Monday, March 5, 2012

Blues finding success on the road

By Andrew Allsman| Posted: March 5th, 2012| Contact  | Also posted on KMOV.com



The Blues recently concluded a six game road trip with a 5-1 record and find themselves once again leading the Central Division.  The Blues will return to Scottrade Center on Tuesday to face off against the Chicago Blackhawks.  The recent road trip was a prelude to the upcoming seven game trip that the Blues will embark on in mid-March.

Before leaving on their recent road trip, the Boston Bruins outplayed the Blues at the Scottrade Center and it seemed as though the Blues were losing their confidence.   The next game in Nashville would dispute that assumption.

The Blues were able to overcome the pressure of arguably the most important game of the season (to that point) and pull through for the shootout win.  This was not a “pretty win”, but the Blues flew out of Nashville with the two points, and that’s all that matters.

The Note would display more of the same throughout the rest of the trip, and were able to overcome the uncomfortable situations that playing on the road presents.

 “They’re comfortable being uncomfortable” said head coach Ken Hitchcock about his team.  The Blues must be getting comfortable on the road because they won five of the six road games putting them over the .500 mark on the road for the first time this season.

It seemed like a completely different team playing on the road than the one that took the ice earlier in the season.   Yes, the personnel remain the same, but the character and confidence of the team is now soaring.  Everything is going right for the Notes now.  They are excelling on the power play, winning in the shootout, and finding ways to get the “W” in close games.  This was unheard of a few months ago, but what has changed?

When you compare the Blues now to earlier in the year, you can tell a dramatic change has occurred.  The Blues now believe.  It has been a long time since fans and players alike were able to “believe” in their team at this point in the season.  Usually the Blues are on the outside looking in, and rarely have hope of clinching a playoff spot, but this year that’s not the case, and it is clear as to why.  The Blues overall season success and their newfound road success go hand in hand.  The Blues now believe that they can win every game, and that in itself is a powerful tool.  Winning gives a team confidence and it’s safe to say the Blues are boiling over with confidence.   In layman’s terms, the Blues belief that they can win is showing on the ice and as the playoffs approach, it is a powerful tool for a team to have in its arsenal.

Also factoring in heavily in their overall play has been the penalty kill of late.  On the recent six game road trip the Blues were 12 for 12 on the penalty kill and were perfect against the top NHL power plays.

Do the Blues deserve a win every night?  The answer is no, and the past six games have displayed this.  The Blues were outplayed in the game against Nashville, and the following game against Winnipeg.  Jaroslav Halak was the sole reason the Blues got wins in Nashville and Winnipeg.  The Blues were just flat out lucky to emerge with two points in both of those games as they looked sluggish.  Basically, the Blues need to find a way to play a complete game of hockey, 60 minutes of “200 foot” hockey as coach Ken Hitchcock has preached since the day he took over.  The game in Calgary was a prime example of this type of hockey, and the Blues will have to start implementing this concept every game if they want to continue to grab points.

The Blues will not sit back and shy away from the challenge that faces them, they will embrace it, because in the end, it will make them a stronger team.