Blues in good spot; Elliott OK; Schwartz brushes off incident; Jackman's 'O'
By LOUIE KORAC
LOS ANGELES -- If history tells the story, the Blues will win their best-of-7 series against the defending Stanley Cup champs.
But heading into Games 3 and 4 against the Los Angeles Kings on the road, the Blues know all they've done is hold serve.
By winning a pair of 2-1 games on home ice, including Thursday's win on Barret Jackman's first playoff goal of his career with 50.4 seconds, the Blues hold a 2-0 series lead. In their history, they've never lost a playoff series in such a position (10-0 lifetime) but feel there's still work to be done.
"It’s definitely going to be big," forward Jaden Schwartz said. "They’re really good on home ice (19-4-1 in the regular season). You never want to go down 3-0 in a series so they had a big push and I’m sure tomorrow is going to be even bigger. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready and we definitely want to win this game and go up 3-0 as badly as they want to make it 2-1."
It's the first time since 2002 (conference quarterfinals) that the Kings, who lost only four games in the postseason en route to their first-ever Stanley Cup, that they've trailed 0-2.
Game 3 will be at 9 p.m. local time (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
"They've obviously collected a lot of points in this building," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They play well. I don't know that they play any different, but they really build on momentum of offensive success, especially against us. Both games were kind of close and then they kind of stretched them out in the second half of the game."
The last time the Blues were here, it may have been one of the low points of the season on March 6, when the Blues led 4-1 and played arguably 40 of their best minutes of the season. They held a 4-2 lead when the game went awry in a hurry that resulted in a 6-4 defeat.
"Home and road, it doesn't really matter," winger David Perron said. "It's big and that's why we worked all year to get home ice advantage. If it goes all the way, it's going to be nice having that last game at home, but we're not there yet. All we're worrying about is playing the next game and whether it's in LA or anywhere else, last year they showed they won two games in St. Louis and then we couldn't even get one game here. We've got to try to do the same to them this year."
* Elliott OK after collision -- Blues goalie Brian Elliott momentarily gave his teammates and the Scottrade Center faithful when he went down in obvious pain in the third period when the Kings' Dustin Brown tried to gain the left edge on Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, went down and collided with the side of the net and catching Elliott in the process.
Elliott was treated by Blues trainer Ray Barile and after taking a few strides on his skates, remained in the game and went on to post his second win in the series and 13th victory in his last 15 decisions going back to April 1.
"I knew they were going to drive hard," said Elliott, who has a 0.90 goals-against average and .966 save percentage in the series. "It was just kind of a play that usually happens at this time of year. Everybody just kind of crashing the net. Definitely didn't feel good right away but I was able to continue. That's a good thing, and made a stop. Move on from there.
"You never really know (if the injury was going to be bad). You get the first shock of pain, but it's obviously just kind of skating it off there and it felt good. Nothing more to it."
Elliott's teammates were confident when they saw him skate it off.
"He came back and he was fine," Pietrangelo said. "Obviously you hold your breath there for a second. But he’s feeling pretty good today."
Elliott did find it amuzing the fans chanting his name, in a way to will his way back to the goal.
"It was kind of funny," Elliott said. "It was almost like a movie. I wanted to tell them, 'Give me some time, hold on here.' I was talking about it with Russ (Kris Russell). He said it was pretty cool. When you know you have the rink behind you, it feels pretty good."
The Blues had no issues with it, calling it a hard play.
"Uh, at first you think that and then you look at the replay, he’s just trying to make a hard play to the net," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said of Brown. "It looked like he lost an edge and went down, so you’re not going to be calling a guy out. You go hard to the net, it’s not like we’re thinking he was targeting Ells."
It does stir up old memories of when the Blues' Geoff Courtnall stormed Kings goalie Jamie Storr in the 1998 playoff series.
* Schwartz/Brown incident -- All was quiet on the incident that saw the Kings' Brown make knee-to-knee contact on the Blues' Jaden Schwartz that also saw Brown extend an elbow but not connect.
Brown, who scored the Kings' lone goal Thursday and was suspended the final two regular season games for contact to the head on Minnesota's Jason Pominville, only got a minor penalty on the play.
Schwartz brushed it off when asked about it Friday.
"I didn’t really see the highlights of it," Schwartz said. "I know he probably stuck his stick and his knee out at the same time. I didn’t see the replay, but he did get a penalty and I wasn’t hurt on the play or anything like that, so it wasn’t too, too serious. That’s going to happen in the playoffs and we got a power play out of it."
Schwartz appeared at first to be in some pain.
"A little bit at the start, but it wasn’t anything serious," he said. "It happened pretty quick, so you don’t have time to think too much. I’m not sure what happened. I saw his knee at the last second and his stick, too. So I’m not sure whether it was his knee or his stick that tripped me up."
Hitchcock wouldn't address the issue specifically. He's chimed in enough times and feels like now's the time to stay out of it.
"It's probably best that I don't comment on all the activities," Hitchcock said. "I'll leave that up to the higher ranking officials in our organization and in the league. I'm better off not commenting on that because I'm sure (the Kings) have a couple that they'd pop up that are there. That's for someone else to determine."
* Jackman ... the day after -- Not only did Jackman net the game-winner Thursday night, it was his first playoff goal. But it's no coincidence that Jackman is involved in the offense this season.
Jackman delivered three goals and added nine assists in 46 games this season. He was one off his point total of a season ago in 35 fewer games.
"It just seems like it’s coming a little bit more naturally this year," Jackman said of the offense. "Not trying to press the issue, but trying to be a part of the offense. I’m not the first guy leading the rush, but another guy that comes up and is another option. It’s kind of going my way."
Hitchcock likes his defensemen to join the rush, whether it be a guy that's offensively talented or a stay-at-home defenseman.
"I think it's just a reflection of how we play the game, where we want our defensemen very active in the rush," Hitchcock said. "If you look at a lot of (Jackman's) chances, he got them on rush attack chances. He's always been a smart player, but he's always been kind of those stay-at-home defending defensemen. Well, that's not the way we play. Our defensemen have to be active players and he's been able to activate and join the rush at times. A lot of his points have (been) gotten where he joins the rush and got odd-man rushes because of it and that's the type of attitude we need."
And on the goal Thursday night, Jackman was asked if there was the tendency to join the rush instinctively.
"I was trying to read the situation and saw that I had an opportunity to make an odd-man rush without jumping by too many of their guys and putting us out defensively," he said. "I was still the third guy high in the zone. If something happened, I could still get back. It just so happened that Stew (Chris Stewart) made a great pass and I got a bit of a screen from the d-man and put it in."
Jackman was able to leave the rink late Thursday night and soak in what happened with his family.
"You go home and sit down," he said. "I’m only a few minutes from the rink, so when I got home, I just sat down, took a breath, sat with my wife and had a big smile on my face and started worrying about our next game. Enjoy the moment, but you’ve got to start looking ahead, too."
* Perron, Oshie, Berglund bond again -- The David Perron-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie unit has been an on-again, off-again trio since the three have been in the Blues organization, all as first-round draft picks.
Whether it be because of injury or because of line-shuffling, inconsistent play ... whatever the case may be. But the line has been together for both games in this playoff series, and Thursday night was the reason Hitchcock congregated the group together again.
"They were skating for support, and they were skating with the puck, so when they do that stuff, good things happen," Hitchcock said. "They were really skating with it. They skated to support each other. They weren't standing. They weren't playing the game just with their eyes. That's been probably one of the issues during the season with those guys is that they play the game too much with their eyes and not their legs, and now they're starting to use both eyes and legs and they're hard to play against when they play like this. They move their feet, they support each other, they read off each other properly, good things happen."
Perron remembers being asked about the combination in the past, quipped: "You trying to jinx us right now, because every time we talk about the line going, it gets switched around.
"I think for us, whoever we play with, I think we've shown in the past that we can adjust and hopefully, it's nice when you can get chemistry going with a few linemates. Obviously with these two guys, I think we feed off of each other pretty well. Osh has got the good reads, and I'm trying to make plays happen, same as him. Bergy's obviously a big body driving to the net and he showed that last night scoring a big (tying) goal for us."
* Pesky Perron -- Perron also has seen himself get more involved in this series, particularly with Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, who's taken more than one exception to Perron skating near the goal mouth.
But ask any player, their job is to not only beat the goaltender but distract him in any which way possible.
"I was trying to be the hashtag 'pesky Blues,'" Perron said. "It was a good game for us. I think it started kind of in the first game there just getting to the net every chance I got. Hitch talked to our line to get our feet moving probably a little more when we have the puck than when we don't and I thought we did a really good job. It was one of the first times all year I was skating forward. I wasn't thinking about what was behind me or whatever. I just knew someone would be backing me. I feel like my linemates felt the same way, so it was a good game for us overall.
"(Quick's) one of their best players. Last year, he's probably the one that made the biggest difference to get us out (of the playoffs). Just trying to get to him. He's obviously a real good goalie. Just got to do anything I can to get into his head. If I'm skating by every time and he yells at me, it means I've got to keep doing it."
Perron calls it healthy competition and it's part of the game.
"I think we're having fun out there," he said. "As long as it stays healthy like that and we're both going at each other, why not? It's the playoffs and we all want to win. They're desperate on the other side and even though we're up by two games, we don't feel like we have any advantage right now. We've just got to stay even-keeled and keep going and hopefully get the next win."