Four Scary Words: “One Minute to Play”
The Blues are leading. Things are going well. The team has worked hard and battled to get a lead late into the third period. The stadium announcer proclaims, “One minute to play”. Collectively, Blues fans everywhere hold their breath and brace for the worst. As of late, the Blues have given many fans reason to cuss out their TV or significant other as they surrender a goal late in the last minute of play. Dallas. Then Detroit. Finally against LA last night. The opponent’s net sits empty, begging for a puck to come it’s way. But no. Instead the Blues get dominated by a six-man squad that equalizes the contest before the final horn can blow.
The casual fan might look at the Dallas, Detroit and LA game and see that the Blues walked away with two points (a win in a shootout) from two of these games (DAL, LA). While this is true, they seem to forget that their opponent also walked away with a point. Seeing as each of the three teams the Blues squandered leads to late sit above the team in the standings, that point could be costly in the playoff hunt.
Let’s look at the game from last night. The Blues were clinging to a one goal lead provided by Paul Kariya, who frankly played a great game. LA pulls their netminder and suddenly the Blues look like (to use a tired cliche) a deer in headlights. As soon as that 6th man hits the ice, the Blues appear to be captivated and lulled into watching plays develop as the opponent skates circles around the defense before ultimately tying the game. Obviously, the team needs to work on defending when they are facing six skaters.
Besides the frustration (and broken remotes, kicked dogs and yelled at spouses) these games are costly. Giving up a lead late is one thing, but giving up a point to a team above you in the standings when you have a win nearly wrapped up is another. LA, Dallas and Detroit are 5th, 8th and 10th currently as compared to the Blues who sit in 12th. A win might be a win, but when you give up a point to a team above you in the process, that’s a whole other matter. Especially when the lead is lost in the last minute, you are really making an already situation tough situation that much harder on yourself.
The Blues put themselves in a decent sized hole early this season. Granted, not as deep as last season, but they do have a tough task ahead of themselves. They don’t just need wins – they needs wins in regulation. The win against LA yesterday was nice, but the Blues once again gave a team above them an extra point that they really can’t afford to give.
Moving forward, the team needs to learn how to close the clamps on a game late and most importantly, stop giving away points. This team absolutely must start closing contests out and securing two points while allowing zero if they want to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt.
What better time to start than on Monday against the 4th place Colorado Avalanche.