One of the most important keys to a team’s success is chemistry and health. With the announcement of the Return to Play plan, one of the most daunting questions is how will the players regain this essential aspect? Can the St. Louis Blues establish the repertoire and bond between players on and off the ice to win another Stanley Cup?
Importance of Chemistry
The current Stanley Cup champions contributed so much of their success to key moves, camaraderie and goaltending.
Head coach Craig Berube said in a press conference before Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final last season:
“I think our guys really learned to deal with that, deal with adversity. You’re gonna deal with adversity all the time. Game to game you’re gonna deal with it. Within the game you’re gonna deal with it. After the game so they’ve been good. It’s good leadership, good character in that locker room, for sure.”St. Louis Blues Coach Craig Berube
Other players have addressed the issue of regaining that momentum and bond to get in a winning mode.
“We’re going to have to find a way to feel good but also get to our team game, get the fundamentals down that way again,” Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets forward said. “The team that can get to their game quickest is going to have success.”
The Return of Tarasenko
The players have been working out in their own locations and said they are ready to go. Aside from chemistry, injury recovery plays a huge part in this situation. Vladimir Tarasenko wasn’t quite ready to get back out there before the season was paused, but he is now.
“He did a great job with his rehab, along with the training staff, and he kept himself in great shape. He actually came back in better shape than he came to camp (in September) … He’s been on the ice and doing things right now, so he’s ready to go,” Berube said.
Although the team hasn’t been together on the ice since play was paused in early March, adding a player that has been absent for a long period of time could disrupt the vibe. Since this is such an unprecedented situation, it’s going to be the same for all teams in the playoffs.
“We have almost the same guys from last year, so everybody knows what we’re here for, everybody knows what we did last year to make it happen. Just think we need to do this and stay tight,” Tarasenko said.
“When you win a Cup, you just don’t want to lose anymore. I know it’s impossible, but the thoughts in your head, when you win, is you want to do it again.”
Tarasenko was able to rejoin the team prior to the shutdown, but made some headway in reconnecting with the team.
“I miss a lot of time. As soon as I start come for skates and for road trips, it’s totally different,” Tarasenko said. “Even if you’re not playing you can feel this atmosphere, you can be with the guys when they play, you feel closer to the team.”
“It’s gonna be fun. Fun (to) practice as a team. Bet everybody have a lot of stories, so yeah it’s gonna be a fun time.”
Notes from the Captain
Pietrangelo talked about having put together a plan going back to practice and conditioning. Chris Kerber asked him about the team getting back in the groove and how to get that together:
“The good part about us, we know our identity, right? We’ve played the same way a long, long time. Especially building off of last year, we’ve kept that momentum going of our style of play,” Pietrangelo said.
“We’re not coming in any different, just an offseason, same players. We’re all geared up, we all know how to play. Once you get everybody on the ice together, you do a few drills, and (Blues Head Coach Craig Berube) goes through some videos and we look at our play, the muscle memory is an amazing thing. We’ll grab it quicker than we think.”
The captain is confident the team will come together after the time off when competition returns. The time off has not affected their excitement to defend their Stanley Cup championship.
“Once we get going, the competition gets going, we’re going to want to win this thing,” Pietrangelo added. “The timing is a little bit off, but if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it to win. We’re not just doing this to kill time.”
On to the Next Phase
Pietrangelo and the rest of the Blues organization are ready to get the season re-started. Phase 3, including training camp with all players participating, begins on July 10.
“We’re treating this as an offseason. We will have had eight, 10, 12 weeks to train, which is more than what we had last summer after playing as long as we did,” the Blues captain said.
“For us, (the break) was pretty beneficial. It’s not easy to play as much hockey [as we did last year]. I think mentally is just as important because you take a break, recharge the mind, recharge the body and get that excitement to get back again. It’s nice we were able to take a break and get ready for this.”
With the excitement players have displayed, fans can only hope that the playoffs will produce another Stanley Cup run for the Blues.
With a Mass Communications and Journalism degree from Florida International University, I completed internships with the Florida Panthers Hockey Club and Sports Illustrated. I’ve published several articles for various outlets, including one in ESPN Magazine and one on espn.com.