Craig Berube stepped back and watched his St. Louis Blues practice combat drills so that he could see players handling the situation amid a seven-game loss.
Anyone looking in from the outside can spy on a team in big trouble.
Berube's Blues have lost 12 of their last 14 games and are running out of time to save their season and make it to the playoffs. Less than two years after an unlikely run to win the Stanley Cup, St. Louis has a brutal schedule on the trajectory and is climbing up to even qualify for the NHL postseason.
"We are now in a hole and we have to scratch our way out and make our way," Berube said on Tuesday. “I know this group cares, and it's not going well right now. But to get out, you have to keep believing and keep working and keep competing and sticking together. That's the only way out. "
The Blues woke up in the West Division on March 6 before this freefall began and are now five points behind the final playoff spot with 18 games to go. That's not an impossible margin to erase, but 14 of the last 18 games are against one of the top three in the West: Vegas, Colorado or Arizona.
"We have tough games and great opportunities, and it is clear that the teams that we will play here towards the end of the year are the teams that we have to go through to reach our goal," said center Tyler Bozak. "It's going to be fun. We all love playing meaningful games, and of course they mean a lot."
They've meant a lot for a while and the Blues have already lost a lot of opportunities. They were surpassed 25-8 on the seven-game skid, proof they can't get a goal or stop when they need it.
Blues have paralyzed the Blues, from playing without top defender Colton Parayko from mid-February to Monday to losing offensive striker Oskar Sundqvist and defender Carl Gunnarsson to knee injuries ending the season. But Berube still expects the leaders group and core players to lead the way out of this slump.
"That's what those guys get paid to score goals and do the right things every night," he said. "We don't get that, so it's hard to win. It's the same when I talk about the goalkeepers. You need saves, and we can't get enough."
That falls to goalkeeper Jordan Binnington, who came out of nowhere to win the cup in 2019 and was an All-Star last season. Binnington is ranked 39th in the league with an average of 2.77 goals against and 43rd with a 0.904 save percentage.
When asked what he needed to do better, Binnington said, “Make a few more saves. The same approach: prepare as best you can, concentrate and give the team a chance to win. "
Berube wants to see Binnington's swagger – and that of the entire team – again, but the 27-year-old doesn't think he ever lost it.
& # 39; I always have swagger, & # 39; Binnington said. "Sometimes I just do my job and make the saves I should make, sometimes you do more and you want to win those games 1-0, 2-0. I always want to play hard and have fun."
It's not that much fun for the Blues right now and it won't get any better if they don't find their game quickly. Some of the cast has changed, including captain Alex Pietrangelo leaving for Vegas in free agency, but this is a similar roster to whoever won the cup, so there's a belief in the dressing room that not all is lost.
“We have such a great group there, and if there is one group that is going to turn it around, this is the group that is doing it,” said Parayko. "We're going to stick together. We're going to make progress. We're going to push. … I have no doubt this is the group that needs to turn it around."