We all knew this was coming: the Blues are in 9th place. The Columbus Blue Jackets, with their overtime win against the Anaheim Ducks last night, leapfrogged the Blues and are now actually in a playoff spot. How? Because the Jackets have played with fight all season. The Blues have fought to play.
Sure, they say the right things after a loss. They talk about working harder. About buying in. Do they? No. They tried in Thursday night's loss against the Kings, but the little things let the game come undone -- Jaroslav Halak allowing the second goal was a deflating moment, the game winning goal probably shouldn't've counted, and David Backes getting high sticked went un-noticed. A good team battles back from all of that. A good team doesn't allow the Kings to park themselves on top of their goalie and whack at the puck and shove at the net until something goes in -- a good team does that to the opposition.
"You talk to the players and even the most secure guys … they can’t eat, they can’t sleep. They’re worried," Hitchcock said Thursday. "It’s amazing. Even long-term career players on your team are nervous they might get traded. They’re nervous the phone might ring. It’s a nervous time for people. I think when you’re really happy on a team — and a lot of guys on this team are happy being here — it’s a really nervous time."
I'm sure that they're nervous. I've never gotten the impression that any of the guys didn't want to be here. The impression I've gotten is that their individual efforts have led to a dismissal of the team effort, and now that they're trying so hard to win, it's getting worse. They want to do something for the team, sure, but to do so you play for the team.
They overthink, they squeeze the stick too much (David Backes, I'm looking at you), and through doing so they take silly penalties or cough the puck up. They're on edge. Maybe they'll calm down after Wednesday. Who knows.
Jordan Leopold will be making his debut tonight playing alongside Kevin Shattenkirk. Welcome to the fold, Mr. Locker Room Veteran Leader Guy. Play a lot of minutes, play well, and hopefully help the Blues win. That's about all we can expect out of anyone right now.