Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No time to dwell, Blues must march on

Ugly loss against Calgary needs to be put
on backburner; team plays in Washington tonight

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- As the Blues came off the ice following an ignominious 6-0 loss on home ice to Calgary Tuesday, there were few fans to witness the third-period debacle.

In the locker room, instead of the usual shouting, Blues leaders had things to say. But those words were succinct but powerful in meaning.

Some words are better left behind closed doors, but in general terms, the gist was: park it, and move on.

There's no sense in fretting over the obvious: the Blues stunk up the joint, and it'll take a week to rid Scottrade Center stench the team left behind as it departed for a two-game eastern swing beginning tonight in Washington.

"It was positive but what needed to be said was said," forward T.J. Oshie said regarding after the game Tuesday. "Those words hit home for a lot of people; definitely for me. We've got to respond to that, respond to our leaders."

The Blues (28-26-9) cling to playoff hopes, but lets face it, those hopes are paper-thin. They're in respirator mode. This unit, stripped of five regulars that were mainstays for much of the last handful seasons and one that has been besieged by injuries, has no choice but to soldier on.

No need to think other than just winning a game. Battle. Compete. And survive.

Eric Brewer, Erik Johnson, Brad Boyes, Jay McClement and Brad Winchester are all gone now. And the Blues seemed to respond well following the trades of Brewer, Johnson and McClement.

"A lot of guys should be looking at it as a bigger opportunity for us to step up and step into those bigger roles," Oshie said.

But what seemed like a hockey game that would once again go down the stretch, as it did Sunday in Calgary (a 1-0 loss), it suddenly turned ugly by one launch of a Jarome Iginla missle that would have obliterated Ben Bishop's 6-foot-8 sternum had 'Big Ben' threw his body in front of Iginla's B-52.

Calgary led 2-0, and the onslaught was on. The Blues shut it down the rest of the game. The more desperate team (Calgary) increased it's compete level. The Blues wilted under the Flames' fire.

"From that point forward, it looked like we were trying to solve the picture individually or not going to compete at the level necessary for our game," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "That's the disappointing part.

"There's a desperation within the individual battle that I think each guy can ask more of themselves in. But I think the desperation that you talk about can be understood in a couple different ways. If it's understood as one guy needing to go out and make a difference all by himself, then it probably creates more problems than it does good. I think you have to make sure that you're desperation is to make sure that you stay in support, you stay in the right areas, you stay mentally committed to play in the game the way it needs to be played at this time of the year. If you go out there playing desperate and diving all over the ice just trying to make a play out of a last-chance effort, it becomes more of a kamikaze mission than it does a desperation mission and we know how those end."

The Flames continued to pour it on. It was 3-0, then 4-0, and the fans -- or what was left of them -- began the mass exodus from a once a pretty boisterous arena.

"It's tough looking up and seeing fans leaving the game before it's over," Oshie said. "... You definitely feel like you let them down.

"The third period in our building after everything that's gone on and the stuff we've been through, you'd think we would respond a little better."

It was time for the new crop of leadership to step up. Aside from veteran Barret Jackman, David Backes and Alex Steen, among others, are finally getting their chance to put on display what leading by example is all about.

"People can flap all they want with their mouths and talk, but it's going out there and lead by example and show that hey, this is the way ... who's coming with me," Backes said. "We'll take some responsibilities on our shoulders, no question about it. We've got to be better, but along with us being better, it's 20 men getting the job done. Everyone's got to be not just one notch better but five notches better.

"I think it's in here, but I don't think it's going to come easily, especially against teams that are fighting for their lives."

The Blues held an optional skate Wednesday. Many felt that Payne should have thrown all of them back on the ice and cracked the whip despite going through a stretch of eight games in 12 days.

They may have rested physically, but it was time to get the mental aspects recharged on the flight to the nation's capital and once they touched down in D.C.

"This is not an off day," Payne said. "This is a day to make sure that energy levels are something that we can have. This is nothing other than making sure that the things we are going to demand, that they apply in tomorrow night's game. ... We're taking this as an opportunity to recharge physically but mentally, we've got some growth to go through today and there's some things to address today for sure."

The Blues are down to 19 games to try and save a sinking ship.

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