Friday, December 11, 2009

Inexplicable third period leaves Blues reeling

Team blows 3-0 lead, sees Edmonton score four third-period goals in 5-3 loss

ST. LOUIS -- Colossal collapse is the most appropriate term to describe the Blues' third period Friday night.

After playing what forward David Backes called "some of the best hockey we've played" in the first two periods against the Edmonton Oilers, the Blues reverted to some poor habits that saw the record-seeking Oilers sneak in and sneak out with a gift-wrapped two points and leave an announced sellout crowd and the Blues stunned.

Edmonton overcame a three-goal deficit and scored five unanswered goals -- four of them in the third period (three of them in a span of 5 minutes, 21 seconds) -- to leave the Blues dumbfounded with a 5-3 decision at Scottrade Center that left one leader wondering if the players needed to hold each other more accountable for what's sending a playoff team a season ago astray.

"We can't let each other off the hook," Blues defenseman and alternate captain Barret Jackman said. "It's got to come from within the room. It's got to be guys holding each other accountable.

"If one guy is not going to buy into the system, we have to give him a kick in the butt and get him going. ... We talk about it so much in the dressing room, but it's just not translating to our game. We've got to reel it in. If guys need to be sitting or if guys need to be smacked upside the head by a teammate, it's going to have to happen."

The Blues (13-12-5) were looking to snap Edmonton's five straight wins on the same trip. Instead, The Oilers finished it 5-1 and the Blues limped out of their own building looking for answers once again on how they fumbled away another lost two points on its home ice, where they are now an abysmal 4-10-2 here (5-10-2 overall at home with a "home" game in Sweden).

"The first 39 minutes and 45 seconds were some of the best hockey we've played," said forward David Backes, who picked up two goals in the loss. "We kept it simple (and) we played our game. It's tough to give up a goal in the first minute or last minute of a period. But we have to deal with that sort of thing.

"(It's a) 3-1 (lead) going into the third period, your goaltender's playing well, you feel pretty good. The whole third period, we didn't do the things that made us successful in the first two period. We didn't get pucks in the zone and play in their end, we were turning pucks over. They've got some firepower that made us pay. They make plays through the neutral zone, make plays on the cycle and made us pay tonight for taking it easy, kind of preventing ... playing that prevent defense rather than continuing our attack game in the third."

The Blues played in the Edmonton zone, they won loose pucks, won the 1-on-1 battles, they outworked their opponent -- like Backes said -- for nearly 40 minutes.

But there was a sudden hush in the crowd when Edmonton's Gilbert Brule put the Oilers on the map with a goal with 10.9 seconds left in the second to cut the Blues' lead to 3-1 and snap Ty Conklin's shutout streak at 133:55.

"We said all the right things in between periods," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "When we got on the ice, we didn't do them. I think that's been the theme all year. We know what we need to do. It's just when we step on the ice, we're not doing it. Whether it's us being individuals, or just when we get to plays, we panic, or just maybe make the wrong plays. It's something that's been going on way too long and if we don't clean it up right now, it's going to be a long season clawing our way from behind again."

Brule's goal was the beginning of the end, only the Blues didn't know it at the time.

They were hit with an avalanche of Edmonton skaters that outhit, outhustled, outworked, outbattled a team that coach Andy Murray says doesn't have the same will to win as their opponents do.

"The one thing you never want to have on your plate is the will to win seems to be stronger on the part of your opponent," Murray said. "That's something for a coach and for a team is something that is unacceptable. The guys discussed that after the game against Colorado (Monday, a 4-0 loss) and we talked about that before the Detroit game (Wednesday, which the Blues won 1-0) that our will to win needed to be higher. To me, in the third period, the will of the Edmonton Oilers was stronger than ours. Again, (it's) unacceptable."

The Blues held serve for half of the third period and traded minor barbs with Edmonton, a team that was playing without one of its top offensive-defensive weapons in Shelton Souray, who received a game-misconduct penalty late in that second period.

But a costly turnover in their own end eventually led to Brule scoring his second of the game in the high slot that made the score 3-2.

There was a sense -- particularly in the crowd -- that bad things were happening.

Unfortunately for the Blues, it was the start of an absurd stretch of play.

"I called a timeout when they made it 3-2 that there's an 11-minute hockey game to play," Murray said. "'The things you guys talked about the other morning, this is where it comes into play. You can't talk it, you've got to walk it here now.'

"I asked them to play with composure, play with the puck, stay assertive, play in their zone, be hard on (the puck), win your 1-on-1 battles. We didn't win enough 1-on-1 battles down the stretch, obviously."

Edmonton hit the Blues with the tying goal from Sam Gagner at 11:19, the eventual game-winner from Shawn Horcoff at 13:52 and an insurance goal from Dustin Penner at 17:03 for good measure.

In fact, it was the Penner-Gagner-Brule line that bruised and battered the Blues for nine points and a combined plus-12 rating.

"It's unacceptable," Jackman said. "Right after they got that goal at the end of the second period, it seemed like we flipped a switch and we were on our heels and just weren't doing the things that got us success in the first two periods. We weren't skating when we got the puck, we were standing still. Those little chip plays that got us into the zone, we weren't doing, we weren't executing is embarrassing. I think we lost a lot of 1-on-1 battles in the third period that cost us the game."

Those same fans that were cheering every solid play and effort by their hometown players, were booing loudly as the Blues gingerly skated off the ice.

"I wouldn't have been surprised if management was with (the fans), the coaching staff was with them, maybe Conks and Mase (Chris Mason) too because those guys put their efforts in and we needed more in the third period," Backes said. "There's no question. We need more on a consistent basis and need to finish that game out. It just needs to happen. You can talk about it until we're all sleeping here, but it's just something that has to get done and we need to find a way as a group of 20 guys in here."

1 comment:

  1. Good article Louie, but I'll still stick with my usual comment. THING CRAIG MCTAVISH. If not him then someone else who can coach, Murray can't. If the spin doctor (Davidson) doesn't have the courage to fire him and his hopeless helper, then he needs to go too.