ST. LOUIS — Kevin Shattenkirk is glad to see it go.
His last preseason, if you can call it that, was a lockout-influenced blur. It consisted of a few practices that didn’t last a week. That made this feel like forever.
“Yeah, it’s about time,” the Blues defenseman said Friday night at the Scottrade Center. “It seems like this was a marathon.”
At least the long march had a photo finish.
“Everything really started to click in the third period, Shattenkirk said. “So, it was nice to see.”
The Blues (3-3 in the preseason) ended their six-game stretch of warmup skates with a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild. It wasn’t so much the meaningless win that made the Blues a happy bunch heading into the regular season. It was the way in which said win was earned.
“I thought this — really from start to end — was more of our game,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We looked organized on the ice. We had good spacing. We built a lot of momentum in the second period. If we would have stayed five on five we would have done a lot of damage in the second. They got a breather when we took the six minutes in penalties. But we still stayed with it in the third. We played a very strong game.”
After falling behind early, the Blues netted four goals in the third period. T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, David Backes and Chris Stewart all got in on the fun. The rapid-fire assault on the net bumped up the Blues’ number of preseason goals to 20 — an average of more than three per game. It’s good news for a club that struggled to finish scoring chances last season.
Hitchcock thinks it can get better.
“We need time,” the coach said. “We need sessions. We need more continuity. I don’t think there’s necessarily one thing, other than we just need to have more north/south in our game. We’ve got more skill in our group than we’ve ever had, but we need to play the game the right way offensively. We need to have way more shots on goal, way more second scoring chances. We need to have the puck more so we can wear down teams. The only way you can do that is get in a north/south attitude.”
The Blues begin the regular season in St. Louis against Nashville on Thursday.
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