Great comments from Backes in this snippet...
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Although his team was jockeying for its own respect at the time, Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock was unabashed when describing what impressed him most about the Blues last season.
"They're relentless," Hitchcock said. "They just keep coming after you, coming after you. They just keep playing and playing, and if you don't have the stomach for the fight, they just break you right down."
That was in March, as the Blues were in the process of posting the NHL's best record in the second half of the season and completing their bid for a playoff spot. MORE BLUES
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Eight months later, it's doubtful that Hitchcock or any other coach would have that same evaluation of the Blues. They are 5-6-1 overall and 1-5 at home, have been shut out in each of their past two games and have dropped to 25th in the standings.
To comprehend the situation, understand that those numbers can turn around quickly. But at the root of the Blues' concern now is that those numbers reflect a bigger issue: A team that built its reputation on hard work and desperation has misplaced its identity.
"Obviously, we're missing part of our game we had last year ... that same consistent effort for 60 minutes every night," Blues forward B.J. Crombeen said. "I think it's something that you have to establish every year ... your team identity. Everyone is looking for it, and there's not one answer why we don't have it. But we've just got to put our heads down and go out and find it."
The Blues had the day off Monday but will have two days of practice before hosting the Calgary Flames on Thursday at Scottrade Center. They will go through several puck-moving drills and body-banging sessions in the next 48 hours, but what seems to be absent in the Blues' recent play might not be found on the ice.
"It's a mind-set," Blues forward David Backes said. "You set your mind to it before the game starts. It's not the puck bouncing over our sticks every single time. It's definitely not that. It's something we can control.
"We have most of the key pieces to the puzzle that we had last year, plus we have a few high-quality guys (back from injury). To not be as successful as we were in the second half, it's obviously not personnel. It's something within our locker room that we need to change, as far as our mentality.
"It comes down to guys in this room getting the job done. We obviously need to put more desperation into every single shift."
In the preseason, there were questions about whether the Blues could mesh their physical style of play with the skill level that was returning to the lineup in the form of Paul Kariya and Erik Johnson. Though it's not being suggested that the Blues are worse off with Kariya, who is the team's co-leader in goals with four, and Johnson, who leads in assists with seven, it's fair to say the on-ice chemistry has not blended as well as expected.
"I don't know if it's been used a lot in our room, but I think we've got to get back to what we were doing without them," Blues center Jay McClement said. "I don't think we can expect to be better just because we've added those types of players. We still have to do all the things we had to do to be successful last year."
The Blues would like to believe that they're on the verge of playing well and that two recent shutout losses are the result of trying too hard. The team had 32 shots in Thursday's 2-0 loss to Phoenix and a season-high 34 in a 4-0 loss to Florida.
"That's 66 bids at goals and we get zero out of it," Backes said. "There's a lot of guys in here maybe trying to do too much, trying to complicate the game too much, myself included."
"I think more than anything," McClement said, "it's individual games ... every guy, their individual game has got to be better. That's going to make our team game better."
Difficult practices are promised today and Wednesday before the Flames come to town.
"If we're going to spend (the next few) days beating the (tar) out of each other in practice, and we need to get rowdy and at each other's throats, by all means, I'm willing to do it," Backes said. "If we're going to shoot 1,000 pucks each at our goalies until they're black and blue — I don't want that for our goaltending because that's been the best part of our game — but if that's what it takes, I'm willing to do that.
"Coaches are trying as hard as they can, and we're working to get our game going. We're working together here."
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