The End….Playoffs Rd.2 Game 4.
The Blues, coming off another nasty loss by the hands of the Los Angeles Kings in game 3, tried to turn it around in game 4, and avoid a post-season sweep.
At least they showed up. It’s something we’ve all been wanting since the disastrous first game of the series against the LA Kings. The Blues had no real defensive answer to the surging Kings offense until today. It was do-or-die, and boy, they sure tried.
The Blues did a good job getting into the Kings’ zone. They even managed some pretty good sets of consistent pressure. This was more like the Blues we’ve seen all season compared to what we have watched the past week. They had neutral zone turnovers, they kept the puck in, and had some decent rushes. Shoot, they even played some pretty good defense. So, what happened?
Nothing out of the ordinary, really. Had the Blues played like this in the previous 3 games, the outcomes would probably be different. The series, at worst, would have been 3-0 Kings, but you knew your team played the way they were supposed to play. If they played like they did today, the standings could have been in our favor. But, that is obvious hind-sight.
The most frustrating part about this Western Conference Semi-Finals Round, is that we didn’t get the Blues we saw all season, or even in the quarter-finals. For 3 games, we watched a team play small. We observed them think too much about what they were doing instead of letting their talent step-in and take over. Too much second guessing, and too many missed opportunities. It was play reminiscent of that at the beginning of the season. I don’t know if the guys just weren’t listening to Hitch or what, but it was tough to watch.
However, game 4 was different. This was close to the team we watched all season long. They may not have been as big on the hitting, but their ability to get the puck deep was a good feeling. Winning face-offs felt good too. Oh, and even though NBC got it wrong, watching Chris Stewart mercilessly pummel Jordan Nolan repeatedly in the face was my favorite part. It felt like it was all coming together, and that the Blues would be able to get this one and bring it back home to Scottrade for one more chance at giving us something to cheer for.
Sadly, that didn’t happen. The Kings, already up 3 games to none in the series, had a swagger no team could stop. They mopped the floor with Vancouver in the first round, and really put it on us in this round. They got hot at the right time, and the young team the Blues have just wasn’t enough to hold them back. Our defense, while shaky at times, held it together for the most part today, especially keeping the Kings to 2 shots in the second period, 19 total in the game. Our offense, as we’ve come to expect, just wasn’t enough, but they did manage 24 shots total, with a break-out of 13 in the second period. We didn’t win it, and it’s mostly due to how they played prior to today.
But that’s OK. The Blues have a young core. With the right mix of young, fiery players, and a few veterans that can teach and guide the young talent, you get the team we have. I say have, because even though it’s time to put on the golf cleats, the team hasn’t changed yet. While it may be inevitable for some players to leave, I have a feeling many of the faces will return, especially since Hitchcock has one more season with the Blues (hoping for more). Ken Hitchcock obviously still has the ability to coach a hockey team, it’s just a matter of whether or not he wants to continue after his contract expires next season.
So who scored? Jordan Nolan and Dustin Brown for the Kings, and Kevin Shattenkirk for the Blues in the first period. Brown had an empty netter in the final minute of the third as well for a final tally of 3-1 Kings.
Don’t be too down Blues fans. We had a wonderful season, but our younger guys just weren’t able to hold it all together during the playoffs. This was a great learning experience for the team, and they did manage some incredible feats.
Keep your heads up.