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Blues Hope History Repeats Itself

Players say they are still confident they can get team into the postseason

Thursday, 03.18.2010 / 6:38 PM / St Louis Blues - Features
By Dan Rosen  - NHL.com
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Blues Hope History Repeats Itself
   
The Blues completed a miracle run to the playoffs last season. The players say they can do it again (Getty Images).

  Standings: Follow the Blues' Progress
NEW YORK -- David Backes compared the St. Louis Blues' season to the stock market, and judging by the numbers, he might be on to something.

After making an improbable run to the playoffs last season, the Blues have not met up with their expectations this season. The ride has been filled with surges and sags that have left the players asking themselves what could have been as they still cling to some leaking confidence that they can make another incredible run to the postseason.

Entering Thursday's game at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers, the Blues are 11th in the Western Conference with 73 points, seven fewer than the eighth place Detroit Red Wings.

"We found out last year how well we can play and the teams we can beat and how we can beat them. I think we got away from that a little this year," T.J. Oshie told NHL.com. "I don't know (why that happened). Maybe it's getting overconfident, thinking it was going to be easy. Maybe it's forgetting what it took for us to battle back last year. Going from last place to sixth wasn't an easy task and it wasn't just our offense or goaltending that won it, it was everything coming together. We got away from that. Last year we were winning games 1-0 and that was good enough. That's all it takes."

Back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Colorado this week are just the latest sag the Blues have seen in a season that started with a pair of promising wins over Detroit in Stockholm.

St. Louis was 5-13-3 at Scottrade Center and 14.2 percent on the power play (20 for 140) before coach Andy Murray was replaced on an interim basis by Davis Payne on Jan. 2. They were 17-17-6 overall and have been fighting to make up ground ever since.

"If you really analyze it, you can look at our home record in the first 12 or 13 games and I think it stems right back to that," Blues GM Larry Pleau told NHL.com. "We had great goaltending and we weren't scoring at home and the power play wasn't very good. If you go back to those first 10 to 15 games at home I think there are a lot of answers there."

Pleau says a lot of that was due to growing pains.

The Blues are still a relatively young team with an average age of 28.3 that is inflated by Keith Tkachuk (38 later this month), Darryl Sydor (37) and Paul Kariya (35). They're all unrestricted free agents after the season.

They have 10 guys who are 25 or younger, including core players like Backes, Oshie, Erik Johnson, Patrik Berglund and David Perron. Big-time prospects Lars Eller and Alex Pietrangelo aren't even a part of the equation yet.

It can be argued that last season, when the Blues went on their ridiculous run from 15th place to sixth over the second half, they were playing way above the curve for a team that is supposed to still be building its foundation.

"A lot of people say that, but I don't think I buy into it," Backes said. "We had a group of guys here that bought into the system, bought into the team concept and did what is best for the team every night. We get that out of this group most nights, but there are other nights we get a little too individualistic. This game is a team game and if you try to do it on your own then the teams that play together will eat you alive."

Perhaps the expectations after last season also ate the Blues alive. Eight of their top 11 scorers have experienced a dip in production from last season. Included among the group that didn't dip is Erik Johnson, who sat out all of the 2008-09 with a knee injury.

"You can't say we got ourselves in the playoffs, but now we can't expect that again. That's the wrong way to think," Pleau said. "We expected it and now we have to learn how to play and operate in a situation when you're expected to do things. That's how you get better."

Since Payne took over the Blues have been slightly better. They're 15-11-3, including a 6-4-2 record at home, and their power play is 20 for 113 (17.7 percent). It's all not good enough to contend in the tightly packed Western Conference.

The Blues recently experienced one of their market surges by winning seven of eight games bridging the Olympic break, but barely made up any ground. Any of the little ground they did make up was washed away with this week's losses.

"We don't like the way the landscape looks as opposed to one week ago," Payne said, "but we have every intention of making sure the picture changes over the next week."

The thing is they really do. Count them out if you want to, but the Blues believe they can get into the playoffs.

"We still have a lot of energy in this locker room," Oshie said. "I think we're up to the challenge."

It'll only happen if their market experiences another major surge.

"It doesn't go up every day," Backes said. "It takes a hit here and there. I think the same type of ride is happening here."

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 NSH 63 41 15 7 191 151 89
2 ANA 63 39 17 7 186 176 85
3 STL 62 40 18 4 192 153 84
4 CHI 63 37 21 5 183 150 79
5 WPG 63 31 20 12 174 170 74
6 VAN 61 35 23 3 174 162 73
7 MIN 62 33 22 7 176 161 73
8 LAK 61 29 20 12 164 157 70
9 CGY 62 33 25 4 175 160 70
10 SJS 63 30 25 8 175 181 68
11 COL 63 27 25 11 167 182 65
12 DAL 62 27 25 10 195 207 64
13 ARI 63 20 36 7 138 214 47
14 EDM 63 18 35 10 143 208 46

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
V. Tarasenko 62 31 29 27 60
A. Steen 60 19 32 4 51
J. Schwartz 55 20 26 16 46
D. Backes 61 20 21 3 41
T. Oshie 54 17 24 12 41
K. Shattenkirk 49 8 32 18 40
P. Stastny 54 12 24 11 36
J. Lehtera 55 9 24 16 33
A. Pietrangelo 62 5 27 -2 32
P. Berglund 58 8 12 -1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
B. Elliott 20 9 2 .922 2.17
J. Allen 17 6 2 .905 2.50

 
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