BOSTON – Going into Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, the St. Louis Blues actually find themselves in something of an unexpected comfort zone. First, they’re coming off a loss in which they didn’t look particularly good. Second, they’re playing on the road in the playoffs. Both of those seem to bring out the best in the Blues.
As far as their play on the road goes, the Blues can trace their success back to February and March when they played nine road games each month, which coincided with them becoming the hottest team in the NHL. They compiled a record of 11-3-4 in those games, which went a long way to securing a playoff spot. In a stretch from mid-January through mid-March, the Blues went 68 days where they played only seven home games, none of them back-to-back. When it comes to rebounding from losses, the Blues have a 7-3 mark in the post-season.
So if the Blues think they have every reason to believe they can come in and steal a win in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final against a team that is very good on home ice, who can blame them? After the adversity they’ve endured this season, it’s certainly not a terribly tall order. “I don’t think much changes in our preparation and we’re a confident group no matter where we are,” said Blues right winger Alex Steen.
In these playoffs, the Blues have a chance to become a unique team in that if they win the Stanley Cup, they would do so with a decidedly better record on the road than at home. So far they’re 9-4 on the road and only 6-6 at the Enterprise Center, which bills itself as one of the unfriendliest arenas in the NHL for visiting teams. They’ve already won two games at TD Garden, so coming out of here with a victory is not a foreign concept.
“You take a simpler approach more than anything,” Blues coach Craig Berube said of his team’s success on the road. “At home you might try to play a little differently at times. More of a simple approach (on the road)…directness, predictable probably has a lot to do with it. We’ve been a good road team for a long time. We feel pretty comfortable on the road.”
In this final, the Blues had two massive games at home. The first was Game 3 because it was the first one at home in the final since 1970 and there was an enormous sense of anticipation from the fan base. The second was Game 6 because the Blues were in a position to win the Stanley Cup on home ice. They turned out to be by far their two worst games of the series and St. Louis was outscored by a combined 12-3 in those contests. So it might be best for the Blues that Game 7 is on the road and not at home. Because it was on the road that the Blues forged much of their identity.
“I think it was a time for us to get to know each other better,” said Blues center Ryan O’Reilly. “It was good. We got a chance to get away, to go to the rink together every day and it just kind of brought us together.”
Being on the road certainly allows a team to put itself in a bubble, away from the distractions that can come with being at home. Those distractions are sometimes magnified in a situation like this. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy remarked that when you go on a run like this you seem to get a lot of friends, with other old ones coming out of the woodwork. But being in Boston the past two days has allowed the Blues to take their mind off the enormity of the situation in another city. To that end, a Bruins fan by the name of John Corrado tweeted that O’Reilly bought him a guitar, “while seshing at (a guitar store) in Boston,” the night before Game 7. And he even produced a receipt with O’Reilly’s name on it.
“I told the guys, ‘The game’s not today, so relax and enjoy the day,’ ” Berube said after his team’s practice Tuesday afternoon. “ ‘Don’t overthink it. The game is (Wednesday).’ Nerves are nerves, everybody’s got nerves. It’s OK to be nervous. It means you care and want to be successful and do well. Once you get on the ice and you have a shift or two, the nerves will go away and it will just be playing hockey.”
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