Blues basking in Olympic glow of their teammates

News-DemocratFebruary 19, 2014 

— As their teammates grow more famous by the day at the 2014 Winter Games in Russia, the rest of the St. Louis Blues are not the least bit surprised.

After T.J. Oshie's scintillating shootout performance for Team USA on Saturday in a 3-2 victory over Russia, they watched his Twitter account blow up nearly instantaneously with tens of thousands of new followers, then watched him doing interviews for The Today Show and other national venues.

"It's awesome," defenseman Ian Cole said Wednesday, a few hours after Blues captain David Backes had a goal and assist in a 5-2 quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic. "Obviously we have so many guys in the Olympics that really whichever team has guys on the Blues on it, I'm cheering for them."

That means he's cheering for the seven Blues that will be playing in the semifinals Friday.

Backes, Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk from Team USA will be matched against rival Canada and Blues defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester (11 a.m., NBC Sports Network).

"I think we were destined and on a crash course for each other. It happens to be in the semifinals instead of the finals, like Vancouver," Backes told the Los Angeles Times after making his presence felt Wednesday at both ends of the ice with linemates Dustin Brown and Ryan Callahan. "I think both teams will be very excited to play each other and will need no motivation, and it's going to be some great hockey played Friday."

Blues forwards Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund will help lead Sweden into its semifinal showdown against Finland (6 a.m. NBC Sports Network).

Steen had the first goal Wednesday in Sweden's 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Slovenia.

The U.S.-Canada semifinal is a rematch of the 2010 gold medal game, which Canada won in overtime. The Blues plan to watch the game before their practice Friday.

"It will be a really cool experience getting to watch five guys for our team in the Olympics on one sheet of ice," said Cole, a Michigan native who twice played for Team USA in the world junior championships. "It's pretty unheard of. Hopefully my U.S. boys come out on top, but all the best to Bo and Petro."

The non-Olympic Blues returned to practice Wednesday, working toward a Feb. 26 game in Vancouver.

Canadian Barret Jackman has a definite rooting interest for his home country, but he's not rooting against the Americans.

"If it's anybody else besides Osh, Shatty or Backes, it will be upsetting," he said. "But you're rooting for those guys just as much as you are Team Canada and Bo and Petro and the rest of those (Sweden) guys over there with Steener and Bergie.

"No matter who wins it's going to be a pretty special feeling for those guys."

While many outside of St. Louis have expressed surprise at Oshie's shootout exploits -- he made several slick moves while scoring on four of his six attempts against Russia -- his Blues teammates had seen it all before.

"There's no surprise for us, but it's nice that he's getting the worldwide recognition now," Jackman said. "He became a top celebrity overnight, he's probably going to have the paparazzi following him around. You turn on E! News, you turn on The Today Show, he's plastered all over.

"It's a real good story that everybody loves to rally around. That's what the Olympics is all about."

After all, this is the same Oshie who can juggle pucks on his stick and routinely hangs NHL goaltenders out to dry. He has been successful on seven of his 10 shootout attempts this season for the Blues and is 25-for-46 (54 percent) in his career.

Cole said his phone was going crazy with people texting and tweeting about Oshie's heroics.

"When Osh goes off the charts in a shootout and just starts dangling every goal he can find, than I end up with 15 texts like 'Hey do you know Oshie," Cole said. "I wasn't overly surprised to see it, to be honest with you. We see stuff like that ... his skill level is just off charts, we see stuff like that all the time, so that's not surprising.

"But it's definitely very exciting and it's really an awesome thing to see him be so successful on a world-class stage."

Jackman and Brenden Morrow spent their Olympic break in Cabo San Lucas and other teammates also found some warmer climates. On Wednesday, it was back to hockey while they await the return of their Olympic teammates.

"I know for me personally when I came back (in 2010) your confidence is sky high," said Morrow, who won a gold medal with Canada. "You're a step ahead, your intensity and speed is at a different level than it was before. So we're lucky we're going to have a number of those guys coming back to carry us until we all catch up."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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