(HockeyStL) -- The Blues’ second practice of the season did not go exactly as the team and head coach Ken Hitchcock wanted it to.
The first half was exemplary to what Hitchcock expects from his team on a daily basis. However, the second half was lacking in terms of intensity, and focus.
“The first half was good; the second half was not so good,” said Hitchcock. “I thought we lost a lot of energy in the second half. We still have a ways to go to get out of ‘summer hockey’ mode.”
“You can’t play half of a hockey game and win. I’m sure every coach is thinking the same thing and wondering how many good, solid minutes you can get (from players) at practices because if you get them at practice you will get them in a game.”
Getting out of ‘summer mode’ will be a lot tougher than usual for the players, some of whom have not played in an organized game since May.
The Blues spent a lot of time in the second half of Monday’s practice working on the power play. Hitchcock said that this is possibly the reason the pace was slower. The players’ first real test will be on Tuesday as the team has a scrimmage scheduled for 7 p.m. The scrimmage will last for 90 minutes, and will be much more intense than the practices the players have had the past two days.
“The guys are really looking forward to scrimmaging,” said Hitchcock. “Hopefully with the intensity level of the scrimmage on Tuesday, and the way we go at it on Wednesday and Thursday will get us into the winter part of the program.”
Hitchcock is anxious to see how his team responds to the game-like pace of Tuesday’s scrimmage. His team’s intensity was lacking today, and the team was too loose for his liking.
“Too many smiles today,” said Hitchcock. “We will have to get rid of some of those. We are getting closer to the game, we need game faces on.”
Though understanding that the fast transition from the offseason to game shape is much more difficult for the players this year, Hitchcock knows that with a condensed schedule nearing, his team will have to pick up the pace fast.
The Blues’ season will begin on Saturday at the Scottrade Center, giving the Blues only two more practices (excluding their two scrimmages) to get a system in place. But Hitchcock is more concerned with execution, and it was clear that he will be drilling that concept into his players’ heads in the coming days.
“Nothing is easy in a condensed schedule,” pointed out Hithcock. “To me, a condensed schedule is about whoever can get up to the quickest execution is going to have the easiest time. If you are fighting execution, and fighting the system that is in place you are going to have a difficult go. We are trying to put both into place, but if all else fails, if your execution is in place, you are going to win hockey games.”
“Putting a system in place is one thing; execution is another. I thought our execution fell off a bit in both second half (of both Sunday and Monday’s practice). “
But Hitchcock was not all doom and gloom after practice. There were some things he saw with his team that he liked. One of those things was the transitioning from the Blues’ own zone.
“It’s getting better and better,” said Hitchcock. “We were better today at it than we were yesterday and there is plenty of time to do the things we need to do.”
Hitchcock also talked for a bit about how he plans to circumvent the fatigue that comes with a shortened season. One of his ideas was using a practice goalie to give Brian Elliott, and Jaroslav Halak some rest. Hitchcock also said that he will be using more players on the penalty-kill in order to keep guys from tiring as the shortened season races on.
“We are going to use three units to kill penalties this season. It’s just the reality of the season. You just have to use as much of your bench as you can. It’s a little bit more work for everybody, but I think that getting everybody used to doing it is important.”
The Blues will get Tuesday morning off, but will return to Scottrade Center in the evening for their scrimmage. Wednesday will be only an hour practice. The team will conclude camp on Friday with a one-hour practice.