(Hockey StL) --After being routed 6-1 at home by the Predators Tuesday, Blues players were put through a short, but tough practice Wednesday in Hazelwood. The Blues were outplayed on every level Tuesday, losing their second straight game, and their first home game of the season.
The outlook in practice was not one of panic, but one of understanding that the team is simply not at its best and that they have to improve.
“The energy and focus today was excellent,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. “The players recognize things and they want to get back on track right away.”
When Hitchcock addressed the media after Tuesday night’s disappointing performance, he pointed out that the team’s compete-level is not where it needed to be; something that was addressed in practice Wednesday.
“We’re not competing at the level we need to compete at,” said Hitchcock. “We’re allowing the other team’s competitiveness to frustrate us and push us into individual hockey rather than team hockey. That’s the thing we have to address.”
On Wednesday, Hitchcock pointed to another aspect of the Blues’ performance that has deteriorated in recent games, and it’s a surprising one for the typically physical Blues squad.
“The details of checking have left us,” said Hitchcock. “We have to get it back as quickly as possible. At the end of the day you may win a few games based on skill alone, but if you don’t have the details of checking you aren’t going to win anything.”
Hitchcock identified the team’s checking as a problem in Friday’s loss to Detroit, but after two games of the same inconsistency, Hitchcock felt a need to address it.
Last season the Blues finished 12 th the league with nearly 2,000 hits, and many of their scoring chances were created from checking. This year, the Blues are checking less, and more inefficiently, giving other teams a chance to sustain offensive pressure. Hitchcock says it will take some time to fix this glaring weakness.
“We are just starting the process,” said Hitchcock. “The hockey gods are going to make us pay for not checking so we are going to have to check like crazy and then battle back to get on the right page. It’s more of the mindset you go into a game with. Are you going to check or are you just going to throw your sticks on the ice and play?”
Despite less than 24 hours separating the loss from the Blues’ practice, Hitchcock was pleased with what he saw from his team in Wednesday’s skate. It is not uncommon for a coach to put players through a ‘bag skate’ after an embarrassing loss as punishment. Fortunately for Blues players, Hitchcock chose not to do so. Instead, he led a tough, but constructive practice for his players.
“I think bag skates are a total waste of time,” said Hitchcock. “There’s limited time to teach and this was a great teaching practice. It wasn’t long but it was fast and furious. I think we are going to come with a good mindset from here on.”
The Blues have had a tough last couple of games, but they look to rebound in front of their home crowd on Thursday when they face off against the Red Wings. The team will have to return to putting work ahead of skill; something they had, until recently, been doing.
“It’s about out-working the other team,” said Blues goaltender Brian Elliott. “If you do that, the bounces will start going your way.”