ST. LOUIS — It was the easiest coaching decision Craig Berube could make.
And it wasn't even debatable.
Berube, the Blues' coach and coach of the Central Division All-Stars on Saturday night, turned in his lineup card for the match-up against the Pacific Division in the second semifinal of the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Enterprise Center. The names were familiar: Jordan Binnington in goal, and the three skaters were Alex Pietrangelo, Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron.
"He asked me before the game and I said, 'You have one job, don't mess it up," Pietrangelo joked. "Glad he got that one right. Played us against [Connor] McDavid though, so it wasn't ideal."
Berube hasn't messed up too much since he took over as Blues coach, and he wasn't about to mess this up either even in a 10-5 loss to the Pacific Division.
"I think it's awesome. Being here and starting our guys, it's great for them, great for the fans. It's all good stuff," Berube said. "No, no-brainer at all. It's all fun stuff."
The fun stuff started before the game with longtime Blues national anthem singer Charles Glenn. He belted out the Star-Spangled Banner for the first time at the Enterprise Center since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to raucous cheers. Then, Blues superfan Laila Anderson was given the honors of introducing the four Blues onto the ice.
"She was really good, too," Perron said of Laila. "She had a good voice too and pretty loud. She had fun doing it, and certainly it was special for all four of us. I think for me and Binner to be first time at this game, it was a special weekend and she did a good job."
Perron was the lone goal scorer among the Blues players when he cut the Pacific lead down to one at 3-2 in the first period at 7:04, assisted by none other than his teammates Pietrangelo and O'Reilly.
"It was nice to score for sure because the game was here," Perron said. "We were down 3-, 4-0 early, so I think we increased the intensity sooner than we maybe expected, but that's what we saw from the other game too watching in the room, how it started and how it finished. It's like a different game, and it was a good score."
Berube had Blues great Brett Hull on the bench with him as an honorary captain, while Wayne Gretzky had the same honors on the Pacific bench with Rick Tocchet (Arizona Coyotes).
"He's a great guy and good friend," Berube said of Hull, the Blues' all-time leader in goals with 527. "Having a guy like him on the bench, maybe the best player in St. Louis Blues history, right up there. It's just like Gretzky on the other side. It's great having these guys around, still being part of the game."
In the end, the Pacific again got the best of the Central, with hometown boy Matthew Tkachuk (Calgary Flames) putting on a show with two goals and two assists, along with Tomas Hertl (San Jose Sharks) with four goals and Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers) getting three goals and an assist.
"It was a tough outcome obviously, but it's a lot of fun being in front of our own fans and seeing that elite talent, players from all different teams just hopping on the ice and being able to connect with each other," said Binnington, who allowed four goals on 12 shots while playing the first 10 minutes before giving way to Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck. "It's not the result we wanted, but it was fun to be out there and hear the Towel Man making some noise up there. I think the boys had fun and it was overall a fun weekend, but now it's time to get back to business."
"It was great," he said. "I think it was a lot of fun seeing the crowd and how excited they were. It would have been nice to win for them and give them some more to cheer about, but the reception from everyone was electric. It was really cool to be a part of."
All-in-all, the Blues put on a good showing for All-Star Weekend, the first since 1988 and third ever (including 1970).
"Unbelievable, really," Berube said. "It's also the fans. We have great fans here. They supported this All-Star Game and they're very excited about it and having a good time. It's been a great event."
All-Star Game coverage:
- From the Lou and he's proud | Matthew Tkachuk dons Yadier Molina jersey at All-Star skills challenge, sends crowd into a frenzy
- Jenna Fischer is loving her time as a ceremonial All-Star captain
- Blues rep the Super Bowl-bound Kansas City Chiefs on All-Star Friday night
- Charles Glenn returns to the Enterprise Center to sing the National Anthem for the All-Star Game
- Jordan Binnington honors all the 2020 Blues All-Stars with his special All-Star Game mask
- Sports Plus Podcast: 2020 NHL All-Star Game edition
- 'This is where they grew up watching the Blues | Tkachuk family ready for All-Star Weekend