Blues get rare day off during playoffs; PP improving, PK continues to
be solid; leave the goalie alone; veterans stepping up; Parayko's mom visits
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues' Monday consisted of a whole lot of nothing.
Well, if by nothing is meant to be rest, getting away from the rink, recouping, sleeping, spending time with family/kids and the like, then the Blues were all-in.
They've been all-in during the Western Conference First Round series against the Minnesota Wild, leading it 3-0 after a pair of 2-1 road victories, then putting a stranglehold on it with a 3-1 home win in Game 3 on Sunday.
And with two days off between Games 3 and 4, Blues coach Mike Yeo wanted his players to stay away from the rink today.
Some wanted it ...
"I feel like day off right now," right wing Vladimir Tarasenko said. "(Monday) is a day off and our coaching staff have time to think about it. Like three games before, we just need to come here and do what they told us and do it for each other. Stay closer to each other and fight."
Some didn't ...
"That's just the league schedule, TV schedule," said Blues goalie Jake Allen, who is locked in with a 0.91 goals-against average and .974 save percentage stopping 114 of 117 shots. "That's the way it is. Every team has got a couple days now this year between games, but I think for me, I'd rather keep going. It's just the way it is. An extra day's rest won't hurt."
Considering the Blues are down in shots on goal (117-79) and shot attempts (228-142), they've been putting in a ton of work to keep the speedy, transition-heavy Wild off the scoreboard.
Allen has a lot to do with it being the last line of defense, but the Blues' five-man unit is absolutely smothering the Wild between the dots and has had to put in a lot of work to do it considering Minnesota's edge on faceoffs (60 percent to 40 percent), so the Blues aren't starting with the puck as often as they'd like.
"Guys will have the day off (Monday) and then we'll have a good practice and get ready to go," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "So, same way that we have, obviously the message to the guys, we have to handle the next couple of days the right way in terms of the thoughts that we put in our heads and the preparation that we have. But right now, it starts with getting some rest.
"... It's what we have. I'm not going to analyze whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, I'm just going to make sure we utilize it the best way that we can and make sure that we get ready to come out. We can sit here and say it might be this, it might be that. We have an opportunity to get rest, we have an opportunity to practice and to look at the tape, what areas we might need to adjust a little bit, look at what areas we have to focus on for the next game and get ready for a real hard battle."
* Special teams -- The Blues' power play was much better in Game 3 than in the previous two games, getting their first goal from Jaden Schwartz. It is now 1-for-9 in the series.
But the penalty kill, aside from one 5-on-3, is a perfect 9-for-9 in 5-on-4 situations and 1-for-10 overall in the series.
"We're just being aggressive," captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "We're utilizing, especially up front, a lot of different guys, so we're keeping energy up. Again, Jake's been fantastic on the kill, but we've got some things that are working for us. Can't give you the secrets, but I'm proud of the effort there on the penalty kill. Guys are sacrificing a lot."
Sacrificing much like the Blues are in 5-on-5 situations. They're minimizing Minnesota's chances between the dots and getting in the shooting lanes.
"They've got some guys that want to make plays, so if we limit their opportunities to make plays, then they're going to have to take shots that they don't want to take and we're OK with that," Pietrangelo said. "We're coming back with five guys. We're protecting the middle of the ice. I think they know that. If they want to keep shooting from there, like I said, we'll keep protecting the middle."
The good news for the Blues is their power play was much more efficient, much more crisp. They had efficient zone time, moved the puck cleanly in-zone and sustained zone time.
"That was the message after the second period, that was a little bit concerning," Yeo said. "We had two really good power plays and we hit a couple posts and then you get a little bit nervous. But for me, the look of our power play on the first two power plays was way better. So that was the message in between periods, you know what, just stay with it. And so for them, not only to score the goal, but to stabilize the game for us at that point, (Minnesota) clearly had the momentum after scoring. That was a critical moment for sure."
"I thought it did a good job of giving us momentum the whole game," Schwartz said of the power play. "We had chances and just didn’t seem to find a way to put it in. On that power play we had some good looks, we had some shots, and ended up recovering the rebounds and just got them running around a little bit. 'Vladi' (Tarasenko) made a great play to 'Steener' (Alexander Steen) and then 'Steener' made a great play over to me.
"... Special teams were huge. That’s the difference between winning and losing sometimes and gets you some momentum. Our PK was great tonight. That was a big power-play goal for us. They had a little bit of momentum and we needed to get some on our side. It kind of brought us back a little bit."
* Leave him alone -- Allen is in such a zone right now, Yeo won't say much when he sees his starting goaltender on a daily basis.
"I say hi, good morning and good job," Yeo said smiling. "That's about it right now. I don't want to mess anything up.
"He's playing great. Of course, there's communication, there's talk and what-not. But no, he's in good hands."
Allen is in the hands of sure-fire Hall of Fame netminder, Blues assistant general manager-turned temporary goalie coach/consultant Martin Brodeur, who has helped give Allen the necessary advice and minimal technical tweaks to turn his game around.
And even though the playoffs are a whole different animal, Brodeur has had Allen change nothing.
"Same. Nothing's changed," Allen said. "I think that's the key. Nothing's changed inside the locker room from the regular season to now, which is huge. I think we always changed before and I think it's huge that we didn't change."
Which begs the question if Allen is in the Wild's heads now?
"I don't know. I'm not in their heads," Allen insists. "I'm just playing my game and I don't know what's going on over there, but we're just focused on ourselves. We're not worrying about what they're doing or what they're changing or their lineup so we're doing a good job of focusing on ourselves and it was a gutsy win tonight."
"It's all business right now," Allen said. "As soon as you get to the rink, once we leave the rink here tonight, you can relax and you can get away from it for a couple days, let loose, but come back Tuesday and Wednesday again and it's all business. I think we have the right mindset right now."
Yeo agreed that the Blues don't have time to worry about what the Wild is thinking.
"I don't know. I don't know what they're thinking, or what's going on over there," Yeo said. "I mean, we have enough on our plate here to make sure we're focused on our guys."
* Berglund, Bouwmeester stepping up -- Both have been mainstays in the Blues' lineup, and both have received an ample amount of criticism for past postseason failures, but both center Patrik Berglund and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester have made their marks in a very positive light this series.
Berglund has three assists in the series, and Bouwmeester has been steady on the blue line that has done a terrific job neutralizing Minnesota's forecheck off the rush.
"Right from the start, he's had a phenomenal year," Yeo said of Berglund. "He just plays the game really well at both ends of the ice. He's got a strong identity as a player. He's a big man who plays big, both big and without the puck and he's obviously a guy that thinks the game well, but he's got the skill to go along with that. In all three games offensively, obviously he's come through for us, but in all three games, he's made critical hockey plays, critical winning plays and that's what t he whole group is doing right now."
Bouwmeester has been Pietrangelo's steady partner throughout his tenure in St. Louis, which began in 2012, and throughout this series in both 5-on-5 situations and especially as a penalty killer.
"Jay's a phenomenal defenseman," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "Obviously he's a guy that's not overly flashy but he's just super sound in making all the right plays. If you watch him, it's a lot of fun because if you know the game and you want to progress and get better, he's the player to watch because he just does all the little things right. He's got good poise with the puck. Just his all-around game is incredible. He's an awesome d-man. It's fun to be under him and try to progress and learn from him."
* A parent's touch -- For the second time in this series, a Blues player brought a parent into the building to see them play. For the third time in the series, a parent saw their child score.
Bob and Lois Edmundson made the drive from Brandon, Manitoba to see their son Joel Edmundson score in Games 1 and 2, and on Sunday, Parayko's mother Karen flew in to be with her son for Easter, and he opened the scoring in the 3-1 victory.
"My mom flew in yesterday. She was here to see that," Parayko said.
So ... who's next?
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