Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

3-0-1 Run Sways Trade Skeptics

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

3-0-1 Run Sways Trade Skeptics

Article excerpt

Blues general manager Ron Caron described his five-player trade with Quebec last Sunday as a "change of government."

What a coup it's been!

Despite major concerns in the locker room and coach's office, the Blues seem unharmed by the loss of the character and leadership of Garth Butcher, Ron Sutter and Bob Bassen.

In an interesting twist, the Blues have been better defensively without their defensive stalwarts, mainly because they've been better offensively.

Newcomer Steve Duchesne has given the Blues an offensive threat at defense, someone to lead the rush and start the transition game. He has filled the gap caused by injuries to Jeff Brown and Phil Housley.

Coach Bob Berry has been forced to give more prominence to skilled rookie center Jim Montgomery and Russians Igor Korolev, Vitali Karamnov and Vitali Prokhorov at forward.

Out of necessity, he scrapped the so-called checking line and has used three offensive lines on a regular basis, with the fourth line, centered by rookie Nathan LaFayette, available for spot duty. The Blues are fielding a more skilled lineup.

"We're handling the puck offensively, and we're not turning the puck over," Berry said after Friday's 3-2 victory in Edmonton and before a 5-3 victory Saturday in Calgary ran the Blues' record to 3-0-1 since the trade. "We're being more responsible offensively, and it's taken some pressure off defensively."

Make that a lot of pressure.

"Where's the puck?" assistant coach Ted Sator said. "The puck's being transported to the other end."

Much to the relief of goalies Curtis Joseph and Jim Hrivnak. After allowing 36.9 shots a game in the 47 games before the trade, the Blues allowed 30.3 in the first four after it. "We don't sit and dump it out," Caron said. "We control it."

Joseph, the NHL's shots-against leader with 1,484, credits the trade for the big change.

"I can't think of anything else that happened before that," he said. "We've had possession of the puck a little more. It's better than what we were doing.

"With all the shots against, we were putting ourselves in position to lose. Now we're putting ourselves in position to win."

Friendships aside, that's the most important thing. Success has swayed locker room skeptics.

"Guys were kind of surprised by the trade, but now, it's looking pretty good," Hrivnak said. "We're handling the puck well, and the shots have been down. Everyone's a little rejuvenated. There's a lot of pep on the team."

Duchesne has injected enthusiasm. "He's been a very positive influence," said Berry, who adamantly opposed the trade.

Now he says, "I like it better."

Caron understood Berry's initial trepidation.

"The reason this happens is the coach had confidence in Sutter, Bassen and Butcher," Caron said. "Their departure left a cloud of uncertainty, but hopefully, the cloud will disappear. …

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