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Behind the Bench, Jan 15th – Junior Hockey News

Published: Tuesday, 14 Jan 2020  
By: Michael Moore


How’s it going guys? Playoffs are looming. Where is your team at? Where are you at? If you are struggling remember to keep working. I had a player tell me this week that his team seemed to be slowing down and “can't get out of our own ways sometimes”. It’s more common than you might think. Teams often will find themselves in a bit of a midseason slump (even the pros). Just try to remember that it's just a slump. Maybe your team needs to shake things up. Maybe your coach does. Try to get your line mates to change up their routine. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to get your groove back. One small adjustment can trigger the change that puts you (or your team) back on the scoresheet.

Take a look at the article Coach Littler wants for us to read this week. It highlights the process the St. Louis Blues adhere to in order to manage their way through the ebb and flow of grueling season. 


Tom Timmermann, St Louis Post Dispatch

A Stanley Cup championship such as the Blues had last season is its own reward. Anything else you pick up along the way is a nice bonus, but definitely an ancillary benefit.

Along with the hardware they got, the Blues learned a valuable lesson that has carried into this season:

“They know how to win,” Coach Craig Berube said.

That clearly has been the case this season, because time and again, the Blues have had games in which they shouldn’t have won but have prevailed, as evidenced by the fact they have the most points in the Western Conference —and the second-most in the NHL — despite being sixth in goal difference and 14th in goals scored.

Somehow, the Blues continue to find a way. Fall behind? Catching up is not a problem. In 14 of the Blues’ 23 wins this season they have trailed.

“They definitely know how to win
know that it’s character and leadership,”
 Berube said.

“They know how to hang in there and then,
when the time comes, they push and they win games.

We have 14 come-from-behind victories; that’s a lot. We’re not always going to have our best stuff and it’s important that you find ways to win those games.”

Many of the comebacks have been simple ones, with the team falling behind by one goal early. But the Blues have won four times after trailing going into the third period, and their .333 win percentage in that situation is second-best in the league.

They have a .444 winning percentage when trailing after the first period (fifth best) and their eight wins after giving up the first goal is tied for fourth best. Both those numbers are improvements over last season: last season they were at .327 when trailing after the first and were 17th when giving up the first goal.

Their 5-2 win Saturday in San Jose was the Blues’ fifth in a row, and they have trailed in four of them. In three of them, including the San Jose game, they never trailed by more than one goal. But in the recent Chicago game, they came back from three goals down to win 4-3 — the first time the team had done that in regulation in a regular-season game.

Coming from behind, of course, is a dangerous way to live because teams that are behind tend to lose a lot more than teams that are ahead.

But the Blues seem to have figured something out
for turning negatives into positives.

“I think we have confidence to let the process play out,” defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. “I think as long as there’s time left in the game, nobody’s panicking. We feel confident that if we play the way we can, in the end we’ll be able to score the goals and come back.”

And that dates to lessons learned in their rags-to-riches run last season, in which the Blues needed to find any way to win to stay alive.
“It’s a mental thing.
It’s sticking with it
and keep going.
(It’s) not getting too down
 because we’re down in a game,
just keep playing.
Things change.
 It’s just mental  more than anything.”

On Saturday, the Blues played two subpar periods. But thanks to the play of Jake Allen in net, they kept the game even until they finally found their game in the third period and won.

“That’s a good example,” Bouwmeester said. “The first two periods weren’t very good but we were still in the game. Jake made some good saves. That’s part of it. You’re not out of the games usually when your goalie keeps you in it. . . . He gave us the opportunity to come back in the game.” Forward David Perron said the team is experienced in such situations.

“I think we’re patient with the game,” he said. “We’re used to being in tight games. We mentioned going through the process last year. Even this year, there doesn’t seem to be any panic in our game. I think we stayed patient with the game and we found our legs and played better.”

The Blues have not lost in regulation in any of the 19 games this season in which they scored first, and that’s definitely the preferred way of doing business. When the Blues score first, they’re much better at controlling the tempo. That’s another way they’re better than they were at the start of last season.

“The beginning of last season seemed like we were giving games away,”
Bouwmeester said.

 “It was the opposite, we’d be up in games and then allow teams to get back in it. I think that our second half and the way things went, a lot of the same team is back, so the lessons you learned from that I think we’ve been able to hold on to. We’ve proved to ourselves if we stick with it and do all the little things and the things we should, you’re not going to guarantee you come back every time but you can make it close and give it a good run.”

The Blues are one of four teams in the league still in single digits in losses in regulation, so they’ve been able to make the most of staying in games. And Berube points to one more lesson his team has learned: what you’ve done in the past is no indication you’ll do something again just because you have.

“You have to stay with it,”

 he said.

“It’s a  day-to-day thing.
It’s a game-to-game thing.
We’ve got to stay with it,
got to be mentally tough.

We talked a lot about mental toughness last year and I think our guys have gotten a lot stronger in that area. But

you’ve got to keep going,
you’ve got to keep working on it.
 It’s a never-ending process.”

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Thank you,
Team VHC 

Author: Michael Moore
Michael is a professional hockey scout and advisor with Victorious Hockey helping North America’s top hockey prospects fulfill their ultimate playing potential.

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