The real question: Can Jay Bouwmeester grow a playoff beard?
Former Flames defenceman ecstatic to play in the post-season for the first time
St. Louis — One of the universe’s great unknowns will be soon revealed.
Can Jay Bouwmeester grow a playoff beard?
“I don’t really know,” the St. Louis Blues defenceman, chuckling, replied after Thursday’s morning skate. “With the amount I have to shave, it’s probably not (going to be) very good. You hope that you keep going and you have time to see how it turns out.”
After 10 full seasons in the National Hockey League — including nearly four with the Calgary Flames — Bouwmeester skates in the post-season for the first time next week.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s something I’ve wanted and been looking forward to for a long time. It’s just an opportunity, really. When your season ends, you don’t ever get that opportunity to go for the Cup. That’s what everyone wants. You play the game because you want to win. To get that opportunity will be fun.
“Am I happy? Yeah. I’m happy for the opportunity.”
The Blues sealed their springtime fate with Tuesday’s win over the Colorado Avalanche. Not that Bouwmeester was seen doing hand-springs.
“The only nice thing,” he said, “is you don’t have to answer that question anymore. That’s the only relief — you don’t have to get pestered about it anymore.”
Encircled by reporters, many from Calgary, Bouwmeester had been offering his typically low-decibel responses. From the corner of the dressing room — specifically, the stall of tough-guy Ryan Reaves — came the shout: “Get that guy a megaphone!”
Besides the heckling, Bouwmeester said there hasn’t been much in the way of adjustment. Since arriving from Calgary more than three weeks ago, there’s been time for only one full-fledged practice because of the cramped schedule.
“It’s a real good group,” the 29-year-old said. “A little bit younger (so) you feel a bit old. We’ve had some success. We’ve won some games. We’ve won some one-goal games, some close games . . . and when you’re part of that, that kind of brings everyone together.
“It doesn’t feel like you just got here. Guys have been good and it helps when you’re winning. I feel comfortable here. When you’re right into games, you kind of learn on the fly.”
The Blues, too, report that the transition has been smooth.
“He’s as advertised — one of those mobile, 200-foot defencemen,” said coach Ken Hitchcock. “We probably shovelled the puck a lot, instead of skated it (prior to Bouwmeester’s arrival). Both him and (Jordan) Leopold have had a calmness under fire in our zone that has allowed us to exit easier with puck control. His ability to skate us out of defensive-zone coverage, his ability to skate us out of difficult situations, has allowed us to be on the attack way, way more.
“Both him and Leopold, with their physical ability and mental composure, have really enhanced our group back there. We don’t bog ourselves down by shovelling the puck like a lot of teams do . . . to another area and just stay in the zone for another 30 seconds.”
HARTLEY LETTING CUNDARI PLAY
The Flames coach isn’t worried about having to rein in Mark Cundari.
Bob Hartley actually appreciates the stocky newcomer’s energy. It just needs to be channelled properly.
“He’s lively . . . and he has high expectations of himself,” said Hartley. “He understands that it’s not by doing more that he’s going to be an NHLer. We have a rule that any of our defencemen can jump into the play if it makes sense — the big word is ‘sense.’ Like common sense. You can’t generate an attack, as a defenceman, at both ends. You need to be a defenceman first.”
One role model that Hartley has mentioned to Cundari is Francis Bouillon, a Montreal Canadiens defender (five foot eight, 201 pounds) who has played more than 700 games in the league.
“Francis, he’s a solidified NHL player . . . definitely a great guy for me to look at,” said Cundari, five foot nine, 195 pounds. “Letting the game come to you, instead of chasing it all over the ice, is a lot easier. I’ve had conversations with coaches and some of the staff, they’re calming me down, saying, ‘Get level-headed. You’ll be fine. Just play your defensive game, be physical.’ (Tuesday in Nashville) I was definitely thinking, ‘Go, go, go.’ I’ve got to tone it down a little bit.”
For teams like the Flames, it’s that time of year again.
Who will get invited to participate in the world championship this spring?
So far, LW Jiri Hudler (Czech Republic) and D Chris Butler (U.S.) are answering the call.
Other potential candidates — D Mark Giordano, D T.J. Brodie, LW Michael Cammalleri for Canada; RW Lee Stempniak for the U.S.; C Roman Horak, RW Roman Cervenka for Czech Republic; C Mikael Backlund for Sweden; LW Sven Baertschi for Switzerland.
The tourney is slated for May 3-19, in Finland and Sweden.
Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH
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