Like many of his teammates; Schenn jokes about puck whirl;
Blues comfortable playing on edge of risk-reward with speed game
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Two days after what some of his teammates called 'a baseball whirl,' or an audition for a shot put, Brayden Schenn can only look back on the moment and joke about it.
If he didn't, his teammates weren't going to let it slide.
Schenn, who had a goal and assist and fit right into the Blues' groups of centers with Jaden Schwartz and Dmitrij Jaskin,.
Schenn, who made his Blues debut in the 5-4 overtime win against the two-time defending Stanley Cup final, committed what he called a "blackout moment' when he caught a puck in the high slot and whirled it down the other end of the ice while the Blues were serving a penalty already down 5-4 (in numbers).
His delay of game penalty put the Blues down two men for an entire 1:44 and winning the hockey game 4-2.
The Penguins, who were smoked by the Blackhawks 10-1 on Thursday in Chicago, scored on the two-man advantage to cut the deficit to one before Coner Sheary tied it 4-4 just 54 seconds after the Marian Hossa.
"I don't even know what the heck that was," Schenn joked Friday. "I know you can't close your hand on the puck, but I thought I'd give her a toss and see what happens. Crowed. erupted, Pittsburgh erupted. Our bench stayed silent because they knew each other.
"Nice toss, too, eh? 'Yeosy' (Blues coach Mike Yeo) came up to me this morning and told me I threw it on net, so we'll shot it as a shot on goal.
"I don't think many texts would have came in if we had lost that game. I think people were allowed to laugh after, but when I did it, I don't think I even knew what the heck I was thinking. I just grabbed it; it was a blackout play and toss it down the ice, but I'm playing the wrong sport for that one."
Penalty gaffe aside, Schenn, who centered the Blues' second line primarily with Jaden Schwartz, looked to already be in midseason form.
"I like that he's a good pro, that he's got a lot of experience, he's got obviously NHL experience but international experience as well," Yeo said of Schenn. "But he's a competitive guy. He's a competitive guy with skill, and I think that fits our identity nicely. We know we have the ability to make plays, but we also know that we're at our best when the work comes first and the skill follows along. I think he fits that identity very nicely. He's done a real nice job at center for us. His faceoffs last game ... we weren't great as a team, but he was sharp in that area and I think he just gives us a bit more depth at both ends on both sides of the puck for us going forward here."
"I've played with Schwartz before," Schenn said. "Not lots, but I kind of know what he does. He's tenacious on pucks, wins those battles, he's quick, he sees the ice very well, creates space for his linemates. That was really the first game with 'Jas,' and he was a big body that goes in there. The three of us felt like we did a pretty good job in Game 1, but as a team, I think we were pretty solid for the most part but obviously a few things to correct along the way. Pretty good team effort heading into Pittsburgh there."
Despite the Yeo gaffe on Schenn after the game Tuesday ...
"He likes it. He wants to prove that he's a centerman. He's a character guy who wants to fit in with our group, who wants to add to our group. But he wants to prove that he's a centerman and he's taken advantage of the opportunity.
* Final word on season-opening win -- Yeo had time to reflect on the 5-4 overtime win over the Penguins, as did the coaches.
There were good things and things that need to be fixed. But one thing is for certain.
"It's a process," Yeo said. "This is one game into a long process of not trying to get too caught into the big picture. I don't think anyone's going to get too overly excited about the fact that we won one hockey game. At some point here, we're going to lose a hockey game and we're not going to just let that derail us either. As long as we stay in that process of continuing to come back and try to get better, improve our game and grow confident in our game, then we'll like where we're at at the end of the year."
* Quick and quicker -- The Blues held another practice Friday at the St. Louis Outlet Mall, and while that's not unusual and neither is their style of play during such practices gives a clear-cut impression of who the Blues are trying to be.
"I've had a number of people telling me watching that Pittsburgh game that that was a fast game," Yeo said. "That was fast-paced, exciting and for me, I think that those are things that should be said about our group. For me, everything you practice should be with purpose. We're trying to build habits, we're trying to build our game. So when we're out there and we're working stuff, we're trying to build those types of habits. We want to be a team that plays fast and I don't think that's something you can just ask the players to do. I think that you have to practice fast, I think you have to build those habits, you have to get used to executing quickly and making the reads quicker. We absolutely try to build that in.
"I think there's certainly been a shift in the last several years about trying to build more speed. It's a north-south game right now. The trick is to not just be fast like everybody else, it's to try and be faster."
It's quite simple: Yeo wants the Blues play with speed, tempo and determination ... and forget about the risk-reward situation.
"We're practicing like we want to play," defenseman Carl Gunnarsson said. "It's been high tempo all through training camp. ... Everyone's trying to pick up the pace right now. It's a fast-paced game. Everyone's trying to catch on here. We're trying our best to lead in that perspective."
But the risk-reward outcome can't be overlooked.
"Big time, yeah. Everyone plays fast here," Schenn said. "Tight defensively, when you do get the puck, you move it, join the rush, get in the play create open space for the other guys on the ice with you. It's an up-tempo style of play. Hard work and competitive, but at the same time, offensive. It's a fun system to play. "
The Blues played with such up-tempo speed, it was a wonder if they could sustain that mentality for long stretches of time.
"I felt like last game, that some of our rush play and our execution, getting up the ice and the speed of our attack was the reason that we won the game," Yeo said. "... We want to be a team that's dangerous off the attack, but we also want to be heavy in the offensive zone, too.
"That's what we're trying to build and that there's a (risk-reward) line. You don't want to get over it, but you want to get as close to it as you can. It's hard to be successful if you don't take any risks at all. That said, if you're playing foolish and if you're creating turnovers and it's turning into chances against and goals against, obviously that's not doing you any good either. We're trying to build that idea that we can do it, and we can do it responsibly."