St. Louis Blues: Mike Yeo Debut Shows Recipe for Success

So it begins.

The Blues are now one game into the Mike Yeo era. It’s still too early to know for sure what this partnership will bring but we do know that a very different hockey club showed up for his debut.

Thursday night just seemed like a total reset on the season, didn’t it?

Fans packed into Scottrade almost three hours early to witness the Bob Plager ceremony and a new head coach behind the bench. This presented the Blues with an atmosphere of hope and enthusiasm they probably hadn’t seen since Opening Night. It’s safe to say they noticed.

At puck drop, the Blues players looked revitalized. Some will say Mr. Blue’s inspiring speech is to thank but you can count me (mostly) out. I believe it was the recent change in leadership. As sad as it was, the firing of Ken Hitchcock was the right move.

If you’ve been following this club for a while, you know we could count on the same thing every night: dumping pucks, working boards, and honestly, relying on the other team to make the mistake. I didn’t think Yeo’s philosophy would be much different from Hitchcock’s once the transition occurred. Maybe I was wrong.

What I noticed last night was something entirely different. The Blues didn’t dump and chase the puck to create offense; they used finesse and skill. Every chance they had to enter the zone, they took advantage with the puck. We saw it early with the Parayko chance, which he somehow created himself. We still saw it after they fell behind 1-0 in a momentum swing. It was there all night.

Refusing to regress and choosing to use skill first is why the Blues won Thursday night. I think that’s a big part of the recipe for success.

The real question: “Is it Mike Yeo’s recipe?”

And yeah, I actually think so.

Yeo’s time in Minnesota ended because he refused to adjust and therefore lost the players’ ears. Pretty similar situation to what he just witnessed with Hitchcock, huh? I think he’s learned from that and adjusted though. I think he sees that this team’s strengths play to a more open game. The Blues just aren’t a tough enough team anymore to succeed playing any other way.

I think another lesson he learned as the assistant is that shuffling lines and pairs isn’t productive. There’s been zero lineup consistency this year. It didn’t give the players a chance to build chemistry.

Yeo took the opposite approach last night. He used a familiar lineup but he didn’t tinker with it; he let the players build off each shift together. No changes were made. The best example of this was the Steen-Stastny-Perron line. Alexander Steen and Paul Stastny had seen plenty of shuffling but consistent time as a duo brought three goals Thursday. It was the best game either of them have played in weeks if not months.

And while his own adjustments helped create success, the Blues forwards did a better job back-checking than ever. All four lines created havoc to disrupt Toronto chances. It’s something Yeo has always emphasized as an NHL coach. You could tell the Blues forwards were playing with that sense of urgency in their own zone. That very havoc allowed Jake Allen to finally get some of his confidence back. If it’s the urgency that Allen needs in front of him, the Blues have no choice but to repeat behavior if they want a chance at playoff hockey.

The best thing for Yeo to do would be to head into Saturday’s against the Penguins with the same lineup and dedication to these skaters, preaching clean entries into the zone and forward accountability on defense. I don’t think Thursday’s events were a fluke or due to opponent; I think his decisions created the Blues’ exact recipe for long-term success.

We just have to hope Mike Yeo saw that too.

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