April 15, 2009
Future looks bright for BluesYouth serves up post-season party
By STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA
One of the most exciting aspects of the St. Louis Blues' amazing finish to put them into the post-season is the idea it is likely to happen again and again in the coming years.
They've made the charge without sacrificing any of their young players to make it happen.
Most deserving of the credit, in fact, are those youngsters.
Kids like T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, David Backes, and David Perron give the Blues a bright future.
Prospects for the next few weeks are pretty positive, as well.
The Blues could surprise their first-round foe, although no one should take them lightly after the way they charged into the playoffs.
"We've sold the same message every day, and the players have gone out and played hard every single day as well," Blues coach Andy Murray said recently. "On one hand, I can count how many games our team didn't play hard this year."
Sitting last in the Western Conference at the all-star break, the Blues made their way up seven spots with a lunch-pail personality the Calgary Flames showed in 2004 when they made a run to the Stanley Cup final.
It's not a mentality you're used to seeing from rookies like Oshie (22), and Berglund (20), or youngsters like Backes (24), and Perron (20).
Maybe veterans like defenceman Jay McKee and winger Dan Hinote rubbed off on the kids.
"Road or home, we know the kind of effort we have to put out there," Hinote told reporters last week. "We'll show up every night and work hard, and hopefully the outcome goes our way. That's the kind of thing we pride ourselves on."
Their skill doesn't take a backseat to the efforts, however.
Oshie owns the title of NHL.com's Goal of the Year for his individual effort against the Vancouver Canucks March 26. He's also made the YouTube generation's favourites for a couple of heavy hits he's laid on division rival Rick Nash this season.
Oshie and linemates Berglund and Perron often appear to be the team's top line, although veteran Keith Tkachuk, leading goal scorer Brad Boyes and Backes hold that title on paper.
And who knows what kind of boost the team could get from winger Paul Kariya if he is cleared from a pair of hip surgeries that kept him out of most of the regular season?
Between the pipes, Chris Mason stole the top job from Manny Legace mid-season, and Legace was demoted to the American Hockey League as a result.
A move like that could have crushed the team's spirit, but they responded as if all their jobs depended on making the playoffs.
"Maybe I put the fear of God into them," Legace told The Hockey News near the end of the regular season. "You know, 'Anybody could be sent down' -- because they've been playing phenomenal ever since.
"I've watched their games and thought, 'Why didn't they play like that when I was there?' "
They're playing that way now -- and that makes them dangerous.
BLUES: STARTING LINEUP
RESERVES/INJURIES: LW Cam Janssen, D Tyson Strachan, LW Paul Kariya (hip, indefinite), D Erik Johnson (knee, out), D Eric Brewer (back, out), D.J. King (shoulder, out).