It was a much gloomier day at St. Louis Mills a week ago, or the morning after the Blues played arguably one of their worst games in recent memory in losing 7-4 to Columbus.
The Grim Reaper seemed to be hovering over that Friday’s practice, and head coach Mike Yeo in particular. But one thing he (Yeo, not the Reaper) and his players agreed on was it would take more than a day to pull themselves out of that early-season pit.
“Whatever you want to call it,” Yeo said at the time. “Shock to the system, the low point, but something that we can rally around and come together as a group. Obviously, there’s a few things we identified that we’re going to keep in the room, but we’ve got to play a better game.”
And they did the next night, dispatching the visiting Blackhawks 7-3 in a game Yeo and his team desperately needed. Fast forward a week and another win later, and glasses are starting to be half-full again, although there were no party balloons present after this Friday’s optional skate following Thursday’s 5-3 win over Vegas.
“Obviously (last week), there was a little bit of disappointment and frustration, but still, there was zero lack of belief that we would get there,” Yeo said. “A little disappointed that maybe it was taking a little bit longer than what we would have wanted, but at that point we were still believing in the group and believing in the players and the character that we have.”
Following the Columbus loss, Yeo spoke of getting 20 guys on the same page and playing solid shifts through an entire game. There have been slip-ups here and there since, but the message seems to have been received.
Whether the team can carry the momentum into this weekend’s matchup with Minnesota remains to be seen, but Yeo is happy with a week containing two wins and solid skates in between.
“I think that when you look at (the Chicago game), what I was happy with…We won a game and then we came back to the rink and we were ready to put the work in again,” Yeo said. “That’s what’s going to be needed again tomorrow.
“Just because we feel good today certainly doesn’t mean that that gives you a better the game tomorrow. We’re playing against a tough opponent and I think that if there’s anything that’s going for us right now, it’s our recognition of how hard we’ve been working and how we’ve got everybody on board and that’s what we’re going to have to continue with,” he added.
‘Jake stood tall’
Yes, it’s only two games, but there have been encouraging signs in both, namely Jake Allen netting two wins despite leaving Saturday early with an injury. At times Thursday, he looked as solid as he has all season, stoning a late Golden Knights attack and ending with 31 saves on 34 shots faced.
“I thought that (Vegas) had a push in the third period. We gave up a few too many chances and some of those were on special teams, but Jake stood tall,” Yeo said.
A solid Allen performance was huge for a team trying to continue a season bounce-back, especially considering he was questionable throughout the week after last Saturday’s nasty collision. The tender’s 4-2-3 record on a 3.88 GAA and .878 save percentage is far from sexy, but hopefully Thursday marks an Allen resurgence.
So, eight days removed from admitting his job should be in question, Mike Yeo got to express some deserved optimism for his goalie and skaters, with the obvious caveat the hard work must continue.
“It’s good to see some rewards getting given out, whether it’s wins for Jake or goals for guys and just wins for the collective group,” Yeo said. “But I think the biggest thing is just continuing to reaffirm that when we play a certain way…what happens for everybody at the end of that.”
Stay connected to 101 ESPN for plenty of Blues coverage and analysis throughout the season.