NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk:
The unofficial end of the first half to the St. Louis Blues season came on Jan. 2, when they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 in the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium. That was the Blues' 38th game of the season, so not quite halfway home, but it was a tipping point for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
On one hand, Shattenkirk was as thrilled to be a part of the Winter Classic experience as the entire City of St. Louis was in hosting it.
"Leading up to it see how excited the city was for it," Shattenkirk said. "St. Louis has been waiting for a long time to get some sort of recognition as a hockey city and they felt like it was their time to really get their name on the map. As a player it was great to have family in town for such an event like that. You get spoiled and you get to experience all these cool things, but when you get to bring your family into town and you see how much they really enjoy it and how cool it is for them, that kind of puts things into perspective."
However, Shattenkirk's perspective has changed now that the Winter Classic is in his rearview mirror. He's thinking ahead, about the Blues' game against former teammate and captain David Backes and the Boston Bruins at Scottrade Center on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, NESN, NHL.TV), about the rest of this season, about finding consistency, and about his own future in St. Louis.
Shattenkirk, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is due a hefty raise from the $4.25 million he's currently making annually, spoke about everything that lies ahead in a Q&A with NHL.com on Monday.
Here are Five (actually six) Questions with…Kevin Shattenkirk:
So you win the Winter Classic game against Chicago, lose the next one against the Carolina Hurricanes and win the next one against the Dallas Stars. It seems like that's been happening a lot, that trend. From my end it looks like there has been some underachieving going on in St. Louis? Do you feel the same? How do you feel about the Blues' season to date?
"Underachieving? I don't know if that's the right word, but definitely I feel like we've let some great opportunities slip away from us this year so far. It's been an interesting year in the Western Conference where I don't feel like there are teams really separating themselves. I feel like everyone is pretty even in the West. I know there has been a little more separation with the points, but I think from everyone's belief there are about 10 or 12 teams that all feel they have a good chance to come out of the West this year. We're a team that has let some of the games that we probably should have won slip away. I can probably count about five or six games like that, where we're losing points that we shouldn't be losing. We don't want that to come back to bite us at the end of the season. It's been hard for us to get a winning streak going. Like you said, we win one, we lose one, we win two, we lose two. That's not what we want to be doing. We play hard. We play a great checking game and when things don't go our way this year we're not sticking with what works. We've seen more of it, though, in the last few weeks. I think we're starting to really believe what [coach Ken Hitchcock] is selling and we've been doing it for such a long time here that we know it works. That's the beauty of it. There are plenty of guys here who know how to get there and what winning hockey is. It's just a matter of getting the entire team to buy into it and once we do we'll be fine."
Video: STL@NSH: Shattenkirk wrists one in off the faceoff
That said, the inconsistency is obvious when you look at your road record, which is 5-10-1. Why is that? Is there anything that you guys have been doing on the road that you're not doing it home, where you're 16-4-4 this season? How do you explain that road record?
"All it comes down to on the road is again belief in the system, belief in what makes our team great. It's easier to do at home. It's easier when the game slips away from you and the momentum changes a bit because when you're at home you're able to grab it and turn things back in your favor when you have the crowd behind you. You just feel more comfortable playing at home. When you're on the road it's harder to stop that momentum and we haven't done a good job of reacting to it so far this year. We've seen we can do it. We've done it at home over and over and over again. That's what it comes down to. It's harder to change it on the road, but we have to dumb it down in those situations, get back to the simple hockey that makes us great, and we'll start getting some results."
You've got a guy coming into St. Louis on Tuesday that you know very well. You saw David Backes already in Boston. What's it going to be like when you see him on the other side in St. Louis?
"It's going to be strange. We did it already in Boston and from our point of view we feel like we've kind of gotten that one out of the way. I think more of the emotion will be on his side obviously coming back and playing in a rink where he built his career for so long. It's a hard, hard thing to deal with and then trying to play a hockey game at the same time. From our standpoint we know how hard he plays and how honest he plays. He's going to be a competitor as soon as he steps on the ice and we have to be ready for that."
I, of course, asked you about him to set up the next question, because you may be in the same situation next season, coming into St. Louis as a visitor. You're a pending UFA. Have you thought about that? Have you wrapped your head around that? Have you thought about your future? Has it weighed on you at all?
"A little bit. I'm only human, so to go through last summer and expect to come into this season without having anything on your mind, that's pretty much impossible for any player to do. It's been discussed all year. The mentality I took into the season was this wasn't going to go anywhere, that if I am in St. Louis for the whole year it's going to be a topic of conversation through the whole year no matter what situation is brought up with our team. Injuries, our record, it's all going to spark the conversation of getting traded and that's just something you have to deal with as a player. The most important thing I've been telling myself is to just have the best season that I can. That's really all I can do if I want to control what does happen here in the next three months, six months, whatever it may be. All I can really do is focus on playing great hockey. I'm fortunate that I get to play a year under this kind of pressure in a place that I feel probably the most comfortable. If I had to go somewhere else for the year it'd be pretty hard to adapt to a new living situation and worry about playing your best hockey to set yourself up for the summer."
Was there a point where you thought you were going to get traded?
"Oh yeah. [Blues GM] Doug Armstrong was always very up front about it. The first thing he said to me is, 'I don't want to trade you just for the sake of trading you, but I have to look at my options.' Last summer at the draft was a time where [I thought] something was going to happen. The rest of the summer there were a couple long weeks where it seemed like some action was going on, but fortunately by Aug. 1 things started quieting down and at that point it was easier to focus on the fact that I was going to come back to St. Louis and obviously get to play out most of the season here. So far I'm still here. We kind of take it day by day. I know obviously the next couple months are when everything starts to heat up so it'll be interesting, but as it stands right now, we have a team that is very good and if we can start to put together some winning streaks I think we have a good chance to make a run at the Cup. If that's the case, hopefully there's a chance I get to stay here for it.
"It's been a little easier to deal with because I've been spoiled with the fact that I've been able to play with the Blues and I've made the playoffs every year but one. That's the culture we've got here. Doug Armstrong has built a great team and a great core here and that has led to the success of our team. Every year you come back and you know we have a team that should be in the playoffs, and once we get to the playoffs it's a matter of what we do when we get there."
So you said you've tried to just focus on playing your best hockey. You have 26 points in 40 games, which would suggest you've been pretty good. What is your self-assessment of your play this season? How do you think you've done?
"It's been a little more of an up and down season so far. When you just look at the stats everything looks good on paper, but the challenge this year has been dealing with the team's inconsistency and that falls into individual games. For me, that's something I really want to improve on, being a consistent player every night, giving the same product on the ice when I have a two-point night versus a game when I have no points. I don't want to be a guy who is hurting his team. That's something I've tried to take a lot of pride in this year and improve on. It's been a tougher year. Like we've talked about, it hasn't been that smooth year that the Blues are used to having and that's just another challenge as a player that you have to go through."
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