It’s probably not uncommon for the Blues to meet up before practice, as was the case at the Centene Community Ice Center on Saturday. But the tenor of this one was probably just a little out of line.
With the Blues losing two games to one in their best-of-seven playoff series against Minnesota, suffice it to say it wasn’t about handing out juice boxes and chanting “Kumbaya.” After an embarrassing 5-1 defeat on Friday, the Blues have problems to solve and not much time to do so.
Two more losses and one of the best regular seasons in franchise history will have been squandered in an all-too-short postseason.
“We had a tough meeting this morning, which I think was necessary,” said coach Craig Berube after practice on Saturday.
Berube is not one to sugarcoat things. And that was certainly not the case on Saturday morning.
“But these guys know,” Berube said. “They are smart guys. You know what’s going on. They know where we need to be better.”
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And as awkward as it may be right now, the players at Berube know exactly where they are, what they appreciate.
“It’s nice to get a little spark sometimes,” said striker Jordan Kyrou sadly. “Get some fire up your bum and do some (checked) so it’s good.”
And so Kyrou was, uh, “checked off”?
“Yeah, it’s kind of a motivation too,” Kyrou said. “It kinda gets you going, gets you going.”
After a brief but energetic exercise devoted almost entirely to the power game, the talking continued. Only this time it was a one on one interview with Berube and Vladimir Tarasenko for maybe 5-10 minutes – which is an eternity for such practice talks.
“I’m just going through with him and what I see,” Berube said. “Everything is good.”
Communication can obviously help in difficult times. But talking only gets you so far. Beginning with Game 4 at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Enterprise Center, the lecture must be translated into results. Otherwise, the Blues will travel to St. Paul, Minnesota and be eliminated in Game 5 on Tuesday.
“We have to turn the page immediately,” said striker David Perron. “I think it was good to go out on the ice quickly today. Just to help with that and talk about some of the things that we did successfully in game 1 compared to obviously the last two (games).
As Perron saw it, the Blues “got a little off track” after Minnesota jumped out to that quick lead on Friday.
The Blues had no answer in Games 2 and 3 for Minnesota star Kirill Kaprizov, who scored four goals in those games. The same goes for Jordan Greenway-Joel Eriksson Ek-Marcus Foligno’s so-called “GREEF” line, which has given the blues on both ends of the ice seizures.
“They are a strong line in the offensive zone,” said Berube. “The only thing you have to make sure of is that you don’t give them the time there. We allow them to get there too much.
“We have to do a better job there because when they get there they are difficult to handle. Again, the goals they get are all over the web. We didn’t protect our network well enough.”
On the defensive end, three of Minnesota’s first four goals Friday came from either breakaways or odd rushes. And once the Wild got a 2v1, the Blues didn’t defend them very well.
“We had a lot of energy early in the game and we got caught because… our ‘D’ and our forwards weren’t in a good position to reload,” Berube said. “And there’s also some turnover play just because you’re forcing the pucks.”
When it’s not there, Berube wants the Blues to be patient and just go on offense.
The offense has dried up since Game 1. The Blues produced an incredibly consistent goal streak over the course of the 82-game regular season. The fewest combined goals scored in consecutive games was three during the regular season – and that only happened twice.
Well, it’s already happened once in just three postseason games, with the Blues scoring two goals in Game 2 and just once in Game 3. Their average per game in the regular season was 3.77 goals per game.
The offensive drought at least partially explains why the team spent most of Saturday’s practice working on the power play. Since Perron scored two power-play goals in the Blues’ 4-0 Game 1 win, the Wilds have been paying much more attention to him and shadowing their defense in penalty shootouts.
“I think after the first game they made a good adjustment and it was a bit more difficult to get the looks I want from that side, in the areas where I know I can score,” said Platform.
Berube has also noticed as the Wild collapsed their defenses and kept them taut in response to Perron’s expertise from the left circle.
“We’re going to have to pound some pucks,” Berube said. “We’ve got to pull it off and get some rebounds on the net. A lot of it comes down to that, especially in playoff time.”
Also, Tarasenko was back in the same power play unit as Perron for the first time in a while. Tarasenko’s dangerous shot on the opposite flank could stop the Wild from overplaying Perron.
The Blues didn’t play any lines on Saturday, but don’t be surprised if Berube sticks with some of the changes he made in the third period on Friday – especially if he plays Kyrou and Robert Thomas on the same line.
“Obviously I love playing with Thommer,” Kyrou said. “He’s a good player. Obviously our friendship off the ice – we’re really close friends. But the way we play I think we play very similarly.
“We’re always moving our feet and looking for quick little passes, quick little plays. So I think we just have this really good chemistry.”