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Round 2

Blues focused on comeback, not odds against them vs. Predators

Trail 3-1 entering Game 5, say 'we can do this'

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It's not that the St. Louis Blues don't understand the odds against them. It's that they don't care.

They can't, not if they want to pull off the comeback they say they can.

The 20 men who will play for the Blues against the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round at Scottrade Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) must be convinced that they will win and extend the best-of-7 series they trail 3-1, with the Predators one win from reaching the conference final for the first time.

Twenty-eight of 295 NHL teams who have trailed 3-1 in a best-of-7 series have come back to win the series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

 

[RELATED: Predators one win from first trip to Western Conference Final | Complete series coverage]

 

Most people look at those numbers and conclude that failure in the most likely option. The Blues see overwhelming odds and embrace the opportunity to be next to buck them.

"That's just the mental toughness you need and it's not an easy thing," coach Mike Yeo said. "We all know what the big picture is and we're well aware of that. That's the mental toughness that champion teams and winning teams have. 

"It's discipline that you have to force yourself to use and prepare with, so that's what we're looking at."

Each person with the Blues has arrived at that belief differently. Some look to their past and find solace there from a similar comeback at another level of hockey. Others look to the character of the men around them in the dressing room. Some look to the future, believing destiny has driven them since they fell in love with hockey.

Video: A breakdown of the series between Preds and Blues

That's the mindset of forward Ryan Reaves, who said his best comeback came in youth hockey when his team lost a city championship game but then rebounded to win the Manitoba provincial title.

"You believe that you want the Stanley Cup and that is motivation enough," Reaves said. "Everybody wants to win, everybody wants to make it to the Stanley Cup Final. You have to win [Friday] to do that. That's really the only motivation I am taking in."

Defenseman Colton Parayko, in his second NHL season, has never trailed 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had trouble recalling the best comeback he was involved in before settling on the 2011 World Junior A Challenge, a national team invitational tournament. Parayko played for Canada West, which lost its two round-robin games by a combined 8-1. In the playoff portion, Canada West defeated the Czech Republic 4-1, Sweden 2-1 in overtime and Canada East 4-2 in the gold-medal game.

"One little thing can be the difference in winning a game and losing a game," he said. "Obviously when you are down to your last game or your last out, however you want to put it, it's just one of those things that could happen. We have to enjoy the process, have fun and make it a good one."

The Blues are aware of unlikely comebacks that have happened. More than one player mentioned the Los Angeles Kings rallying after trailing 3-0 to eliminate the San Jose Sharks in the first round in 2014. Others turned to baseball, citing the Boston Red Sox being down 3-0 against the New York Yankees before coming back to win the 2004 American League Championship Series.

Video: STL@NSH, Gm4: Edmundson cranks slapper in off iron

But they insisted they would not be looking for clips of those comebacks on YouTube.

"It's in the back of your mind that these things have happened, but, at the end of the day, it is just the confidence in yourself and in your group that if we keep going the right way and doing the right things, we can do this," defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said.

Yeo was an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins when they won the Stanley Cup in 2009. The Penguins fell behind 2-0 in the second round against the Washington Capitals but won the series in seven games. In the Final, Pittsburgh trailed 2-0 and 3-2 but rallied to win in seven games.

Though those were not 3-1 series comebacks, they were impressive. They also helped shape Yeo's approach.

He says he won't invoke the inspirational speeches of Knute Rockne or Herb Brooks, but instead will rely on what has delivered the Blues to this point.

"If we get caught up in the game, thinking of the end result, then we won't be ready to do the little things and be ready to execute and have the detail in our game that we need," he said. "Likewise, in the series, if we look at the big picture right now, we're in trouble. We just have to stay in the moment, look at [Friday], and again, I think everyone's excited about this game. 

"We're looking forward to getting back on home ice, in front of our crowd, and laying it on the line for them."

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