One of the biggest reasons the Blues do not have to sweat is their head coach. Craig Berube is quick to deflect any and all attention away from himself to his players, but he is a gigantic reason the Blues got where they are.
Berube has pushed all the right buttons. Even if he came close to waiting too long, he managed to make all the right changes.
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Just when it looked like the magic had run out for the team’s top line, he switched things up. Even though Brayden Schenn had played so well on the wing, Berube picked the right time to move him back to center and he’s had an impact.
Berube challenged Vladimir Tarasenko with a polite, but firm hand. Tarasenko responded instead of pouting. He’s got eight playoff goals and three goals and six points in his last four games.
Berube could sense his team losing a little steam. He inserted the hungry Sammy Blais back into the lineup. Instead of just slotting him in a fourth line role, he pushed him into the second line.
That gave worn down Sundqvist a break for the legs and a resurgence on the fourth line. It gave the second line a spark with Blais speed and willingness to throw the body.
Instead of just standing pat with the guys that finished the season, Berube has shown a willingness to make tweaks. He took Carl Gunnarsson out for Robert Bortuzzo and Bortuzzo scored a game winning goal.
While nobody ever blamed Binnington for any of the team’s losses, many fans thought Jake Allen should get a look just to shake off rust and give Binnington a mental break. What do we know. Berube never thought of pulling his goaltender and Binnington has managed to rebound every time.
None of this is to say Berube is the second coming of Scotty Bowman – far from it. However, Berube is the right fit for this team.
I fully believe Mike Yeo has good knowledge of the game and is a decent coach. He proved to be a terrible fit for this current group of Blues.
Conversely, Berube has been the absolute best fit for this current team. He brings all the authority and demand of Ken Hitchcock while maintaining a player first attitude, because he knows what it is like in that locker room.
The fact Berube was on a team that played in the final does not hurt either. He has formulated a game plan that has worked in every series and gotten this team to believe, which is one of the most powerful things in sports.