Friday, April 20, 2012

Crombeen making most of opportunity to stick in tough lineup

Key goal in Game 4 against San Jose draws
comparisons to father Mike's big goal for Blues in 1981

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. -- Ryan Reaves did nothing wrong. In fact, the Blues' rugged fourth line winger played about as well as expected.

"I thought Revo played one of his best games of the year in the first game of the playoffs and obviously, he gets taken out," teammate B.J. Crombeen said. "It's a tough thing."

But the Blues, who lost a 3-2 double-overtime game to the San Jose Sharks to open the Western Conference Quarterfinals, needed to do something different. Ken Hitchcock felt changes needed to be make.

Hitchcock never shied away from mincing his words about the postseason being for veteran players and bringing out their best. So when one of the veteran coach's surprising moves was to pull Reaves for a pivotal Game 2 in favor of Crombeen, it was with a reason in mind.
(Getty Images)
David Perron (left) celebrates with B.J. Crombeen after Crombeen's first-ever
playoff goal Thursday night helped the Blues defeat San Jose 2-1.

We consider Beener and Revo to be the same type of player, both high-energy guys," Hitchcock said. "One guy's got a little bit more experience and can play up the lineup a little bit higher if we need it."

Three games and three wins later, Crombeen and the Blues are on the verge of eliminating a team that was touted at the beginning of the season in the Sharks to be a Stanley Cup favorite.

But for someone like Crombeen, now he's on the other side of the ledger. He's on the inside looking out after sitting seven games in a row before playing in the final regular season game.

When the Blues got caught in a numbers game with 26 healthy players, six of them would have to be brushed aside as the guys that would not be among the 20 to dress. Crombeen was one of them at the outset.

But instead of pouting about not playing, the 26-year-old gained a different perspective.

"When you're sitting out and you're watching some games, you get some time for self-analysis," said Crombeen, who scored his first career playoff goal in Thursday night's 2-1 win in Game 4 that gave the Blues a 3-1 series edge. "You get to watch the games from a different perspective.

"I just tried to take it as a learning experience. I got to work real hard in practice and off-ice and make sure I was in the best shape so that when I came back, it wasn't a big transition. I think that's the same thing all those guys are doing now. I can't really say enough about the guys that do that and our team and how everyone's accepted that and really putting the team first."

Even in limited minutes [eight minutes, five seconds], Crombeen was arguably the Blues' best player on the ice Thursday night, not only doing what he does best in playing a checking role and being an agitator when called upon but also having high percentage scoring chances.

After sitting out eight of nine games, including Game 1 of these playoffs, Crombeen has been given a chance to stick. He's making the most of it.

"I think we've got guys that obviously everyone wants to be playing and we've got guys that deserve to play," Crombeen said. "We just don't have enough spots. It's a tough thing, but when you get your chances, you've got to make the most of it.
(Getty Images)
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has inserted B.J. Crombeen (26) back into the
lineup and the gritty winger has made the most of his opportunity.

"We know every day's a new day, and it's a good thing to have that competitive edge and have guys pushing you to make you be at your best to stay in the lineup and make sure our team's playing the best."

Crombeen is a second-generation Blue to score a big goal in the postseason. His father Mike, as many recall, scored a double-overtime series-clinching goal for the Blues in 1981 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. B.J. carries on the family tradition wearing the familiar No. 26 his dad wore.

"It didn't even come to mind until somebody said it after the game," B.J. Crombeen said of his dad's goal. "Being able to play here and wear the same number as my dad is special."

B.J. Crombeen's goal wasn't the game-winner but it helped set the table for the Blues' first playoff series win since 2002. Sticking in an ultra-competitive lineup and contributing might mean much more.

"I think his might have been a bit bigger in double overtime," B.J. Crombeen said of his dad's goal. "But just to be able to score in the playoffs and help the team, it's a good feeling."

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