Thursday, May 27, 2021

Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly

ST. LOUIS -- Having completed his first season as Blues captain, if Ryan O'Reilly didn't take it upon himself to shoulder things when they didn't go right before, he certainly did during 2020-21.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly (90) led St. Louis with 24 goals and a plus-26 
during the regular season but called his playoffs "pretty pathetic."

In the immediate aftermath of being swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs, O'Reilly called his play "pretty pathetic," which was hardly the case, even though the numbers (no goals, three assists, minus-7) don't back those claims up.

O'Reilly was staked with the challenge of handling Colorado's top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen while maintaining an offensive output that was obviously too challenging for the undermanned and injury-riddled Blues.

But O'Reilly put up solid offensive numbers once again in his third season here, with his 54 points only behind David Perron for the team lead. His 24 goals and plus-26 were tops on the team.

The disappointment of a second straight first-round playoff loss didn't sit well with the captain, and he answered questions regarding that, how the Blues fell short of expectations despite the plethora of injuries, how they can get back to their identity and more:

How season ended and falling short of expectations:
It was a very disappointing season. I think everyone feels that. We didn't give give ourselves a good chance. We're all unhappy with it, but we're till reflecting, we're sorting things out. We're thinking about it. We've got to find a way to be better and it is what it is.

On the record of the team since bubble last season, team hasn't been the same since being top team in the West last season:
There's tons of things that go into it. There's so many different variables. Yeah, we aren't the team that we want to be. We weren't consistent and building something. We had these little spurts and it wasn't enough. We didn't grow our game and build our team game like we need to like it's been in the past with what guys have done here. That's the main issue we're searching for. Again, it starts with myself. This time's about reflection and finding a way to go through it. Again, it starts with myself, I have to be better and do things differently to build it and other guys as well. This is where we sort it out, take some time to rest and get the hungry back and go from there.

On the team identity, why it was so hard to find with this group:
It's a good question and it's something I don't think I can give a direct answer to. It's something I think we're all kind of looking for, how do we get that back and how do we find it. It's not easy to get that. One, I felt it was built, it wasn't just ... for years and years the way we've competed and finally you get bounces and you find a way to win it. Here, I think it starts with, I think I kind of said it before, building it and then competing and getting back to that team mentality that gives yourself a chance to win and compete against those top teams. There's not anything specific and a direct answer I can give you, but it's building it and learning how to find that competitive edge and building our whole team around that.

How do you blend together younger players that don't play the way you played to win it all:
You have the right things in place in the structure. Still, it's everyone buying into one way and doing it the right way and being disciplined in that. Yeah, we have different styles of players and it is a different team that it was a couple years ago, but there's still that discipline within the structure and a certain edge mentally that you have to have in order to be successful. It's finding a way. It's different, it's challenging, but it's building around that one feeling in that kind of respect for each other and competing for each other and the game grows from there and I think the identity comes naturally, if that makes sense.

Do you feel like teams are building teams to combat what you were in 2019:
Yeah, I think it's no secret when you watch playoffs, you see that grit and that heaviness that we kind of try to pride ourselves on. You see in playoffs that you have to have that. You don't stand a chance if you don't have it. Last year you see Tampa, the way they played and how they're structure is the way of the heaviness they had throughout their lineup. These teams, it's huge. To win in this league, you have to have that and it's got to be a staple. That's something we didn't have enough of, more consistent enough with.

Was your forechecking style missing or not consistently there this year:
I do agree with that. It's a staple and it's hard work. Yeah, we didn't have enough of that relentless forecheck that can be so effective and coming wave after wave. That's something that usually we have and gives us a chance to win a lot of hockey games and compete with all these teams. It wasn't consistent enough.

When you take Bouwmeester, Steen and Pietrangelo out, is that a tough transition, especially defensively:
Yeah, for sure. All three of those guys, you don't replace them, but also too, the other guys were a huge part in building this organization and this culture. You have to be able to take that and all of us grow and play like those guys and take what they've done. You don't replace them but you use the way they played and let it build something from that.

Gap in teams ahead of you, feel like gap can be closed again quickly:
Oh yeah. This organization does a fantastic job of getting pieces and competing and doing what they need to do in order to win. For myself, I have to focus on obviously being the leader and helping doing what I can do to contribute to that. We've got some unbelievable pieces here and yeah, we're close, it's there. It's not a huge thing and big adjustments. We're close and it's myself and everyone finding a way to grow their game, finding a way to grow and finding a new way to adapt and win. We're definitely close though.

The Avalanche was willing to go to the net, stay there; do you have those players:
It's a big thing. A lot of those goals they scored with the traffic, their speed getting to the net. For myself, being out there for a lot of goals against, you're trying to be aggressive defensively and the next thing you know, it's back to the point and it's at the net. It's tough. It's something we definitely need more of. It's being disciplined and doing the right things at the right time. If you want to win in this league, especially in the playoffs, you have to be able to do that and get to those hard areas.

Was playing in the West, albeit for one season, tougher than you thought:
It definitely wasn't easy. And on top of that, our injuries, banged up all year, the travel, it was very difficult, but I think we're all looking forward to getting back to that normal schedule, seeing the rest of the league as well. When things are going well, it's easy to ride the momentum. We were playing every team back-to-back nights, it's tough, it's tough to grind out two in a row and such. I think all of us are looking forward to having a normal season.

On the year in as captain, what was it like, was it more than you thought, exactly what you thought:
Honestly, I think it's both. I had some expectations, also some learning that needs to be done. It's a tough job, but it's a fun job too. I like having those responsibilities, but I look at it, reflect it and a lot of things I have to grow in order if we want to go win again, there's a lot of things that have to be better.

Even though it got better late, the defense wasn't the same this year of past standards. Why wasn't it there:
I think having a lot of new pieces, guys that have been here for so long obviously gone. It's tough, it's tough to just jump in for guys that haven't been here long, to jump into a new system and all of us to just be cohesive and defend well. I think it takes time. You can see it. We have great players, but it's just building that chemistry. The more we play together, the more we get more familiar and more guys are on the same page and being able to trust the system, whether it's new or not, that's how you defend well. I feel like next year that'll be something I feel we'll definitely clean up and be a lot better.

Chance to exchange messages with Faulk and Bortuzzo, how are they:
Both guys are doing good. Obviously disappointing. Those are two guys that are massive pieces for us that didn't get a chance to play at home. It was huge losses for the series, but talking to both of them, they're doing good, which is great to hear.

On comment we'll beat the Avs; any regrets:
No, I think I had the belief there. I thought we could. We didn't, which is disappointing. I don't think it was a crazy comment. I felt that I believed in this group. I don't think we got a lot of bounces and it was tough, but I think it just started steam-rolling and such, but I believed when I stepped on the ice it was there to beat them. It just wasn't good enough, it didn't happen. I will never question my belief in trying to win, ever.

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