If curiosity killed the cat, then perseverance gave CPR to the lion. Poor puns aside, this edition of Pep Talk focuses on how the St. Louis Blues have been forced to show their vast depth early on this season, due to various injuries and a pesky bacterial infection sweeping through the locker room. The team hasn’t let any of this fog their visors however, and have been focusing on each game at hand to try and make the best of every situation.
The Injury Bug Bites Early in 2014-15
Though the Blues have seen their top centers go down with injuries (David Backes and Paul Stastny) already this season, they are still beginning to settle in and show their depth to the hockey world. Tuesday evening’s OT win over division rival Dallas showed the team’s true grit, and also showed off its budding superstars. Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera were able to continue their graceful chemistry amassing 7 points (4 G, 3 A) between the two of them against a powerful Stars team.
Tarasenko’s hat trick was the first of his career, and Lehtera assisted on 2 of the 3 tallies with excellent passes that allowed Tarasenko to use his foot skill and quick hands to repeatedly snipe Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen both near and far side. The dynamic duo was able to erase the rest of the Blues’ play, which was mostly forgettable with flashes of brilliance mixed in. Jaden Schwartz was also able to fill in on the hodgepodge first line and continue to shine in a true primary role. Though Schwartz was unable to help standout veteran TJ Oshie get his game going, he was able to support the play and back check efficiently, and was even effective in the face-off circle which is truly a welcome sign of great things to come in the Gateway to the West.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) October 29, 2014
Why It’s Better to Face Adversity now, Rather than in March
Showing the team’s great depth is something that will help prepare the Blues for any situation they may face towards the end of the year, and into the playoffs. Having personnel coming and going from the lineup actually plays into coach Ken Hitchcock’s style, allowing him to see what the ever-changing line combinations can do game-by-game, so that he may track who can mesh with who. This provides different looks that will turn into great line combos in a short amount of time. Just glance at the Tarasenko, Lehtera, Steen line from Tuesday in Dallas and you can see how injuries now may actually be able to help the Blues out later.
What an incredible combination play between Lehtera and Tarasenko. #StlBlues
— David Rogers (@FrozenNotes) October 29, 2014
The team has also had past problems staying healthy at the end of the year, almost every year, and for very obvious reasons going through a decrease in player’s health up front is highly desirable to having a round robin of Wolves’ and Blues’ players trying to defeat such Western Conference foes as the Chicago Blackhawks and the LA Kings in the playoffs come April.
Once Healthy, Blues will be Among Tops in the West
This year’s Blues team is learning how to battle through adversity very early this season, which should only help solidify their performance from here on out. Barring the injury bug biting the Blues’ hinds all season, these very injuries and sicknesses could give the Blues an edge later in the year as it seems that every team goes through such a stint each NHL season. With the team starting to click regardless of who each line’s mates may be, the Blues are looking great at 2-0 in the Central Division, and 4-3-1 overall on this young year.
For those who remember watching the LA Kings throughout last season you may have noticed a similar trend, with the Kings missing a slew of players throughout the season which made it difficult to stay consistent and led to their #6-seed entering the Stanley Cup playoffs. They continued their rocky pace to the brink of an early exit via sweep by the San Jose Sharks, but finally woke up in the 4th game of the series (while they were down 3-0 in it) and went on to make history…again.
This year’s Blues team seems to be feeling the pain right now, but it’s a very long season where a multitude of things are going to happen and that is exactly why perseverance is such an important trait for a team to possess. The coaching staff and players have done a great job at keeping the focus on game play, and though the team has been off to a rocky start, they seem to be aligning nicely now and surely have a better flow to their game as of today. If the team can keep overcoming this early adversity and then stay healthy throughout the season this early trouble will be just a small blip in the background of an amazing team that goes deep into the playoffs.
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Mike has covered the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning in depth for The Hockey Writers since 2013. He is also a contributing writer for KSDK News Channel 5, the St. Louis area NBC affiliate, and has been a credentialed media member of the Blues since 2014. Follow him on Twitter @pep30.