Listening to Ken Hitchcock Tuesday night after the Blues home loss to the Flames, I was taken aback by what I was hearing. The Blues had just played a pathetic game—the players had already expressed that sentiment in their postgame discussions with the media. Though Calgary was playing its second game in consecutive nights, St. Louis was the group full of lethargy in a 4-1 defeat.
While everyone realized the game was a rough one—and make no mistake, it was a forgettable night at Scottrade Center—it didn’t seem like it was in any way significant to the grand scheme. At least until Hitchcock spoke.
"I'm alarmed by the way we're playing at home. I'm alarmed by that,” Hitchcock said. “I'm alarmed that we're playing much better on the road than we are at home. We're not doing the things at home that we need to win hockey games. We're playing a different game on the road than at home."
Sure, we recall the Blues struggling at home during last year’s playoffs, going 4-6 in games at Scottrade during that to the Western Conference Finals. But this year, the Blues opened the season with two home wins against quality teams in the Blackhawks and Rangers. They seemed to have put the home woes from a year ago behind them. After one clunker, though, the team is hyper-aware that its performance at home has not been good enough.
“Sometimes you just expect your game to show up at home because you’re there,” Kevin Shattenkirk said after Tuesday’s loss. “You expect good things to happen because you always feel good in your building. We just have to go out there and work for it a little more. We went out there expected them to be a little more tired than they were. We didn’t beat them competitively to start, and I think that just was too hard to get out of our game as the game went along.”
It’s an odd dynamic to consider—a talented group that finds success on the road suddenly becomes complacent in friendlier confines. It’s something St. Louis baseball fans dealt with over the summer as the hometown Cardinals performed vastly better away from their home ballpark.
For the Blues, it’s a matter of avoiding complacency and improving consistency in their approach.
“I think just the main thing I think we take out of this is that when we come home we have to stick to our game plan,” Shattenkirk said. “Stick to what works and make sure we’re not trying to do anything special, do anything extra because we’re playing in front of our fans. We’re successful when we play the smart north game that Hitch always talks about it. It works for us and we have to make sure we stick to that.”
Several players said they sensed a diluted energy from the beginning of Tuesday’s loss. The coach is intent on turning that around, and the players sound committed to doing it. The next chance to reverse those home blues comes Thursday night when St. Louis hosts an old foe in the Detroit Red Wings.
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