I had a buddy who used to intentionally put off every assignment until the last possible second. He said he'd done the same thing all through college, too. He'd get to the last possible instant that he could potentially start a project, go into total freak-out mode, curse himself, pull on his scalp in an overly aggressive way and then proceed to wail away on the project until it was done, usually seconds before the deadline.
"I know myself," he'd say, "I do my best work when my back is against the wall."
I'm starting to think that the Blues have the same mentality as a team. They are now 5-6-2, eight losses in their first 13, on the year. Last year they started 5-7-1, eight losses in their first 13 games. It wasn't until almost the last possible second last year before they went on the tear that put them into the playoffs... on the second-to-last day of the season.
The Blues grabbed the first goal of the game only five times this season: in the three wins against Anaheim, Minnesota and Carolina and the two losses to Phoenix and Atlanta. The Blues have given up the first goal in the other eight. Clearly, this isn't the way Andy Murray wants his team to play, but think back to the end of last season. How many times did the Note give up the first goal? Forty-seven times, friends. Forty-seven.
It may not be the mentality they want to have, but it clearly is the mentality they have. This team puts pressure on itself time and again by giving up the lead and having to battle back. It happened 57% of the time last year and it has happened 62% of the time this season. The only difference? Last year the team was getting scoring from all of their lines. This year the Blues are averaging 1.00 goals per game in their eight losses.
How do you fix it? No idea, but clearly the Blues need a new pre-game ritual to get their intensity ratcheted up.
A couple other notes from tonight:
- Lars Eller/Lars Ulrich/Skeet Ulrich comes up from Peoria, dons Cory Stillman's number and gets his first NHL goal. Great to see it and glad to see the new guy from the AHL is the one who breaks the scoreless streak. Can we call up someone else from Peoria to get the team another goal in Philly on Saturday?
- The team got plenty of shots tonight, went to the goal hard, won puck battles and didn't shy from any contact. And still they lost. At some point you have to stop saying, "Just ran into a hot goalie tonight," but it does just seem like the Blues can't pull an easy draw in net: Miikka Kiprusoff, Tomas Vokoun, Ilya Bryzgalov. All three are good golaies and all three stymied the Note on this homestand.
- There's plenty of underachievers to point a finger at right now, but the play of T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund is so incredibly different from last year that it stands out. Seems like it's time for those two to become roomies again, fire up Rock Band and play "Wonderwall" all night again. Don't screw with the hockey gods. Especially when you're a sophmore.
- Eric Brewer kicked in the first goal of the game to put his team down. For a guy who would probably want nothing more than to get off the list of the fans' "Most Hated Player" he sure isn't finding a way to help himself.
- Sometimes a golatending controversy is good for a team. Look what happened last year when Chris Mason played well enough to get Manny Legace to push the self-destruct button: the Blues wound up with one of the hottest goalies in the league and rode him to the sixth seed in the playoffs. Mason has been good, don't get me wrong, but if Ty Conklin has a couple more quality starts, maybe it'll jump start Mason's defense mechanism and he'll get even better.
Flyers up next in Philadelphia on Saturday night. Should be an entertaining game with a good, hard-hitting team. let's see if the Blues can rise to the occasion.
Here's your post-game interviews with Eller, Oshie and Johnson, the assumed future of the team: