Every single season, it seems like at some time we're at this point. The Blues are slumping, they're playing slow out of the gate, they're listless, they're lifeless. They go through this just long enough to give fans a fit, and then they're back to normal. What gives?
If you close your eyes and let your mind drift, you can probably imagine the quotes from the team:
"We're putting skill over work."
"We just need to focus harder."
"We're not really sure what's wrong."
"We're getting away from our game."
From Korac's article:
"I don't know if it's the preparation before the game or doing something different to mentally get into it," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "We haven't been doing it. We've got to search within the room how to get everybody involved right off the bat and get the legs moving, get the heads moving. You can't spot teams like that a two- or three-goal lead and expect to win."
"That's a tough question," said center Patrik Berglund, who scored for the first time in 23 games Saturday. "I think everybody's preparing themselves as they always have been, but obviously, we can't have these starts where we get behind with these goals. We obviously have to do some soul-searching. These starts against these good teams are just not acceptable. ..."
What can we take away from that? Well, basically, they know something's wrong but no one knows what it is. In a tough battle skill oriented skate, coach Ken Hitchcock tried to beef up their checking skills.
"We'll come out the other end, but we're going to have to go through it. There's going to be some rough water here for a little while. We figured it out last year, we had a collective buy-in the year before, but this one looks like it's going to be another ... we're going to have to work at it, we're going to have to really work at it. I think it's going to have to really become important for the players. The players are going to have to gauge this as something that's really critical and important for us to get back where we want to be. But I think there's other teams sometimes that are in the same boat as us here."
And there you go. It's not just putting skill over work, though Hitchcock is alluding to that. Priorities and fixing the situation, once they put their finger on it, is going to have to take the entire team. There's something else there too that Hitch is alluding to: that it's a slump.
How do team's get out of slumps? Is it having a moment to build momentum off of? Those can help, but if there's not the motivation to fix things, the slump remains. The moment is squandered. Work gets you out of slumps, and work takes time.
This has been four games. Have the Blues waxing and waning cycles become predictable? Sure, but they seem to get out of them in one piece. As long as they can find that level of effort to get out of it, they can do it. They're aware that there's a problem. They're aware that fixing it takes work. They have some vague idea that their energy levels and their work around the bord's a problem. If focusing on it gets them out of this, then go for it.
Fans and the team need to get concerned when it doesn't seem like there's a buy in; when the work isn't there and there's no way to get it out of them. There's a difference between a slump and the team going all "Operation Fire the Green Goblin."
There's a difference, trust me. Blues fans have seen the team actually quit twice: once on Andy Murray and once on Davis Payne. This doesn't look the same, and it doesn't feel the same.
Let's just hope we can still say that if it happens again this season.