Monday, April 2, 2012

Blues' mentality: position in the standings not the focus

Playing winning hockey, heading into playoffs strong only thing that matters; let
the chips fall where they may in regards to Presidents' Trophy, top seed in West

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When the Blues ascended to the top of the overall NHL standings, it was only natural to be thinking big.

Or was it?

With all the attention focusing on winning the Presidents' Trophy and the top seed in the Western Conference along with individual awards such as the Jennings Trophy and so forth, maybe a lack of focus on what really matters for the Blues slowly crept in.

After all, this is a team that has only made the playoffs once in the post-lockout era and has one Presidents' Trophy (1999-2000) in team history. So it was only fitting for the team to be getting the attention it deserved.
(Getty Images)
David Backes believes the Blues just need to focus
on winning heading into the playoffs, not awards.

"I think that's what's gone wrong here over the last four or five games," captain David Backes said. "All of the sudden, we're talking about Presidents' Trophy's, we're talking about Western Conference (top spot), we're talking about Jennings Trophy's or whatever the heck else is going on. We never talked about that all year long. We talk about the next game. We review the last game and get better and we worry about the next one. But all of the sudden, our scope got a lot bigger and we got less focused on the task at hand."

Added winger David Perron: "We've been thinking about (the accolades) for a while, but I think the fact that we haven't played that well in a few of the games lately, it puts more emphasis on that instead of just going game by game."

The Blues, who have since slipped from the top of the perch with a 3-3-3 stretch, 0-1-1 in their last two games, are still only one point behind the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks, who both have 107 points. They did clinch the Central Division title for the first time since 2000 but not in the manner then envisioned.

It was a resounding 5-2 loss -- a rare home loss -- to the team with the worst record in the league, the Columbus Blue Jackets; a game in which the Blues lost a bit of their swagger ... and their cool.

"I thought we lacked a lot of composure more than anything," Perron said. "It's the most we've seen all year ... just some bad penalties and stuff like that. I think it's tough to get your game going after that because you're either penalty killing or on the power play and you never have five-on-five. ... It was tough to get going.

"I think most of all for us, it's staying in the game and not worrying too much about what they're doing and more what we do to them."

The Blues have three games remaining and still could finish first overall and/or in the Western Conference. But instead of worrying about that, they've gone back to worrying about what made them a successful group: the next game, which is Wednesday at home against Detroit. If a game against the hated Red Wings doesn't get ones attention, nothing will.
(Getty Images)
T.J. Oshie said Blues only need to focus on one trophy: the Stanley Cup.

"We're looking to play better," Backes said. "Obviously when you're playing better, you're going to win more games.

"If we lose 2-1 to Detroit but we play our style and our hard way and we didn't get a few bounces, then we're going to be more happy if we squeeze by 4-3 and they dominate the game. Yeah, you'd like to win the Presidents' and you'd like to win the West, but right now it matters how we're playing and what we're establishing for a postseason run."

Winger T.J. Oshie agreed.

"I just think we need to focus on being at our best when we play our first playoff game instead of working for a certain trophy right now," Oshie said. "I think the trophy that we want and the ultimate goal is in the end -- the big one."

* NOTES -- Coach Ken Hitchcock wound not disclose a starter in goal for Wednesday's game against Detroit. ... The Blues made a few tweaks to their lines at practice Monday. Perron was back with Backes and Oshie on the top unit; Matt D'Agostini, who returned Saturday after missing 25 games with a concussion, was on the second unit with Patrik Berglund and Andy McDonald; Alex Steen and Jamie Langenbrunner were wingers for Vladimir Sobotka, who Hitchcock said he'd like to take another look at down the middle and Jason Arnott was centering Ryan Reaves and Chris Stewart. Scott Nichol, B.J. Crombeen and Chris Porter along with Jaden Schwartz were the extra forwards. Hitchcock did say all 26 players on the roster would see some time in the final three games as the Blues are finalizing their 20 players to move forward with when the playoffs begin. ... The Blues held their first practice at the St. Louis Mills behind closed doors. This process will continue throughout the playoffs as team management wants the players to focus on the game. ... Blues tickets for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs will go on sale to the general public beginning Wednesday at 10 a.m. Single game playoff tickets will be available at the Ford Box Office at Scottrade Center, St. Louis Mills or through Ticketmaster by phone at 800-745-3000 or online at Blues fans can purchase single game playoff tickets for Round 1 (Home Games 1 and 2) starting this Wednesday at 10 a.m. at all of the participating ticket outlets while single game tickets for additional games will be available at a later date. Fans may also invest in playoff strips (includes tickets to all home playoff games for Rounds 1 and 2) which are available exclusively by calling the Blues’ sales hotline at 314-622-2583. The Blues’ playoff schedule and their opponent will be announced at the conclusion of the NHL’s regular season on Saturday, April 7.

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