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Blues didn't completely disregard exhibition loss to Blackhawks, hope to apply things for round robin

The teams that have to play in the best-of-5 qualifying rounds, which began Friday, have more of a sense of urgency to get their respective games in order
Credit: AP
St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (50) is scored on by Chicago Blackhawks' Brandon Saad (20) as Blues' Brayden Schenn (10) defends during the second period of an exhibition NHL hockey game Wednesday, July 29, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

ST. LOUIS — The biggest takeaway for the Blues after playing their lone exhibition game before the Western Conference round-robin games begin: not much.

The Blues, who fell to the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0 on Wednesday, took the day off inside the bubble in Edmonton on Thursday before getting back on the practice ice Friday with one more skate Saturday in preparation for their round-robin opener against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday (5:30 p.m.; FS-MW, ESPN 101.1-FM).

The Blues weren't the only round-robin squad to lay an egg. Boston, the top seed going in in the Eastern Conference, were overwhelmed by Columbus, 4-1; Dallas, the fourth-seeded in the West, was smothered by Nashville 2-0.

The teams that have to play in the best-of-5 qualifying rounds, which began Friday, have more of a sense of urgency to get their respective games in order.

"I don't take a whole lot out of that game," Blues coach Craig Berube said. 'It was a meaningless game, an exhibition game. I think it was just good to get guys out there playing a game.

"There's a lot of areas where we're going to have to improve for sure and we worked on today. We watched video on that game, from that game, a little bit of video. There's a lot of areas that we have to improve on and get better. Our guys know that. They know what it's going to take to be successful in the playoffs. I think our guys, going back to last year, understand how hard you've got to play. To me, those are the biggest things. When you get into playoff hockey, it's about how hard you compete and how hard you play and how well you play as a team."

Under normal circumstances, a team may just take film from a 4-0 loss and toss it in the trash. Who could blame the Blues if they did so in this case? But since it was an exhibition and since there was nothing to gain or lose from it, why not take some things away and try to apply moving forward?

"We watched film," defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said. "Any chance we can take information in and learn from stuff, we're doing it. We looked at things we needed to tighten up, maybe take in some straight lines and cleaner routes, forechecking. You take what you address in video and roll it over into practice and we had a great practice day. I thought the intensity was high. We definitely took information and took what we needed. We have a veteran group that knows what it takes. It wasn't a game that looked like a Blues hockey game by any means, but we looked at the film and made some corrections."

Even though the round-robin games won't make or break the Blues, they are playing for seeding moving forward, and even though there's technically no home ice advantage to play for, there's the opportunity to build their game back to where it was pre-pandemic and to a level that won the Blues their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2019.

"It's important," Bortuzzo said. "Any game you go out and play, you're trying to win, but I'd say the biggest thing is getting your game right and where it needs to be. The seeding's important, but I think in any playoffs, the team that continues to get through it all is the team that's going to have the most success. We're just going to look to build and play the right way. We're obviously going to try and win every game and things usually work themselves out from there."

Goalie Jake Allen likes the Blues because of experience the close-knit this groups exhibits on a daily basis.

"It's a mentality for our group," Allen said. "We have a lot of experience and a lot of leadership. If you can get back to the little things that make our team successful for the next three games before the playoffs hit for our group, doing the right things the right way and trying to get better every game, I think leading into the playoffs, it's important to try to go out there and win these games. These games are meaningful games, they're important and we want to go into the playoffs on the right foot."

As far as practice Friday, Vladimir Tarasenko did not skate with what Berube called a maintenance day. Wednesday was Tarasenko's first game action since he dislocated his left shoulder Oct. 24 against the Los Angeles Kings; he had surgery five days later.

Also, forward Alexander Steen and defenseman Vince Dunn, who did not play in the game against the Blackhawks, were back at practice.

"Practice was fine. A lot of team stuff," Berube said. "It's important in the playoffs to get to playing well as a team. We did a lot of five-man units today, a little bit of controlled scrimmage stuff, but I just want to see us playing the five-man unit hockey right now, so we really focused on a lot of that stuff today.

 "I don't think the first exhibition game was much of a test, to be honest with you (for Tarasenko), but going forward here in the round robin, he's going to really have to get after it, trust his shoulder and trust himself and really push himself so he's at a very high level when it's over and we're starting the playoff round. That's what I'd like to see him do. I haven't really sat down and talked to him about it, but I'm sure he's thinking the same thing."