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Berube leads Blues to impressive turnaround

by Chris Pinkert / Stats by Brett Barczewski

When Craig Berube took over the St. Louis Blues, they had just been shutout by the last-place Los Angeles Kings at home.

It was mid-November and the team was 7-9-3 in the first 19 games of the season. They sat 14th in the Western Conference and were 30th out of 31 NHL teams.

Now?

The Blues are 32-23-5 with 69 points, good enough for a divisional playoff spot and third in the Central Division.

The big turnaround can, at least in part, be attributed to Berube.

"He's intense, demanding," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo told stlouisblues.com. "But he also understands when the boys need a mental and physical break. He's been really good at managing us in games from behind the bench and managing days away from the rink.

"He expects a lot. I mean, he expects you to keep getting better every day, regardless of how many games we've won lately or how many in a row we've won," Pietrangelo added. "Every single day, he wants to get better. He's demanding that of us, but it's made us a better team."

Under Berube, the Blues are 24-14-2. That record includes a franchise-best 11-game winning streak, which is the longest by a coach in his first season with the Blues in franchise history. Berube is just the second coach in Blues history to record a winning streak of eight games or more - Joel Quenneville recorded a 10-game, nine-game and eight-game win streak with the Blues.

In the 41 games since Berube took over, the Blues have a shot differential of plus-181, which ranks first in the NHL. In the 19 games before Berube, the Blues had a minus-8 shot differential. In addition, the Blues have given up 2.66 goals-per game under Berube, which ranks sixth in the League. Before, they were giving up 3.11 goals-per game.

"From the start, the initial thing he hammered home was just to get back to work," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "At the start of the year, frustrations were taking over and everyone was on a different page. He's done a good job of just getting us back (on the same page), reminding everybody how we've been successful and how we've had a team that's really been the sum of it's parts and hasn't relied on one or two guys to do everything… The message has been trust your work, trust your system - we have the personnel that if we do that, on a lot of nights, we give ourselves a chance to win."

Berube's success shouldn't come as a surprise. He has a wealth of experience from spending 11 seasons in various coaching roles for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was an assistant coach during the Flyers' run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, and he joined the Blues organization in 2016-17 to serve as the head coach of the AHL's Chicago Wolves. In Chicago, he led the team to a 44-19-13 regular-season record and a first-place finish in the division. He also helped the Wolves reach the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, earning a promotion to the Blues as the team's associate coach in the 2017-18 season.

While Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said he would conduct a thorough search for a permanent head coach back in November, it's safe to assume Berube will remain behind the Blues bench at least for the remainder of this season, if not longer.

"He definitely has the respect of everybody in the room," Bouwmeester said. "Being here before as an assistant (coach), you're more of a go-between (between the players and head coach) and you build some of those relationships. He's a coach that makes it fun to come to the rink, and winning makes it fun to come to the rink.

"He's not a hard guy to be around, and part of that is because he knows our team," Bouwmeester added. "He's been here two years, he knows the individuals and the guys are pretty comfortable with him."

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