Overcoming adverse conditions immediate challenge for young squad
By LOUIE KORAC
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- 'Every Game Counts,' right? Isn't that the Blues' motto this season?
You wouldn't have known it by Thursday night's opening 20 minutes against the Nashville Predators.
The Blues' 4-3 loss to the Predators at Bridgestone Arena must be taken in perspective in that it's only the third game of the season. But the fact of the matter is for a team that was on the cusp of making the playoffs a season ago that missed out by a point here and a point there, taking any time off -- particularly the first period Thursday -- is not advisable for the Blues that needs all the points they can get. It was a hard lesson to learn last season when they missed the playoffs by five points.
The Blues seemed to be caught off guard by a Predators team that had played in Chicago 24 hours earlier. So they thought they could just lag back, take it easy and ease into this Central Division battle.
The lesson that needs to be learned here: don't judge a book by its cover.
"They're obviously a very hard-working team," said forward B.J. Crombeen, whose first-period fight with Shane O'Brien was more predicated to fire his squad up. "They play a very similar style that we do. They want to attack you, they want to get the pucks in behind you. For whatever reason, we didn't have it in the first. They're a team that makes you pay when you back off and you give them opportunities like we did.
"The first period, we were just sitting there kind of waiting for the next play to come to us. We weren't getting the puck and making a play happen. When we move the puck quick, we get going on them real quick."
The 2-1 Blues, who play at 3-0 Dallas today at 7:30 p.m. (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM), had too many instances a season ago where they started slow, finished fast but had too many results finish up like the one Thursday here.
"We talked about getting out on the road, getting those two wins behind us and testing ourselves in these situations. It was too little, too late," Blues coach Davis Payne said.
"They forecheck hard, but so did Philly (and) Anaheim to a certain extent, but we didn't handle it very well tonight," Payne said. "We're not thinking very well about what our outlet play was, what our exit play was and taking what was available to us. Part of that is being cued in mentally and part of that is being cued in physically and moving your feet to find those answers for our team. We spent a little bit too much time in our own zone."
Said forward T.J. Oshie, who scored his first of the season in the game, "We were on our heels a bit. It was more so quickness and reads, little battle things that we should never get beat at. One of the key things we're working on this year is winning the battles every night. I don't think we did that in the first 20 minutes."
Now comes the real test for a Blues team young on leadership as a whole. How does a team bounce back and display the proper Intestinal fortitude following a loss.
"Everyone's feeling great when you're winning. When we get a tough loss like it was tonight, just see how we bounce back from it, how we learn from our mistakes, how we take the things we did well and make them even better," Oshie said.
"We've got to learn that we'll come out ... we did that to Anaheim where we came out fast and furious, kind of got them back on their heels," forward David Backes said. "It happened to us tonight. We need to learn to be the aggressor every single night."
The positives do include the hunger to fight back. The Blues were able to twice cut Nashville leads down to one. They had a multitude of opportunities to tie the game up, including a power play to end the game and the goalie pulled to give them a six on four advantage to no avail.
The power play got going a bit, converting on 2 of 5 chances. The penalty kill, which was among the best in the league a season ago, saw Nashville connect on 2 of 3 power plays.
In a nutshell, if the Blues can park a loss just as quickly as they parked their first two wins, then it should be no problem moving forward. Tonight's game against Dallas will tell a lot.
"It's got to be a situation like we did after we won the first two games: they don't mean anything anymore," Crombeen said. "We've got to focus on getting better tomorrow. We had a bad period, we learned a lesson from that and hopefully we don't do that again. It's just a matter of going back to work tomorrow and trying to get better."