Monday, January 4, 2010

Time for a repeat?

At midway point, Blues must think about duplicating
last season's second half if they have playoff aspirations

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- They've tried to avoid talking about what they did last season, but it's almost scripted in carbon copy fashion.

The Blues are at the midway point in the season -- 41 games -- with 41 more to go. They are five points better (17-18-6 for 40 points) than they were at this point a year ago (16-22-3 for 35 points) and 11 points in back of a playoff spot. All that the media and fans have heard is last year was last year.

Well, if the Blues are going to make any kind of a playoff push, they are going to need a similar type of performance that they got in the second half of last season because of they don't, they'll be on the outside looking in once again.

The Blues, who will depart this afternoon for a three-game jaunt into California must think like they did when they went on a 25-9-7 tear in the second half of 2008-09 to not only qualify for the postseason for the first time in first time in four seasons but make it as a No. 6 seed in the west.

That means start thinking with that sense of urgency, like the playoffs are starting now, like their lives depend on it, and think ahead to the next game. Because if the Blues don't, those 11 teams ahead of them in the standings will not come back to them. They may even run from the Blues and hide this time around.

"There's plenty of work to do obviously," forward David Backes said after Monday's practice at St. Louis Mills. "I haven't looked at the standings, but we're not in the playoffs right now. If we're going to make it, we're going to have to win our fair share of the games in the last half of the season. Whether you can put a number on it right now, I don't think so. But we've got to concentrate on one game at a time. If you take care of each night, they'll start adding up someone else can keep track of how many we've won."

So for interim coach Davis Payne, brought in Saturday after the firing of Andy Murray, he is taking his new role as one where he has to guide his new team to greater heights despite the coach still taking his first few days on the job feeling out his new soldiers.

"We have 41 games left in the season. We're at the midway point. That's not a lot of time to be tinkering through lack of expectation and lack of execution," the 39-year-old coach said. "We've got to get there, and we've got to get there Wednesday against San Jose. The expectation is to take what we've given them over these next couple days and have that show up Wednesday. That's expectation. The grace period for that ends whatever time we're kicking off on Wednesday. We'll ask for corrections along the way, but the expectation for this to happen is now.

"We don't want to reinvent the wheel, but we want to make sure we're rolling in a predicable direction for ourselves. That's been a lot of our message today."

The good news for the Blues, who hit the road with five straight losses (0-4-1) that matches a season-high, they are on the road, where they have the third best percentage among the 30 teams (11-4-3).

"I think for us, we've got to get in the mindset that the San Jose is the game we've got to look at right now," forward Brad Boyes said. "Whether we've got to get 1,000 points or thinking we're in good shape, we're in terrible shape ... right now we've got to worry about playing well the next game, get those points and that will take us into Anaheim (Thursday), take two points there and we'll move on. We can't think about the overall picture right now.

"I didn't even know what the standings were, never looked at the standings the second half there (last year). I didn't worry about it. All that was said was, 'We've got a game today, okay, let's go and play it.' We won, got a couple points -- sweet -- and go to the next game. All of the sudden, people from the outside started bringing stuff up, started talking about it. Then it makes you kind of think about it. Before then, it was, 'We've got a game, let's win it.'"

The Blues wouldn't mind if people were to bring it up again, but first thing's first: start winning. They'll worry about winning home games when they return next week. Right now, it's a given that they need to do well beginning Wednesday night at San Jose, Thursday in Anaheim and Saturday in Los Angeles.

"Right now, we really need to clean up our game," said goalie Chris Mason, who would like to clean up his game recently as well. "We may be ahead points-wise where we were last year at this point, but I think even though we were losing games, we were playing with that urgency and we just weren't winning. But I think we were playing the right way and I think that's what Davis wants to get us back and start playing in the right way. That's really what we're working on. But we'll definitely need to play a lot better or start getting points otherwise we'll be on the outside looking in and we know how tough that is. We have to start right away."

No time like the present.

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