Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/9/13
Sidney Crosby is a pretty earnest guy, especially when talking about his work. So, when Crosby says he’s genuinely looking forward to spending a little quality time with the St. Louis Blues tonight, there’s no reason to doubt him. But plenty of reasons to wonder why he —and so many teammates – would feel that way. OK, perhaps it’s not all that difficult to understand, because high-caliber athletes and teams like to test themselves against quality opponents. Still, nothing about the Blues suggests the Penguins should expect a particularly pleasant or painless visit to the Scottrade Center. The Blues have the NHL’s second-most productive offense, averaging 3.43 goals per game. Their team defense ranks sixth, giving up an average of just 2.29. The league’s most prolific goal-scorer this season — Alex Steen (14 in 14 games) — is on their payroll. So is Alex Pietrangelo, who ranks third in scoring among defensemen. And David Backes, one of hockey’s finest defensive forwards, who also is good for a point per game. And if the stifling defense and offensive talent aren’t enough to overwhelm opponents, St. Louis is capable of pretty much pounding other teams into submission. “I’d say St. Louis is probably the most physical team in the league,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said Friday. That obviously is a subjective assessment — the Blues have been credited with 272 hits, which actually tied for third fewest in the league before Friday — but one Orpik’s teammates don’t dispute. “It’s going to be one of those physical, tough, hard-to-get-to-places-on-the-ice [games],” left winger Chris Kunitz said. “You’re going to have to drive through a body, take a body check. “You’re going to have to take some whacks to get to the front of the net and to be able to make plays. … It’s going to be one of those games where the ice feels a little bit smaller.” Backes is a big part of that, and not only because at 6 feet 3, 221 pounds, he takes up more space that most guys. His strong two-way game is made even more effective by his ability to hit hard and often, and some off-the-charts intangibles.
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