New attitude has Blues hot at the start

Friday, November 1, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues' scintillating start is more about attitude adjustment than personnel changes. So far, they're proving the front office's decision to stand pat after a disappointing end to last season was a good one.

The Blues are 6-1-1, the second-best start in franchise history, and can match the all-time best of 7-1-1 set in 1997-98 with a victory at the New York Islanders on Saturday night. They've won six in a row, twice scoring seven goals in that span.

"Everyone is upbeat, confident and feeling good about themselves," said forward Eric Boguniecki, a surprise star in the early going. "Every game we go out there, the feeling is we're going to win."

It's far from the team that went out meekly in the second round of the playoffs last spring, losing in five games to the Detroit Red Wings.

"We felt we could be a lot better," general manager Larry Pleau said. "We've got a long way to go, but it's a good start. Hey, we've got no complaints."

The Blues were tied with the Red Wings for the Central Division lead. They did it despite what could have been a disastrous run of injuries to their goaltenders.

Brent Johnson hasn't played yet and will be out another two to three weeks with a high ankle sprain and backup Fred Brathwaite was hampered by a groin injury. The Blues became the first team in NHL history to win four straight games with four different goaltenders, and have used six overall.

That doesn't include veteran Tom Barrasso, signed to a free-agent deal last week. Barrasso, 37, is working back into shape and could get his first start next weekend.

It hasn't made a difference who's in goal, the way they're scoring. Center Doug Weight is leading the charge with 10 points in the last five games, assisting on two goals in Wednesday night's 7-0 victory over the Nashville Predators.

The second line of Weight, Stillman and Boguniecki -- barely a blip on the team's map a year ago -- has produced 10 goals and 14 assists the last five games. Stillman was a disappointment with 21 quiet goals last season, Boguniecki got only cameo duty between trips to the minors where he was the AHL's MVP, and Weight missed much of the second half with an injury to his pelvis that left him at half-speed in the playoffs.

Stillman got his fifth goal against the Predators, Boguniecki has been a huge surprise with three goals and seven points -- including the game-winner in overtime at Calgary on Saturday -- and Weight has become the leader the Blues always thought they'd be getting when they acquired him from the Oilers prior to last season.

"Stilly has come back a new man and Dougie being healthy, he's a different guy," defenseman Al MacInnis said. "The combinations are working pretty good right now."

Coach Joel Quenneville was impressed after Wednesday's victory over the Predators that the Blues didn't relax after scoring on three straight shots in the second period. They kept up the pressure to the finish, scoring three goals in the third period.

"We like our start, we like how we're playing, we like the atmosphere," Quenneville said. "We've kind of put a standard up there that we've got to uphold from start to finish.

"I don't think we're in a groove here where there's satisfaction by what we've accomplished, it's how we play on a nightly basis."

So far, everybody is contributing. MacInnis said it starts with a relaxed, confident locker-room mindset.

"Maybe we felt the pressure last year with people expecting us to win the Stanley Cup," MacInnis said. "Maybe we put so much pressure on ourselves, every little thing that went wrong we got frustrated and angry.

"Right from the first day of training camp, everybody just seemed to have a different attitude. I think it really shows on the ice."

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