Friday, February 17, 2012

Parking losses key reason Blues among NHL's elites

Team's success comes from ability to
overcome defeats, prevent prolonged losing streaks

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The peaks and valleys that every team in the NHL goes through is undeniable, whether it's through unwanted injuries or even a prolonged losing streak.

All teams go through the lows. There's no keeping them away. But it's all about preventing the lingering effect.

The Blues have had their share of injuries over the last couple seasons. Last year, they couldn't overcome them. This year, the depth has been invaluable and allowed them to absorb injuries to key players.

(Getty Images)
Blues veterans Jason Arnott (right) and Jamie Langenbrunner (15) are a
couple cagey veterans that have helped the Blues mature on and off the
ice. The Blues have been good at curbing losing slides.

But what the Blues (35-15-7), who host the Minnesota Wild (25-23-9) in a 1 p.m. matinee on Mardi Gras Saturday, have been able to avoid this season is one of those prolonged losing skids. It's one of the key reasons they have the record and amount of points (77) they have. It also gives them the ability to rub elbows with the Western Conference's elite teams.

"We look in the mirror quick," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're able to get our feet on the ground the next day and not go through all the garbage you have to go through about who didn't play. We're able to snap back quickly, and I think that's what good teams do. You snap back quickly.

"We were disappointed with the way we played in Columbus (Tuesday in a 2-1 loss). We just threw our sticks on the ice and played. We thought we were going to win and took it for granted, looked at the point totals and forgot that Columbus has got a lot of good players. We still had debris left over for six minutes (Thursday night). You could see it. We were slow. We were methodical instead of quick, but then I thought we started to really go the last 10-12 minutes of the first period and then most of the second period, we really started to go."

The Blues were able to overcome Tuesday's loss with a 5-1 win over the New York Islanders Thursday. It's been a common theme for this team -- nip it in the bud, move on and get ready for the next challenge. Just like they were able to do Thursday.

"Recognizing why you lose and what you were doing to cause that and getting away from it," explained veteran winger Jamie Langenbrunner. "The coaching staff does a great job of not letting us feel too good about ourselves (after losses) and after wins, we're always trying to improve. Credit to the guys in the locker room, we're willing to accept that. We're not like, 'Eh, we just won six in a row, now we can lose a few.' It's wanting to keep on pushing and wanting to keep on getting better. Quite frankly, we don't have much choice. Everyone else in the league keeps on winning, too.

"Too much negative is definitely not good. ... You can't go back and redo that game. I think that's one thing we've done a real good job of, win or lose, is parking that game and get ready for the next one and being as good as we can the next night."

The Blues have had only six streaks of two or more winless games, including only one season-high three-game slide (0-2-1). For a younger group, something like that could turn into an avalanche, like the one suffered in the last couple weeks by the Chicago Blackhawks, who just finished off an 0-8-1 slid. But the veteran leadership in the locker room has proven to be invaluable in not allowing negativity to linger.

"I think it's strictly on the leaders," Hitchcock said. "That's the leaders grounding the club quickly. It's a message coming from the coaching staff: let's get back on the ground, let's get working again, let's get the work boots going and then the message being delivered in the locker room from the leaders is when it's being absorbed. I think without that, you go through all the emotional debris that goes through losing. We're able to kick it back right away. I would say it's 90 percent on the leaders."

The players agree that there's no other choice but getting back on the horse and start riding again after you fall or get booted off.

"That's how you make yourself a good team in this league when you can eliminate those stretches where you're constantly thinking about the last game," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "It's a long season. Obviously you'd love to win every game every night but unfortunately, that's not the case.
(Getty Images)
The Blues' Scott Nichol (left) is another of those veterans that has provided
experienced stability in the team's locker room.

"We know we weren't satisfied with our effort against Columbus. When those things happen, you've got to come to the rink and work your hardest the next day and get a hard practice the next day and make sure that stuff doesn't happen again and get ready to get back on the winning side of things. We know we're a good team in here. That's what winning and good teams do, bounce back from unorthodox play and unorthodox losses and get ourselves ready to play the next game."

Teams after losses will tend to go over video, listen, learn and go over what went wrong.

Not the Blues.

"When we've played real ugly games, we've never really watched the video the next day," Colaiacovo said. "We've talked about it, but we never really watched it. That's sort of a refreshing thing. You don't want to reminisce and think about all the bad things, but you want to learn from them. You want to learn from your mistakes and get better at your mistakes. That's what we've been really able to be good at this year. Focus on the task at hand, eliminate all the negatives and keep them behind us."

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