Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Road sweet home for Blues

Take 7-2-3 away mark into matchup with Detroit tonight

ST. LOUIS -- Blues coach Andy Murray is a stickler for reminding his players to be able to park a previous game once it's finished -- win or lose -- and move on to the next one.

But after two successive road games in which the Blues came away with points, the team returned to its home ice looking to gain a measure of consistency it acquired on the West Coast.

And to repair a home record that has been damaged beyond expectations thus far this season.

However, a 4-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Monday at Scottrade Center left the Blues searching for answers once again to questions that won't seem to go away: why can't this team win at home and why can't they score on a consistent basis?

But there was Murray once again, preaching that Monday's game needs to be put in the rear view mirror as it hits the road again with a game today in Detroit against the Red Wings (6:30 p.m. on FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).

"You don't really have a choice. You move on," Murray said after Tuesday's practice at Scottrade Center. "We discussed it today and what we didn't like about it and the areas where we have to be better. I basically let the players do the talking in the room this morning. I asked some questions and they provided the answers. It's important that you move on, get focused on the next one."

The Blues (12-11-5) put up some baffling numbers that were eye-openers on the score sheet.

To outshoot a team by a 35-22 margin is nothing out of the ordinary, but to attempt 78 shots while only giving up 33 is at the very least surreal.

Not only did the Blues get 35 shots on goal against Peter Budaj, but they also missed the net on 23 shots -- including 10 in the first period -- and had another 20 blocked.

"We had the puck all night with the exception to the start of the game," Murray said. "But we'd go in and miss the net and it was coming back out again. And then we'd go back in again, and it would get blocked and come out and we'd come get it and go back in again.

"Seventy-eight shots directed, I can't remember the last time we had that many. ... We execute a great breakout (in the first period), we make a great play to Brad Winchester for the triangle shot and he misses the net."

Winchester's misfire was a precursor of what was to come for the Blues, who fell to 5-9-2 on home ice.

"I look more at scoring chances than I do shots on net because you can be shooting it from the outside and nobody going to the net or nobody in front," center Andy McDonald said. "Is that a scoring chance? No. Is that going to go in the net? Probably not.

"We have to do a better job of getting guys around the net for second chances and more importantly, create offense whether it's executing in the offensive zone, making good plays or finding the open guy. We have to be able to execute offensively. When the puck's not going in, probably the result ends up being guys just throwing everything at the net. We have to execute and we have to be able to make plays."

The Blues were certainly making plays, but the lack of finish on a consistent basis continues to plague a team that has only lit the lamp 33 times in 16 home games -- 28 times in 15 games here if you discount the "home" game played in Sweden.

"I don't have an explanation for it," McDonald said. "It's kind of weird. It's usually the opposite. You're usually better at home. For whatever reason, I don't know if we're just mentally not sharp. I think if you look at the games we've played at home, we just seem to have mental lapses where normally we're aware and we're making smart decisions. For some reason at home, we're not having a 60-minute effort in those areas."

Monday was a prime example of that, as the Blues allowed a goal to be scored with 10.9 seconds left in the first go fall behind, allow another following a bad forward line change for the second goal, miss an assignment on the third and lose the puck in the neutral zone on the fourth goal.

"I didn't like some other things that happened, but they didn't happen because guys weren't trying or didn't want to make them happen," Murray said. "We need to be better in certain situations."

The Blues' 7-2-3 record away from home is quite remarkable considering what has transpired at home.

"Last night is a prime example of how mental lapses or mental errors results in goals for the other team," McDonald said. "Last night was a clear example of that. On the road, we seem to have less of those and we seem to be a lot sharper."

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