Thursday, April 23, 2015

Blues want to keep momentum going in pivotal Game 5

St. Louis wants to build off 6-1 thrashing of 
Minnesota in Game 4 to even best-of-7 series 2-2

ST. LOUIS -- As dominating as they were in Game 4, all the Blues did was even things up.

Yes, for one night, the Blues were the far more superior team on the ice than the Minnesota Wild, but heading into Friday's all-important Game 5 (8:30 p.m.; FS-MW, NBCSN, KYKY 98.1-FM), the Blues feel they need follow up what they were able to accomplish at Xcel Energy Center.

"Both teams' concern is the reaction to winning," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Thursday. "We played a good game in Game 2 and came back with a poor performance in Game 3, which was our concern. They won Game 3; they played great in Game 3 and they probably would have liked to have Game 4 back. It's more the reaction.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players (from left to right) Patrik Lerglund, Dmitrij Jaskin, Jay
Bouwmeester and Paul Stastny celebrate a goal scored in Game 4.

"You're putting so much into these games ... you get a win, it's almost like a relief emotionally and then to get your team cranked up and play again, it's a challenge for both coaches."

The foot on the gas mentality worked to perfection for the Blues in Game 4, and now they need to apply it with a follow-up effort in Game 5, where the Scottrade Center crowd will be boisterous and awaiting for the Blues to put together multiple, consecutive solid results in this series.

"I think we have to realize that desperation is kind of what forced us to play our best game," said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, whose three assists in Game 4 gave him seven in the series, tied for the playoff points lead with Anaheim's Corey Perry. "We have to kind of keep that in our minds and try to keep that desperation and find it in different games. It's obviously nice because we did the job we had to do last night to get home tied and it's going to be a huge game tomorrow.

"Well it's tough. There's a team in that locker room, too. If we were playing against ourselves out there, we'd be fine. They want to win this series just as much as we do. When they're playing well, they're a hard team to push out of the game. So, I think that Game 3 especially they got on top of us early. We didn't give ourselves the best chance to push back and get back on top of them. That's why we didn't really feel great about our effort in Game 3. Last night we came out with the right mindset. We have to realize that tomorrow might not be as easy for us, there's going to be some ebbs and flows and some momentum changes and we have to be ready for it. We have to realize that we have a good memory in Game 4 that we can use to get us back to how we need to play."

And that means the Blues have to check, they have to check and they have to check some more. Because the result of the checking meant the Blues possessed the puck, didn't allow the Wild to gain momentum with their transition speed and most importantly, it meant the Blues were punishing the Wild physically.

"Higher speed through the neutral zone. I thought our 'D' did a good job of finding lanes to create speed for us so we weren't coming in flat-footed," left wing Alexander Steen said. "When we did have to chip it in and get pucks behind them, it just seemed like we were hungry to try and check it back. We did a good job of either getting it back or, if they did get it out into the neutral zone or into our zone, it was still our puck to be had. 

"Prepare and do the same things again. I think the biggest change was in our checking, felt like we took away their time and space and made it really difficult for them to get in and generate anything."

And getting quick shots towards the net and net-front presence was crucial. The Blues chased goalie Devan Dubnyk after he allowed six goals on 17 shots, and the direct result was crashing the net, deflecting pucks, and the occasional Vladimir Tarasenko highlight reel goal.

"That was a pretty good effort, I thought, but you can always get better," center Paul Stastny said. "I think overall, even when we had that first two-goal lead, we kept going. I think when they scored, we didn't sit back, we kept on going and never sat back when they started picking up momentum, which was important, especially in an environment like that. We played throughout the whole 60 minutes. We could have kind of sat back in the third period, but you're playing a best-of-7 series, you want to keep that momentum and not let them gain any confidence at all."

The Blues would love a repeat performance in Game 5, but they know the Wild will respond accordingly. The Blues have to elevate their game.

"I don't know what they're going to do. They're going to play well, I don't really care. I care about us," Hitchcock said. "I want to see our structure in place again, so that's the goal, put the structure in place, put our work boots on and let's play.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Alexander Steen (right) defends against the Wild's Jared
Spurgeon during the Blues' 6-1 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday. 

"The advantage we have is we've got two home games and they've got one home game. That's all we've got. Both teams are so evenly matched, both teams have so many good players, and their good players are so significant to the success of their franchise ... I just look at it as a helluva competition and the one little advantage we got back was home ice. We've got to take advantage of that. Two games at home ... fans in the building, the whole atmosphere in the area is a pretty big deal. It's something that you want to take advantage of it can really help you momentum-wise if you get on a roll. That's what we need to do. We need to give them something to cheer about tomorrow."

The Blues are 8-12 all-time in series where they are tied 2-2 but just 1-9 in the past 10. They've lost in back-to-back seasons against Los Angeles and Chicago on home ice in Game 5 and went on to lose each series in six games.

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