now all of the sudden, we have even numbers and expect the same kind of work, same kind of shape, same kind of play. We feel we can get the play onto a section of ice, outnumber people and get going the other way."

Added Jackman, "I think we're doing a good job of just keeping pucks to the outside. We're doing a good job collapsing and we're playing a lot in the offensive zone. It starts going through the neutral zone and our forwards are coming back really strongly and letting the d-men step up when they have to dump pucks and just giving us the chance to start with the puck in the d-zone."

The Blues are making life tough for opponents in their end of the ice, and that's the way they want life to be. It's creating quite the stir around the city. An identity is being created.

"We want to establish a work ethic and a personality every day and an expectation every day," Payne said. "We've got to and we're going to face some adversity. Let's let the growth keep moving forward. ... We've got personalities, there's no question about that. We've got some great personalities, but this team understands what it means to come in, work, put that forward for 60 minutes and what comes out of that. It's a great starting point for us."

Added forward Brad Boyes, "I think we're playing within our standard. This is the way we're going to play, we're going to play hard, we're going to come out strong, make this a tough to play in. That's one thing that we want to do, especially at home. ... The first two games have turned out well for us."

Now it's time to see if the Blues can set a precedent on the road.

"Divisional games are always big," Steen said. "Games against Nashville (and) Chicago are always good, high-paced. It's going to be very interesting. I think going away for a week too is going to be good for our squad. It'll be fun.

"We've got a good buzz. Good pace, good energy to our game. That's the key for us; moving our feet, keeping that pace high during the course of a game."

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