Sunday, January 21, 2018

Blues shown some tough practice love by Yeo, coaching staff Sunday

Team put through hard practice, bag skate after listless loss to Arizona 
Saturday; Schwartz full participant in practice, unknown if available for Tuesday 

ST. LOUIS -- The words resonated from Mike Yeo's press conference on Saturday night, and Blues players knew it was coming.

Picture Herb Brooks in 1980 and that infamous single word, 'Again!' It was used during the most notable bag skates of all time -- after a game no less.

Yeo didn't pull the Blues back on the ice after an embarrassing 5-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on home ice Saturday night; he waited until Sunday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Goalie Jake Allen (right) takes a drink from a water bottle after an Arizona
goal on Saturday. The Blues lost 5-2 to the Coyotes and were put through
a bag skate by coach Mike Yeo on Sunday.

Yeo put the Blues through an hour long practice, then had each line up for multiple sets of speed sprints. 

Not. Fun. At. All.

Just ask the players.

"Yeah, we definitely deserved to get pushed hard today," defenseman Joel Edmundson said. "Last night and last couple home games were pretty embarrassing for our team. We've always had the fans' support at all or most games and we want to show what we've got in front of the crowd and the past couple games, we haven't done that. It's been a tough 24 hours for us, but we got the work in today, we had a meeting and just reset the mind."

"Yeah, I've been around long enough," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "Last night was pretty inexcusable. We didn't really show up, so put some work in today, reset your attitude and move forward."

The Blues' practice, which included everyone except for Zach Sanford, entailed tough drills, corner wall and battle drills and then the wind sprints. It was a taxing day as a stark reminder that the coaching staff will not accept effortless games -- more specifically, effortless first periods -- like Saturday.

"I think everyone expected that," center Kyle Brodziak said. "We needed a bit of a wakeup call. That's what happens.

"... It's not like guys are going out there saying they're not going to try, it's just you don't have the focus level you need to have. Every team is so close now, you can beat the best team in the league one night and lose to the worst team in the league the next night. You have to be able to find a way, when you feel like you don't have it, to find a way to get it and get back into it. We just didn't do that."

Teams have slow starts to games. It happens. The response is normally what a coach looks for, and what a player seeks as retribution for a poor start. The Blues had no response, and their play continued to get worse, and the result was a 4-0 deficit after the first period that saw the 19,000-plus fans boo the home side off the ice after being outshot 23-7.

"Slow starts are going to happen, every team says, when you come off an emotional team on the road and you come home, it's kind of a pattern that's been known for years, that first game back home there's usually a letdown," Brodziak said. "You try to guard against it as well as you can, but for some reason, it still happens. When you come out to a start like last night, they get two or three goals in the amount of time they had, that should have been enough of a wakeup call, piss enough guys off, to get out of the clouds and get back into the game. For some reason, I don't know what it was, we just didn't have any push back last night. That's not really acceptable."

And that's why Yeo met with general manager Doug Armstrong, assistant GM Martin Brodeur and then his coaching staff before choosing a course of action for Sunday.

"I think as coaches, you have to be careful to just react off emotion," Yeo said. "Obviously you go home after the game and you don't just put that one to bed. That one sits with you all night and early into the morning. It's important as coaches that you take the time to really figure out what your team needs and obviously, that's where your assistants come into play. We've got a lot of support people around here, met with 'Army' and Marty again this morning. You try to determine a course of action. The players need to look at you and know that you're not just going to panic and overreact to every situation, but think they also have to look to you as the leader of the standards of the culture, and there's certain times where you have to do things a little differently."

And the message was?

"I think we got to work," Yeo said. "We're a work-based team. Start there.

"... It's our job to show up and to work hard today. We didn't work hard enough yesterday so we've got to work hard today. I think we did what was expected. We're at the point how where it just had to be the standard for us. That's who we are and that's what we do. I'm going to say that yes, the effort was good today, but that's what it should be."

Sure, there was a message sent, delivered and received. What do the Blues do with it moving forward is key.

"For me, we come to the rink tomorrow, we get better and Tuesday, we have to play hard," Yeo said. "There's certain things that when you drop the puck that are out of your control and some nights the puck's going to bounce your way, some nights it's not. But the effort part of it, that one's always in your control.

"There's different forms of disappointment, but I've seen the other side of this group. I know it's inside there and we just have to get there."

It comes down to that proverbial reset button players always say they have to hit. 

"It's up to everybody, I think, individually," Bouwmeester said. "You've got to get figured out what gets you prepared to play. Different guys have different roles in here, but at the end of the day, you have to be prepared and be ready at the start of the game. Words are words. It's more just showing up and doing it."

It does beg the question of why does a game like that happen?

"If anybody had the the answer, you wouldn't be asking the question and it wouldn't happen," Bouwmeester said. "It happens. We didn't have a good start. They scored early and we didn't respond very good and then it snowballs from there. At some point, if you can grab that, put a couple shifts together and turn the momentum, then maybe it's a different game. But it doesn't. It happens. You play 82 games in a year, it's gonna happen. It's happen before, hopefully it doesn't happen again, but as a player, you have to evaluate that and evaluate that and you have to move forward because we have another game on Tuesday, a team we just played and we played well against. Take this today as a working day, forget the game and move forward."

There really is no logical reason for it, though.

"Not really," Edmundson said. "Maybe we looked at the standings too much. We knew they were a good team, but they came out with a good jump. We just didn't have the push back. We need to have the mentality that we're playing a first-place all the time. If you look at the standings, we're fighting for a playoff spot and we've got to realize that."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Center Kyle Brodziak (28) said the Blues "needed a bit of a wakeup call,"
after losing to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night.

And that's why Yeo wants to see action, consistent action, and not just words.

"Talk is talk," he said. "We can have as many meetings as we want. We can can give you as many good quotes as we want, whatever the case is. Action is what matters right now and your play is your action. That's the only thing that matters, that speaks to your teammates, that you're playing for them and you're ready to lay it on the line. For me, that's pretty simple. You step over the boards, people watch you and that's the talk that we're looking for."

* NOTES -- Included in practice Sunday was left wing Jaden Schwartz, who was a full participant for the first time since injuring his right ankle blocking a shot in the first period of the 6-1 win at the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 9.

Schwartz took part in all battle drills and was even a skater during the sprints even though he had nothing to do with the effort of Saturday's game.

"It was a fun one for him to get back into," Yeo said smiling. "No easing him into it. He got the conditioning and he got the battle part of it and actually, he got through it, got through it well."

Is Tuesday against Ottawa a possibility?

"I don't know yet," Yeo said. "I've been busy with some other things."


  1. Good article! But as was said, it's up to them to get up for a game. I would have thought after the first couple of goals would have done that for them. Basically it's up to them to decide if they want the cup or are just skating through the season.