(HockeyStL) -- The Blues were able to get off to a 6-1 start on the season, and while fans were excited, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock was not 100 percent sold on his team. Hitchcock indicated that it would take 10 games to get to know his team, and after losing the last three games, Hitchcock’s 6-4 Blues are a struggling team.
Normally Hitchcock has plenty to say during his postgame press conference, but on Thursday, with his team displaying a lackluster effort in two consecutive games, Hitchcock posed a question to fans.
“How many times were you folks sitting in the stands saying shoot the puck onto the net. How many times,” asked Hitchcock. “How many times did you say why did you pass it there to a covered person when you could’ve put it on the net?”
The previous quote was tweeted by KTRS’ David Solomon, and it was part of a brief 110-second press conference.
To say the recent skid is uncharacteristic would be an understatement. The Blues allowed the fewest goals in the National Hockey League last season, so seeing 11, in two games, end up in the Blues’ net is startling for the defense-first Blues.
“We haven’t had many losing streaks over the last year and a half so it’s tough,” said Alex Pietrangelo in a video posted on the Blues’ website. “It’s not going to be an easy fix, but we know what we have to do, and now we have to go out there and execute it.”
While the breakdowns have come all over the ice for the Blues in the last three games, the defense has been glaringly bad. Lately the Blues defenders have had trouble corralling pucks in the defensive zone, giving the opponent plenty of chances to score. Brian Elliott, who has been in net for the Blues’ last two losses, says the entire system needs to be cleaned up.
“When a guy gets three to four whacks at it (it’s not a good thing),” said Elliott. “It’s obviously my goal to cover it up or get it in the corner but it’s a whole system thing that we need to clean up for sure. We have to figure it out, and we will, it’s just a matter of time.”
Normally a three game losing streak is not something to panic about, but in a shortened season the losses are magnified. At the beginning of the season, Hitchcock mentioned that he knew there would come a point in the season where his team would fall into a bit of a rut. It’s unlikely that he expected it to happen this quickly, but with the Blues playing more of an individual-styled hockey game, he must find a solution fast.
“It’s not our normal selves,” admitted Elliott after Thursday’s loss. “We have to find a way to get back to that, with everybody working on the same page. Just doing those little things that make us successful. We are a team that needs all four lines to play and everybody to pitch in, including myself.”
“It’s obviously surprising. The trick is figuring it out faster than everybody else, so we have to get back to work and get back on the right track that we were on at the start of the year.”
The Blues had a tough practice on Wednesday, and Hitchcock expected his team to come out hungry in Thursday’s game. Obviously, that didn’t happen for the Blues, who were outplayed yet again. Hitchcock made a couple of line changes prior to Thursday’s game, putting Ryan Reaves, and Jaden Schwartz back into the lineup. Reaves was inserted to add to the physicality of the Blues’ game. Schwartz was added to a new line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrik Berglund. By the end of the night, Hitchcock had re-arranged the lines to try to spark something in his team. Though it didn’t work, the players know the solution to the problem, and are anxious to get back to their old selves.
“We have gotten away from what makes us a good team,” said Alex Steen. “(The way to fix it is) with hard work. We are cheating on the details, the small things out there and that is what is costing us. It’s turnovers, and individual mistakes and the puck is ending up in the back of our net.”
The Blues have been forced to play comeback hockey for most of the young season, something that worked out at the beginning of the season. But now, rather than coming back, the Blues are seeing the opponents’ leads build quickly and substantially. Much like his teammates, Alex Pietrangelo understands what needs to be done in order to return to winning ways, but it has to be a complete buy-in from the team.
“We have just gotten away from our game,” said Pietrangelo. “We know what we are good at, and getting behind teams and trying to play comeback hockey is not going to work.”
The Blues’ practice on Friday is sure to be a grueling one as the team works on not only building confidence, but also making sure the team establishes and executes Hitchcock’s system more efficiently in the coming games.