While he had four goals in six playoff games last season against the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko had nothing but a disappointing memory from the experience.
“It wasn’t so long last season,” he said. “I think it’s a different atmosphere. Fans get crazy, everybody plays kind of dangerous and (you) want to be careful because you know the price of a mistake is way higher than the regular season.
“I like these high-pressure games, I think it’s going to be a good experience for us.”
As the Blues arrived at the arena Thursday, they saw each seat draped with rally towel designed like the front of Backes’ game jersey.
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“Whoever designed the rally towels I think did a good job,” Backes said. “It’s pretty flattering, but it’s 20 guys together that’s going to make a difference tonight. It’s not going to be who’s got the one best player on the ice, it’s the combined effort.”
Blues rookie goaltender Jake Allen apparently controlled his nerves enough Wednesday night to not lose any sleep over his first NHL playoff start. Even if he had to wait until 8:30 p.m.
“ It’s awesome, actually,” he said Wednesday morning. “Great sleep last night, maybe even a longer nap today since it’s an 8:30 start, which is a little odd, but that’s not in our control. You just have to time your nap a little bit differently, I guess. Maybe add an hour and a half onto when you start your nap and when you get up compared to a 7 o’clock game.”
Allen’s final seven starts — especially the back-to-back 2-1 wins over Chicago — went a long toward the decision to start him in the playoffs. He was 5-1-1 with a 1.14 goals-against average and .957 save percentage over that span.
“I feel like every game for me has almost been a playoff game, trying to prove myself and keep my spot in the net,” Allen said. “I feel like since Jan. 1, really, I’ve been trying to do that really, taking those games as experiences and it’s another test. We’ve got (to get) 16 wins, but just taking it one game at a time.
“That’s how I’m looking at it. One save at a time, one game at a time. It should take care of itself.”
Pregame show, Reeds tribute
They turned off the lights at Scottrade Center and treated the crowd to an innovative pregame show with a projection system that used the ice as a giant television screen. There were plenty of Blues-related images on the ice, but the loudest cheers came when a full-size Stanley Cup was displayed covering nearly the entire ice surface.
Early in the first period there also was a video tribute to former Blues forward Mark Reeds, the Ottawa Senators assistant coach who died at age 55 this week after battling cancer. Reeds, who got his coaching start with the Peoria Rivermen, had 45 goals and 150 points in 320 games with the Blues frmo 1981-87.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also attended the Blues’ playoff opener.
No home-ice advantage
The road team won three of the four NHL playoff games contested on Wednesday, a fact that did not escape Blues coach Ken Hitchcock’s attention. That included the Chicago Blackhawks erasing an early 3-0 deficit at Nashville, pulling goaltender Corey Crawford, and then rallying for a 4-3 double-overtime victory behind backup Scott Darling.
“I think the wake-up call for all of us was the road team won so many games last night,” Hitchcock said. “It shows you how even things are. You talk about home-ice advantage (but) it turns on a dime and you have to make adjustments.”