Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Blues want to build off Game 3 loss

Despite playing well, team feels it could be 
better; no Backes update, not ruled out of Game 4

CHICAGO -- As well as the Blues played in Monday's Game 3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks to cut their playoff series lead 2-1, well is not good enough.

The Blues must be better.

They outshot the Blackhawks 34-25, won many of the small battles, played with the puck in Chicago's end of the ice and had multiple prime scoring chances. In the end, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford was the difference.

"I thought we were 80 percent in and if we're going to beat them tomorrow, we're going to have to have a stronger commitment in our game," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said from the team's hotel after the Blues took the day off. "What we did well, we have to do on a more consistent basis. The push that we gave them at the end has to be consistent from the start to the finish if we expect to beat them." 

The Blues, who played arguably one of the best games of the season without captain David Backes (upper-body injury), will get a boost when Backes, the recipient of an illegal hit to the head from Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook, returns. When that is is still up in the air.

"No update," said Hitchcock, who didn't rule out Backes for Game 4. "We'll let you know tomorrow."

The Blues did miss their captain despite a strong team game.

"Obviously 'Backs' is missed. You don't replace a player like that, but, at the same time, we've got to move forward," forward Alexander Steen said. "We have guys capable of putting the puck in the net. We've had a lot of guys score a lot of goals during the course of the season. Last game, we didn't finish. We have to finish."

"He's a big part of our team," left wing Jaden Schwartz said of Backes. "We certainly miss him. He plays in every situation. He's our captain, but we've managed to battle through injuries all year. I'm not sure how he's feeling today, but hopefully we get him back as soon as we can."

No matter how well the Blues played, the Blackhawks are back in the series now and could make it a best-of-3 with a win Wednesday.

"Yeah, because they won," Hitchcock said. "They said it. They felt like we got away with one in Game 2 and they got away with one in Game 3, so 2-1 for either team is probably where the series should be at. They said it best today when they felt like Crawford was the difference for them and a timely goal or two was the difference for us in Game 2. It is what it is, but it's who's going to move forward from here because we still have home ice advantage, which we're going to obviously need, but we've got to take advantage of it by playing better and better in a few elements of our game will give us a better chance to win the hockey game because I thought we had them had them pushed pretty hard yesterday early and late but not in the middle where we needed to build some more momentum."

"They're a team that really plays with a lot of confidence," defenseman Barret Jackman said of the Blackhawks. "Coming into this building, with 22,000 people going as nuts as they are, it definitely gets you fired up. They've got a little bit of life and we expect – especially the first five minutes (Wednesday) night – it to be pretty hectic. It's something we've got to be ready for and be able to push back in our own effort and hopefully have a pretty good start."

A more improved power play, which is 1-for-16 in the series, would help.

"Power play, obviously, and putting our scoring chances in the net," Steen said. "We had a pretty solid outing, played fairly well, but not well enough to win the game. That's the bottom line. We're not in this to play well, we're in this to win."

When asked if lineup changes were forthcoming for Game 4, Hitchcock said with a wry grin, "Tomorrow? Ah ... maybe. Maybe. We'll see."

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