April 16, 2009
Blues are here for a good time
By TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA
VANCOUVER -- Andy Murray's plan was to sneak his team out the back door of B.C. Place and leave only one guy on the ice for the media and the Canucks video guy to shoot during practice here Monday.
"I wanted one of our trainers to put on Paul Kariya's uniform and go out there," said the St Louis Blues' coach yesterday of the Vancouver native who is out of the Blues lineup with injury.
"Trouble was, our trainer is 270 pounds."
So it didn't happen. But the Blues still snuck out the back door and headed to practice at UBC while the media was ensconced in the Vancouver Canucks dressing room after their practice.
"We just wanted a change of scenery," said Murray, of the team which flew here direct from making the match with the Canucks on the final day of the regular season Sunday in Colorado. "We're going to be here for five days. We're not used to practising even the day before the game in the other team's rink. It wasn't the stuff of genius or to try and trick anybody. It was just the scenery. The guys were captivated by the mountains on the way out."
Yesterday, after the morning skate prior to last night's lid-lifter of their Stanley Cup playoff series with the Canucks, Murray came clean.
"We knew the second the Vancouver guys got into their cars and the time their video guy showed up and when he left," laughed Murray.
"It was a fun day yesterday."
It's all fun and games for the St. Louis Blues.
While it's still to be determined if they'll be around the Stanley Cup playoffs for a long time, they're definitely here for a good time.
Murray took the team curling the last time he brought the Blues to Vancouver.
Is he going out of his way to keep his young players on a team which hasn't been in the playoffs since 2003-04, free of playoff pressure?
Is he going out of his way to keep the team - which went 24-8-6 when they decided to go with Red Deer native Chris Mason in goal and went 9-1-1 to end the season - as loose as he can possible keep them?
"That's very perceptive," said Murray. "I think they're naive. Our guys just don't know what they're getting into. Over-coaching them is more of a danger than under-coaching them."
As for himself, he says he's just like everybody else.
"I'm like you guys. I'm looking forward to see what happens in this series."
Murray said he wasn't worried about the Blues being a just-happy-to-be-here bunch.
"How is T.J. Oshie going to look Keith Tkachuk in the eye and say he's just happy to be here," he said of the rookie and the 38-year-old veteran.
"It's pretty special what we've done to get to this point," said Tkachuk, who remembers playing the Canucks as a Winnipeg Jet in his first playoff series.
"I can't believe this is 17 years later. I'm going to have fun out of it."
Barret Jackman, said he can relate to the kids and Tkachuk.
"It's a lot of fun. My first playoff experience was here as well," he said of a seven-game series lost to Vancouver in 2003.
Mason, who stopped 72 of his last 74 shots in finishing the season with almost identical stats to Roberto Luongo, was enjoying the media after the pre-game skate yesterday, unusual for a goalie in the playoffs.
"It's been a blast," he said of how much fun the Blues have been having. "The last couple of months is the most fun I've ever had in hockey," added the late bloomer who is finally starting a series at age 33.
"It took me a long time to get to this point."
Mason already has a playoff beard worthy of the third round.
"I've been growing it for a couple months. I started early.I hope to grow it a lot longer."