ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Blues turn the page to November and also look to turn the page on something rather unprecedented: Their first five-game losing and pointless streak under head coach Craig Berube.
It’s been a rough go since the Blues started the season with three consecutive wins. The tough stretch began with a 4-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 24, which snapped a streak of 100-plus games with at least one goal. Between that and their latest setback, a 5-1 home loss on Halloween, the Blues have been outscored 25-8 and have not led at the end of any of their last 15 periods.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong held a closed meeting with players Tuesday in what he dubs as a “reality check” with nearly 10 percent of the season schedule complete.
“We’re not in a spot we’d like to be,” said Armstrong after his meeting. “Under Craig’s tenure, losing five in a row is something new to us and not something we want to acquire a taste for.”
St. Louis is currently tied with the Vancouver Canucks for the fewest points in the Western Conference. Armstrong and Berube say, whether the results are there or not early on, morale has to improve.
“We need to make sure this is ground zero and build our way up,” said Armstrong. “What I said to the players [is] we may or may not win on Thursday, but what we need to see is a higher competitive level than what we have now. What we have to do is find a part of our game we can build [on] when things aren’t going good.”
“We’re not direct. If you’re not direct, and you’re not predictable, and you’re not hungry, and you’re not desperate out there, if you don’t want to dig in and play hard, you’re going to get beat,” said Berube after Monday’s loss. “That’s got to change.”
Perhaps an inconsistent schedule might have factored into the recent slide. St. Louis began the season later than every other NHL team, and the Blues’ eight games played are tied for fewest and four fewer than other opponents.
Still, players don’t want that, injuries or any other possible distractions to serve an excuse.
“I think Doug’s message was clear,” said Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly, who held himself accountable to a slow start with just one goal and a -11 rating. “This is unacceptable, and he’s absolutely right. We all have time to look inside, find our own way out of what’s going on. For myself especially, it’s pretty pathetic.”
The Blues are looking to recapture form that led the franchise to nine playoff rides over the last decade. St. Louis has avoided a massive roster overhaul for much of that time, and Armstrong hopes to keep the window open that led to the Blues’ first Stanley Cup just four seasons ago.
“Everyone has a term, rebuilding, retooling. Whatever a ‘re’ is, it’s [expletive],” said Armstrong. “I don’t want to be what a ‘re’ is. I want to continue what we’re doing now. And I do believe the group, but we’re not in the belief business, we’re in the winning business.”
November will be a big eye-opener as to where the Blues stand with 14 games packed into 25 days.
“Every year, there’s always going to be a time like this where it seems like everything’s going against you,” said center Robert Thomas. “We’ve found a way every year to fight through it and bounce back. So couldn’t be more confident in this team.”
“Definitely not going to be easy, but we know each other. We got to use each other to get through this and stick together,” said O’Reilly. “Sticking up for each other, having each other’s backs and such. If we do that, we’ll fight our way out of it.”
The Blues begin the new month’s slate Thursday at home against the New York Islanders.