Friday, April 2, 2010

Blues support Mason after remarks

Team netminder questioned work level of certain
players after Thursday's 3-2 loss at Nashville

ST. LOUIS -- Blues goalie Chris Mason has never been accused of being too outspoken.

Mason, a stand-up guy in the Blues' locker room on a consistent basis -- win or lose, was the focus of fan and media attention on Friday.

After Thursday's 3-2 loss at Nashville -- a game in which the Blues led 2-0 -- Mason questioned some of the work ethic of his teammates without naming anybody specifically.

Mason, in the final year of his contract who embodies the term competitor on this team, told reporters after Thursday's game at Bridgestone Arena:

"I'm definitely not going to single anybody out, but some guys showed up and worked as hard as they could and some guys didn't," Mason said. "When you're in a desperate situation like we are, we need everybody to come and compete, and we didn't have that."

Mason is the consummate team competitor, and this latest in a familiar line of Blues' losses falls into the category of leading a game and allowing two points to slip away. It was a consistent pattern for the Blues earlier in the season that has them in the current predicament -- on the oitside of the playoffs looking in.

The Blues were a long-shot to make the playoffs anyway, but Thursday's loss very well could have been the final nail in the coffin.

But despite the media attention the remark got, the Blues, who held an optional practice Friday at Scottrade Center, were behind their hard-working netminder.

"It’s an emotional reaction, obviously," captain Eric Brewer said. "Guys are frustrated, we’re not where we want to be. When you don’t win the game, sometimes emotion gets the better of you. Clearly when you’re not winning games, you have to evaluate where you’re at, and we’ll deal with the things that we need to in the room.

"As for Mase, he’s a great guy and he’s a great teammate. It’s a very general statement ... I haven’t seen it exactly, but I’ve certainly heard about it now. I think it’s a general statement, certainly not one directed to stir the pot or whatever. Obviously he’s just very frustrated with where we’re at."

Brad Boyes, one of 10 skaters on the ice Friday, also was on board with what Mason had to say.

"Yeah definitely," Boyes said. "Mase made some big saves when we needed them. He was there, he was pretty solid. There were some times, opportunities that we got to either push off the puck or we didn't battle hard enough. He's got a right to say that. He's a guy that battles every night. When you don't see that, it's a frustration level. At this time of the year, it's unacceptable.

"He goes out and battles every night. He's been here for a few years. ... Definitely there were some opportunities where we just didn't get it done, some battles we lost. If we play a game like that and we have the lead and don't come out with a win, there definitely are questions that will be thrown around. Mase has got every right to do that. He battles and works hard every night."

Mason had similar remarks following the Blues' 3-2 loss to the Predators here on March 21st, saying, "The bottom line is one team came to play to win, the other team just came to play. That's what happened. ... We just got outworked, it's disgusting. It's unacceptable. Bottom line, one team came to play to win, the other team just came to play. End of story."

Those remarks went on deaf ears. For whatever reason, this time, the remarks caught the ears of many. And as Blues coach Davis Payne said Friday, nothing should be made of these comments either.

"I think the comments ... there's more being generated out of this than I would have anticipated," Payne said. "I think truly the message, (from) my perspective ... in the conversations we’ve had in this locker room over the last week to 10 days in particular, the comments really represent the fact that we didn’t get results last night, so we needed more."

Payne continued, "If it was a guy needed to bring 10 percent more, and a guy needed to bring two percent more, than we needed that. That’s pure and simple fact. We didn’t win a hockey game last night and I think that’s the message in and of itself and inclusive to (Mason) that more was needed. End of story."

There have been games this season where the Blues simply haven't received 'more,' and it's cost them precious points in a race where they trailed eighth place by only six points heading into Friday.

And as the Blues (37-31-9) play host to the Dallas Stars (35-29-14) at 7 p.m. today, they were rudely reminded Thursday just how well they can play but somehow not finish the job.

And Payne says there's nothing wrong with accountability. Just keep it within closed doors.

"We've got things ... I call it player-to-player accountability," Payne said. "We've got accountability to yourself, we've got accountability to your team, and these are things that we've been talking about. Our standard needs to be at a certain level ... each one of us to that level, coaches, trainers, management, the entire organization. This is where we want to be. When we don't get results, we've got to hold each other (accountable), and there's nothing wrong with that.

"We want to keep it in-house, we want to make sure that this is where our message is and this is what our message builds. ... I see quotes, I see comments, I don't know (the) context and I don't know (the) question. For me, I'm not going to worry too much more other than the Dallas Stars tomorrow."

The Blues got goals from Alex Steen and Andy McDonald and led 2-0 3:11 into the game Thursday. Continue to play a team game and the Blues would have come home Thursday just four points behind Colorado.

Instead, they turned to a game-killer: individual play. Too many individual efforts turned the game around, and Nashville closed out the game with three straight goals.

"I think some of that stuff happened, and it's an understanding how we play five guys at a time 200 feet," Payne said. "... It really kind of started to show itself in the second period with a two-goal lead. Now all of the sudden, we stop taking that extra two or three feet to work towards support space and we stop putting the puck into the area knowing a guy was going there.

"We probably tried pushing the envelope individually instead of making sure we kept our game moving to the next play more than we had in the first and the way we got back to a little bit in the third. That's something we've got to get better at. ... We do the things we do well, we need to do them longer."

Which begs the question: how disappointing is it when the Blues are in the midst of a playoff drive not getting enough from certain people?

"Yeah, it is. We need those points," Boyes said. "To get that win, it (would have been) huge for us. ... We just have to focus on what's coming up next."

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