Monday, March 15, 2010

Blues finally return home

Team plays host to Colorado, which is 3-0
against St. Louis this season after 4-2 trip

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Another day, another important game on the docket for the Blues.

That's becoming quite the cliche for this team, since every game for the last long while now has the utmost important, especially when the Blues have been in playoff mode since February.

"That's why every point is so important," forward Brad Boyes said. "Every point at the beginning of the year is so important. You get down to the stretch and it gets down to one or two points, that can make a big difference. It can be the difference between being in the playoffs or not."

Right now, the Blues (32-27-9) are not in the playoffs, as they entertain the Colorado Avalanche (39-23-6) today at 7 p.m., their first home game in over a month. The Blues sit seven points behind Detroit with 14 games to play after the Red Wings downed Calgary 2-1 on Monday night.

It will be the fourth and final meeting between the two teams, and the Avalanche have won all three meetings and in decisive fashion, outscoring the Blues 16-5 in those encounters.

"They're a fast team and for whatever reason, we're struggling against them," Blues forward Keith Tkachuk said of Colorado after Monday's optional skate. "Obviously, they've played well against us and scoring lots of goals. They have a lot of great, young players, they're getting great goaltending. ... It's a do-or-die situation for us again tomorrow night."

The Blues lost here to the Avs 4-0 on Dec. 7 under Andy Murray, then fell in road games at Denver 5-2 on Feb. 8 and 7-3 on March 6. Chris Stewart has been a Blues killer this season, notching six goals and four assists in three games, including a hat trick in the last game.

In both road games, the Blues scored first, then wilted under a heavy dose of Avalanche speed, skill and pressure that typically resulted in goals that the Blues failed to properly execute through coverage areas.

"You're dealing with a high-pressure team, you're dealing with a team that works hard and plays at a high tempo," Blues coach Davis Payne said of the Avs. "We have to be prepared to play at that pace right from the start. We have to be prepared to play physical. If you're not, they're the type pf team that can really take advantage of that.

"They play a fast game. Dealing with speed, and all of the sudden with the physical contact that comes with that, it puts you back on your heels. It's not the kind of game we want to play. They've got the kind of offensive players that can make you pay for that. When you get back on your heels and that pressure starts to become more and more effective, scoring chances occur. That type of skill can finish those chances. We have to make sure we're aware of the pressure playing at that pace and playing through it, and that's with good, smart puck decisions, that's with great support and it's also with great response if something breaks down."

The Blues certainly had their share of breakdowns in Sunday's 4-2 loss at Minnesota. Each goal seemed to be attributed with an error.

"I wouldn't call them simple plays, but certainly fundamental issues with a guy coming to the net getting a stick on a puck (on the first goal), an opportunity to clear a puck (on the second goal) and certainly had coverage on the third one," said Payne, whose team was down 3-0 after one period. "We had scoring chances in the first period, but for them to kind of weather our storm and to be able to execute against our mistakes kind of left us in a hole.

"We still felt there was room to come back in that game but had to tighten up in those areas obviously. I felt that we were making a solid push and then all of the sudden that fourth one goes in off of a coverage situation and left us a little too far to go."

The Blues finished the trip off the Olympic break with a 4-2 mark, and at any point in time during the season, winning four of six games away from home is nothing to shake one's head about.

But when points are critical each time you step onto the ice late in the season, even losing once can be costly.

"If you would give me the option, I would rather go out and have a chance to play all six of them and see if we can improve on that," Payne said. "I thought we had an opportunity (Sunday) night. We got off to a decent start but a mistake ended up in our net and all of the sudden, we had to chase the game and an opportunity to bring home a little better road trip than the 4-2."

No comments:

Post a Comment