Friday, December 3, 2010

Believing in the process, Blues will soldier on

Despite four-game losing streak, team feels
they're on cusp of turning fortunes around

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Davis Payne understands that the bottom line for players, coaches and the fans is wins and losses.

The Blues coach understands the frustration that comes with a four-game losing streak.

For the first time all season, Blues fans displayed their frustrations towards their team during Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. They booed, they were restless and obviously impatient.

But despite the score, if the Blues can get the effort and tactical play they got in Wednesday's defeat, the Blues will be just fine, according to Payne.

"If you look at that hockey game beyond the results ... and I know that's what we're here for, but if we're faithful to that process, that hockey game we played last night, I'll take most nights," Payne said Thursday following practice at St. Louis Mills. "I'm very, very pleased with the game we played last night.

"... For us, it's about staying faithful to the process, trusting in the process and we'll get through this."

The Blues, who began the season with a franchise-best 9-1-2 record through 12 games, are now 3-8-1 over the last 12.

So what's been the difference?

"We haven't been as sharp defensively as we were in that first part," Payne said. "I thought we got back to it last night. I thought we gave up very few chances and we generated some things that we needed to. I thought their goaltender had a very good hockey game. That can equalize a lot of things. We had the right guys get the right chances, hit the guy in the head a few times, missed a few shots that could have created some more second chances. But for us, when you're talking about guys out of a lineup, it makes that margin that much smaller and it makes playing our team game and playing with detail that much more important.

"If we've slipped, it's been on that side, it's been the identity side, it's the checking side, it's the penalty-killing side, it's the goaltending, it's how hard we play to deny our opponent the opportunity to play the game they want. The first part of the year, we were doing a very good job of that, got off the track a little bit for a number of different reasons, but it's up to us to reassert that and get it back on track."

The players seem to understand that the system is not the problem. The execution right now is.

"The process is fine," defenseman Eric Brewer said. "We've proven that it can win. It's just a matter of sticking with it throughout the game. There's ups and downs throughout the game and that shouldn't deter the guys from staying true to what's gonna work. It's up to the guys on the ice (and) on the bench to keep everyone doing it as well."

The Blues, who along with the current four-game slide also have a five-game winless streak as well (0-4-1), are cognizant of what's happened. But in seasons past when these streaks would occur and the effort or lack of talent was questioned, that doesn't seem to be the case with this year's team.

The Blues believe it's a very fine line between winning and losing.

"The fine line is a very good description for us right now," winger Brad Boyes said. "If we get on the right side of that fine line, we can move back where we want to be.

"There wasn't anything that we could say we got outworked or we got out-checked or anything like that. We played a fairly solid game (Wednesday). It was just they capitalized on a couple chances and we didn't."

In October, the Blues were getting the key save, scoring the key goal, making a key clear out of their zone, making the correct pass, playing relatively mistake-free hockey and so forth. In November, it just didn't happen as often. In fact, as the players have said, it's been a fine line.

"In the course of a game, I think it's all of it. It's that big save, it's the big clearing play, it's the big shot from the D, it's the drive to the net, it's the momentum-building shifts, shift after shift being able to keep a high tempo and really push teams to stay with us," Brewer said. "If they don't, then we end up where we want to be."

"I think we've lost a few of those games because we've strayed from (the process)," Payne said. "We're not going to play the 6-5, 5-4 games against teams like Chicago or Washington, even Edmonton with their young skill and Vancouver. We have to understand that we create a level of play through how hard we work on both ends of the ice. I think we have gotten away from it a little bit, but I think our commitment to it last night was very, very strong."

The Blues hope to find that magic touch Saturday night in Edmonton.

"When you're in spots like this, the only way to get out is to grind out," winger Alex Steen said. "You need to bring the hard work ethic. I thought we did bring that (Wednesday). It didn't go our way, but we need to keep pushing forward. You start hanging your head and you start feeling sorry for yourself, it's only going to snowball the other way. You need to pick yourself back up, which we'll do tomorrow."

"This is the nature of our existence." Brewer said. "There's a lot of hockey. Things turn around quick. It's up to you to kind of guide that ship and make it snowball the other way.

"Guys are still working hard and still grinding. It's a work in progress, but this team always works hard and always has since I've been here. The guys are going to find a way as we always do."

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