If you are wondering whether an extended pause would be an advantage or disadvantage for the St. Louis Blues as they look to repeat as Stanley Cup champions later this summer, Alex Pietrangelo has a strong opinion on that matter.
Advantage, he says.
Without a doubt.
"We're treating this as an offseason. We will have had eight, 10, 12 weeks to train, which is more than what we had last summer after playing as long as we did," the Blues captain told stlouisblues.com Tuesday after participating in his second Phase 2 on-ice practice at Centene Community Ice Center. "For us, (the break) was pretty beneficial. It's not easy to play as much hockey [as we did last year], especially a guy like David Perron who played two years in a row going to the Finals. I think mentally is just as important because you take a break, recharge the mind, recharge the body and get that excitement to get back again. It's nice we were able to take a break and get ready for this."
When play resumes with a 24-team playoff format - likely starting in late July or early August - Pietrangelo feels the Blues will be ready, and that familiarity with each other and a hunger to do it again will be a driving force.
"The good part about us, we know our identity, right? We've played the same way a long, long time," Pietrangelo said. "Especially building off of last year, we've kept that momentum going of our style of play. We're not coming in any different, just an offseason, same players. We're all geared up, we all know how to play. Once you get everybody on the ice together, you do a few drills, and (Blues Head Coach Craig Berube) goes through some videos and we look at our play, the muscle memory is an amazing thing. We'll grab it quicker than we think."
Video: Pietrangelo comments on Phase 2 workouts
Since June 8, the NHL has allowed players to use their team practice facilities for on-ice and off-ice workouts, albeit in groups of six or less with appropriate social distancing measures. The Blues opted to wait until Monday to open up their facility. Pietrangelo is part of a small group currently skating at Centene Community Ice Center. Other players, Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said, are skating and working out on their own until a mandatory training camp gets underway. The League announced it is hoping to begin training camps on July 10.
"The first day (of Phase 2) was a little rough," Pietrangelo said. "(Tuesday) was smoother, a lot more crisp, I would say. I'm not quite as sore after the skate as I was (Monday). You can work out like crazy, bike, do whatever you want to do, but nothing is like skating. I've learned that over the years. You can roller blade, but that's the closest thing. The small movements, reacting to a pass or something getting in your way and trying to get around them, those are the things you really can't replicate."
If the NHL is able to resume, it will be with a short training camp and then quickly into playoff games. Pietrangelo said he has experience with that sort of thing.
"The World Cup (of Hockey), you're basically at home skating with a group and then you go into a small training camp and then you gear up and you play. I'm lucky, I've done that before," he said. "That was a good opportunity to see how you do it. I've told people before who ask me what it's going to be like, when you get into practice, one exhibition game and get bumped a few times, you get your eyesight back, what it's like, your timing, the competition, it will go back to normal.
"Once we get going, the competition gets going, we're going to want to win this thing," Pietrangelo added. "The timing is a little bit off, but if we're going to do this, we're going to do it to win. We're not just doing this to kill time."