Sport Blues are battered, but have yet to be beaten

22:51  12 october  2017
22:51  12 october  2017 Source:   sportingnews.com

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Dealing with a slew of injuries to key players, the Blues are off to a surprising 4-0-0 start.

Home. Home.

St. Louis Blues© (GETTY IMAGES) St. Louis Blues

NEW YORK — It's not "Homer At Bat" bad, but when it comes to the injured players the Blues are without, much like the fictitious Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, the in-real-life hockey team is missing many of its best and key components.

When the Blues defeated the Rangers 3-1 at Madison Square Tuesday night, they did so without forwards Patrik Berglund, Robby Fabbri, Alex Steen and Zach Sanford, and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. All have missed each of St. Louis' first four games, and only Bouwmeester and Steen are close to returning. Fabbri is done for the year with a torn ACL, Berglund could be back close to Jan. 1, and Sanford might be ready late in the regular season.

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Battered but Not Beaten . “‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said, ‘to talk of many things: of shoes—and ships—and ceiling wax—of cabbages—and kings—and why the sea is boiling hot—and whether pigs have wings.’”* If you left comments and I have not yet responded to them, I will soon.

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So that's what the Blues don't have, but what they do have is eight out of a possible eight points to open their season, despite an injured list talented enough to change the outlook of any NHL roster.

Surprising, right?

"It's early — there are still things we can get better at — but sitting here 4-0, if you would have told us that before the year, it's hard to say," said Jaden Schwartz, who had a goal and an assist on Tuesday, his third multi-point game of the season. "But it's a nice feeling in here right now."

The Blues aren't naive when it comes to the uphill battle they're facing. After losing in the second round of the playoffs last year, and the 2016 Western Conference Final, each time in six games, St. Louis figured to be at the front of the pack yet again.

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"It's not a secret we're missing top players on our team," said Brayden Schenn, who also scored on Tuesday.

If it was, it would be one of the worst-kept secrets in hockey.

But instead of wallowing in their own misfortune, or waiting for reinforcements to get healthy, St. Louis has won each of its first four games, spoiling the Penguins' banner-raising on opening night, beating a tough divisional opponent in the Stars over the weekend, and sweeping a New York back-to-back at the Islanders and Rangers.

"Those are your expectations going in — to win every game possible — and it hasn't been an easy schedule, too," Schenn said. "We've played some good teams."

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Expectations and reality never quite seem to align. Of course, there was optimism in St. Louis given how close the Blues have come each of the past two seasons. They added Schenn in the offseason, a goal-scorer who could help take some of the pressure off Vladimir Tarasenko. They extended young defenseman Colton Parayko, a not-so-hidden gem anymore, ready to step up in place of Kevin Shattenkirk. They were expected to get back Fabbri, who missed 31 games last season with an injured knee, and contributions from the 22-year-old Sanford, the principal piece acquired in the Shattenkirk trade.

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"I would say our veterans have really stepped up their game, and not allowed any type of adversity to creep in and give us any type of excuses," head coach Mike Yeo said before his team defeated the Rangers on Tuesday. "Our group is a competitive group, and we believe despite having some guys out of the lineup, we're still capable of winning hockey games."

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Each night it's been a different player starring for St. Louis. Alex Pietrangelo scored two goals against the Penguins, including the overtime winner. Jake Allen made 38 saves against the Stars over the weekend. Tarasenko scored twice in Brooklyn on Monday, and Schwartz and Schenn each scored at MSG Tuesday, while backup Carter Hutton stopped 16 shots in the third period, most of them while protecting a one-goal lead.

“It’s next man up," Yeo said, beaming in coach-speak over his team's 4-0 start. "That’s the mentality our group has. We’re not going to allow any excuses to creep in.”

Yeo himself probably embodies that philosophy as much as his players. He was hired by the Blues prior to the 2016-17 season to serve as the associate coach and understudy to Ken Hitchcock. The plan, which St. Louis publicly outlined when Yeo was hired was for Hitchcock to coach one more season, and then Yeo to take over the reigns for 2017-18.

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Paul sounds like a man who had been battered but never beaten . When you realize what Paul experienced and endured, you have to ask “How could Paul take such a battering / beating again and again and not be beaten ?” Website designed by big blue designs.

But expectations versus reality reared its ugly head, and Hitchcock was fired mid-season with the Blues sitting in fourth place in the Central and with a 24-21-5 record. St. Louis was 3-7-0 in the final 10 games he coached, trending in the wrong direction as the calendar flipped to February.

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So Yeo stepped in, and the team traded Shattenkirk, knowing he was bound to walk in the offseason and at the very least recouping some kind of return for their star defenseman.

And then came this offseason, in which St. Louis watched key player after key player succumb to different injuries.

"Obviously you need guys to step up," Yeo said. "As much as anything else, the play of our veterans, starting with Jake, you look at guys like [Schwartz]; you look at guys like [Tarasenko], [Pietrangelo], each of one of them has had their moment. [Schenn] has been a great addition for us, so I would say our veterans have really stepped up their game, and not allowed any type of adversity to creep in and give us any type of excuses."

The bad-luck Blues aren't letting their misfortunes define the early portion of their season. In Springfield, with Ken Griffey Jr. suffering from gigantism, Roger Clemens hypnotized, Wade Boggs unconscious, and Mike Scioscia hospitalized with radiation poisoning, the team still found a way.

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Battered But Never Beaten ! A few years ago, a cyclone ravaged parts of Australia. The damage from the savage tornadic strength winds was catastrophic. Website designed by big blue designs.

Yet the two boys were vastly different. Kent occasionally beat Puccio unconscious. He often insulted him in front of strangers and friends. Whenever Puccio seemed to be doing well socially, Kent managed to intervene and put a stop to it until Puccio met an 18-year-old girl named Lisa Connelly.

In St. Louis, the Blues are forging forward with the pieces they have, warping reality to circumvent expectations.

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