Despite Mistakes, Blues Find Ways to Win
These are not your 2010-11 Blues. These aren't even your 2011-12 Blues. These are the 2013 Blues, a team that finds ways to win even when they aren't playing their best hockey. Make no mistake, the 2011-12 St. Louis squad was a great one, but when they struggled they really struggled. Too often we saw the Blues of the past few seasons cough up goals late only to eventually fall or fall behind early only to have their attempt at a comeback fall short. This year, so far, the Blues are showing they can win games regardless of the situation or how poorly they might be playing. For example, consider the team's recent game against Minnesota. The Blues played a pretty strong game in the first, leaving the period up 1-0 despite trailing in the shots department 8-7. The second period was a different story. The Blues bested Minnesota in shots, firing nine pucks compared to the Wild's four. The issue? Three of the Wild's four shots found twine. Overall, the Blues weren't horrible for the bulk of the second period. The issue was that they had several mental lapses that quality teams, like Minnesota, can capitalize on. Men were left wide open right outside Brian Elliott's crease. At times, line changes were sloppy. The Blues might have played 15 minutes of strong hockey in the second but those five minutes they took off turned the period into one that deserves a failing grade. The Blues of old had numerous periods like the ones we saw in the second against the Wild. They'd play well but have several lapses where the opponent capitalizes. The Blues of old might mount a comeback, but it seemed as if they always fell short. One of the trademarks of the 2010-11 squad was that they'd give up the tying goal late in the third, only to fall later in the period or in OT. Rarely did the Blues overcome giving up a late lead. In 2013, that trend has been bucked. The sample is small. Very small. However, we've already seen the Blues turn in some sloppy efforts yet still walk away with the "W". The game against the Wild was one numerous fans felt the Blues would lose after allowing the tying goal to Dany Heatley with just over four minutes to go. This feeling is based off the Blues of old that would fold up under the pressure. This year's Blues proved those fans, myself included, wrong by continuing to work hard and by ultimately pulling out the win in OT. Hard work and determination aside, the Blues no longer play scared or nervous under pressure. Give up a late lead? No big deal - just go win it in OT. This has a lot to do with the maturing process and a lot to do with preparation. The Blues have played some sloppy games but have won through skill and work ethic.