Monday, May 6, 2019

Blues have experience heading into Game 7

Sixteen players have experience in the winner-take-all 
game, including nine that played in two for St. Louis in 2016 

ST. LOUIS -- Experience matters, and the Blues hope that comes to fruition on Tuesday night.

Heading into Game 7 of the Western Conference second round against the Dallas Stars at Enterprise Center (7 p.m.; NBCSN, KYKY 98.1-FM), there are 16 players on the Blues roster with experience of playing in a Game 7. They hold a combined record of 21-9, including nine players (Carl Gunnarsson, Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri, Jaden Schwartz, Jay Bouwmeester, Alexander Steen, Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko and Vladimir Tarasenko) that were in back-to-back Game 7's for the Blues in 2016 when they eliminated Chicago and Dallas in the first and second rounds, respectively.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues congratulate one another after a Game 6 win Sunday in Dallas to
force a Game 7 Tuesday at Enterprise Center.

"Obviously it's easier to play when you have some experience and you can share it with the guys too, but I think we need to be focused on our team have and the way we need to play," Tarasenko said. "If we play the way we can play, we can control the game and get a win.

"We have a couple (Game 7's) and they both went to our side a couple years ago. It was good memories and intense games, especially one here against Chicago, I think it was Dallas too. It's going to be (a) hard game, fun game and it's the moments why we play hockey. Everybody's season is on the line. Just need to have fun and enjoy those games."

The Blues defeated the Stars in Dallas in the second round in 2016, 6-1. Prior to that, they disposed the Blackhawks, 3-2, in the first round to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions at that time.

"We played last night like it was a Game 7 for us and we just have to keep doing that," Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson said. "When it comes to experience in Game 7's, I don't know if it helps or not. Maybe having that pressure, just kind of facing it, maybe that helps, I don't know. We just try to see it as last night and same thing here, we're facing elimination, there's one game on the line here. We just have to pour it all in."

The Blues got it to this point here with a 4-1 win at Dallas in Game 6, one of their most impressive results this postseason. As a matter of fact, it was their first playoff win by more than a goal. They did so, as Tarasenko said, by playing for each other, supported one another on the ice, checked on both sides of the ledger and scored timely goals.

"It was a good game, definitely," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "Our checking was excellent. First and third were tight, we were reloading well and were above the puck. And that’s key in the playoffs. You've got to check and work.

"(Forwards back-checking), that’s a big thing, really big. That way our defense can be tight and have good gaps."

But between now and then, what do the Blues do? Well, for one, they eliminate what they would consider outside noise. That would include, what, exactly?

"Just keeping doing what we’re doing," said Blues forward Pat Maroon, looking for is first Game 7 win. "You guys are going to make this bigger than … I’m sure you guys are going to have a bunch of articles blowing this thing up, right? So yeah, just try to ignore the situation, just ignore all the stats and all that stuff. We’ve just got to go out there and compete and just do what we did yesterday. I don’t think anyone believed in us yesterday and we got it done, so now we just have to keep having that belief system. Our coach believes in us more than anyone in that locker room, and he makes it a point every night before we go out there and it just makes us feel so much more comfortable, and that’s why we get to our game so much."

And that's how Berube, who coached the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves to a pair of Game 7's and one with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2014, wants his players to treat it. The Blues are 2-4 in the postseason on home ice, which isn't great by any means, but a chance to gain some leverage by winning a big one Tuesday here.

"I just think put the noise behind us, you know, and just play," Berube said. "Treat it like a road game as much as we can, play a simple brand of hockey and get to our game as quickly as possible. Just keep the noise out and focus on playing."

Here is the rundown of those with Game 7 experience and their records in those games:

Carl Gunnarsson, 2-1; Joel Edmundson, 2-0; Pat Maroon, 0-3; Brayden Schenn, 0-1; Robby Fabbri, 2-0; Jaden Schwartz, 2-0; Jay Bouwmeester, 2-0; Alexander Steen, 2-0; Tyler Bozak, 0-1; Alex Pietrangelo, 2-0; Robert Bortuzzo, 0-1; Michael Del Zotto, 3-0; Colton Parayko, 2-0; David Perron, 0-1; Ryan O'Reilly, 0-1; Vladimir Tarasenko, 2-0.

Tuesday will be the first Game 7 for: Jordan Binnington, Vince Dunn, Sammy Blais, Ivan Barbashev, Robert Thomas and Oskar Sundqvist.

The Blues are 8-8 all-time in Game 7's, including 4-2 at home. They have not hosted a Game 7 in the playoffs on home ice this late in the playoffs since April 30, 1986 when the Blues beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 to reach the Campbell Conference Final.

* NOTES -- Stars coach Jim Montgomery confirmed to reporters in Dallas before the Stars departed for St. Louis Monday that goalie Ben Bishop, who left Sunday's loss with a left collarbone/shoulder injury after being struck by a Parayko slap shot, will start Game 7.

Bishop stayed in the game momentarily after Jaden Schwartz scored to make it 3-1, but left 33 seconds later when Blais made it 4-1.

* Former Blues coach Mike Yeo has landed on his feet. 

Yeo, fired by the Blues on Nov. 19 after a 7-9-3 start, coached in St. Louis for parts of three seasons. He was hired as an assistant coach Monday by the Flyers along with Michel Therrien under new head coach Alain Vigneault's staff. 

Vigneault was recently hired by the Flyers, and Yeo's experience with Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher with the two were with the Minnesota Wild ties that bond together again.

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