You know it’s playoff time when there’s not one but four different stories on STLToday about how the Blues need to step it up, play their game, be assertive, etc. This was the case nearly every season when Ken Hitchcock was coach, and this lack of consistency seems to be rearing its head again against the Nashville Predators this year.
Here, from Tom Timmerman and Jeremy Rutherford’s article about how desperation brings out the Blues’ best:
“We’ve tried to (respond)," forward Paul Stastny said. "We’ve tried to be as consistent as possible whether we have a bad game or we lose a bad couple of games, I think our focus is to kind of fix those mistakes and get ready for the next challenge. Playoff time, any time you lose a game, it really wakes you up to know you’ve got to give a lot more for the next game. That’s our mentality. We know they’re going to be doing the same thing thinking they could be up 3-1. But for our mindset we’re not even thinking about them. We have to worry about what we do.”
And from Jesus Ortiz’s piece about the Blues promising to be more assertive and less easily deflated in game four (and I’m not picking on Stastny here - his quote is just the best one):
“We started good, the way we wanted to play,” Stastny said. “And then I think once they scored for some reason our mindset changed a little bit and we started playing on our heels, and that’s when you get in trouble. So I think we have to have that same mindset where whether we have the lead or don’t have the lead, we’re going to have to weather the storm.
“Any team you play in the playoffs, any time you play in a tough building, they’re always going to come at you whether it’s a couple of shifts at a time or for five, 10 minutes. That’s just natural. Whether they score a goal or get chances or a power play, you’ve got to find a way to stay together as a group and fight out of that. I think that’s been our problem. It happened in Game 1 and it happened (Sunday).”
From Rutherford’s post this morning calling on the Blues to “raise the bar”:
“It’s tough,” Blues goalie Jake Allen said. “Every game, you should bring your compete level in the playoffs. We’re definitely going to have to up it (Tuesday). I thought they sort of took it to us in that aspect (in Game 3) and forced turnovers and forced mistakes. We had good moments, we did, but not enough of them to complete the win and complete the effort.”
And finally, from Timmerman and Rutherford’s post about the Blues’ talent for bouncing back:
“We’ve got a character group,” coach Mike Yeo said, “and we still have a lot of belief on our side. There’s no reason to think why we wouldn’t. We knew right from the start that we’re playing a real good hockey team. We saw what they did in Round 1, so I don’t think anyone inside of our locker room was kidding ourselves that we were just going to march through this series without facing some challenges. The thing about challenges is, what good teams do is they respond to them, and that’s what I’m expecting from our group.”
It’s obvious that the team is more than aware of what they need to do. It doesn’t matter what the leadership group is or who the coach is, apparently - they know that they need to just “keep playing their game” and “applying pressure” and “bouncing back” and everything will go their way.
That’s swell. Now do it.
There’s literally no reason why fans should be reading nearly the same articles every single season about how the Blues just need to stick to their gameplan, just like there’s literally no reason that the Blues, knowing that maintaining pressure and effort seems to be the issue, can’t figure out how to maintain pressure and effort over a full 60 minute time period.
It’s not that fans expect a perfect game. Those nearly never happen. What we would like to see, however, is some execution on the ice of what they so clearly recognize that they need to do. I don’t know if they’ve figured out the cause of the lack of consistency (I’m going with no, since I could probably go ahead and pre-write the post-game interviews for next year’s playoff series right now), but they’ve recognized the problem repeatedly.
When the Blues execute, they execute very well. When they don’t let a goal completely mess with their minds, they’re capable of playing a full game.
They know what they need to do. The fans are aware of what they need to do, because we’ve literally read it a hundred times.
It would be a treat if we could see them deliver on it tonight.