Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blues moving on from tough loss in Chicago

Team continues to look at big picture after 4-3 OT
loss; opinions haven't changed on Hossa controversial goal

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Just like death and taxes -- two things certain for all of us -- the NHL will not overturn Marian Hossa's goal from Wednesday night.

A day after feeling thwarted by, first referee Dan O'Halloran, then the league office for not overturning what was called a goal, the Blues' stance on the issue hasn't changed.

But Wednesday's 4-3 overtime loss at Chicago doesn't paint a bleak picture as far as the Blues are concerned.

In fact, it reiterates the fact that despite all the issues the Blues (37-33-11) have dealt with this season, these recent so-called "meaningless" games are the foundation for building blocks to bigger and better things the future has in store for a franchise that will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons since the lockout.

"We're showing there's no quit in this dressing room," said power forward Chris Stewart, one of the key pieces that will lead this franchise into the future. "There's a lot of guys here playing for jobs. Everyone wants to leave a lasting impression on management.

"To go into Chicago and be able to compete with the defending Stanley Cup champs and taking them to overtime, it's obviously a sign of good things to come for next year."

The Blues are 9-5-2 in their last 16 games and 5-1-2 in the last eight, so they are taking these games and using them as a springboard for next year. Building momentum over time, if you will.

"There's a lot of pride in this locker room," winger Chris Porter said. "The season's not over until Game 82. We approach every game like it's a must-win for us and we're trying to play a spoiler role if anything. Last night, we took that same approach. I thought we played pretty well."

Added Blues coach Davis Payne, "We know where we are and we know how we want to play and how we want to finish this season out. I thought for the better part of a month now, we've been sticking to that with the effort and the details and the results have showed.

"I talk to these guys every day about the foundation work that we're laying here. Last night was another decent example of that. Finding ways to close those situations out are important. If this was Game 14, we're talking about a decent road point in a building and against a team that was desperate for two points."

The Blues, whose road record leaves much to be desired at 15-20-6, finished strong by going 5-3-1 away from Scottrade Center down the stretch, winning 33 percent of their away games for the season in the last month. But Wednesday's loss was still visible after an optional skate Thursday at the team's practice facility.

Hossa's goal, according to the War Room in Toronto, deemed to have not shown conclusive evidence the puck was not in along with the fact that O'Halloran claiming Hossa got a stick on the puck after a distinct kicking motion that shot it off the right post across to the left, cut the Blues' lead in the second period to 2-1. The league also said it did not see any conclusive evidence to override O'Halloran on that notion either. So in both matters technically-speaking, they made the right calls based on O'Halloran's judgments.

"From my vantage point, it didn't look like it went in," said Porter, whose line with Alex Steen and Vladimir Sobotka was on the ice at the time. "Also, I thought Hossa had kicked it. We kind of figured as soon as it went to video review that it would be overturned. ... You just have to live with the results."

Said Payne, "If there's inconclusive video to say that the puck didn't stay out, I don't think there's conclusive video to say that it hit (Hossa's) stick (after Hossa kicked the puck).

"To me, there's a lot of gray area on that one. We know how we feel about it, but it was one of the four goals we gave up, not all of them."

The Blues, behind a 35-save effort from unrestricted free agent to-be goaltender Ty Conklin, battled and fought back from the 3-2 deficit the Blackhawks had built up. They were hoping to spoil the Hawks' postseason plans, plans that still hang in the balance despite collecting two huge points in a game that meant everything to them.

"There's a lot of character in this locker room," Porter said. "We've shown for 60 minutes that we can play with anybody. If we could clean up just a few lapses in our game where we kind of let down for three or four minutes ... but for like the last 10-15 games, everybody's been buying in. Everyone's been playing really well. I think it shows not only in the score but the way teams talk about us after games."

The Blues' season will come to an end on Saturday when they host Nashville, but one things for certain: they'll play it as if it's Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

"Saturday's going to be a huge reality check," said Stewart, who has tied a career-high for goals scored with 28. "We're going to have a sour taste in our mouths. That's one of the things you're going to have to remember towards the summer and coming into next season. You're going to remember that feeling and not to want to have that happen again.

"You look at a healthy St. Louis Blues hockey team right now, you get (David) Perron back, you get (Jaroslav) Halak healthy, you got (T.J.) Oshie healthy for a full year. We've got the great leadership here, too, with Jacks (Barret Jackman), Andy Mac (McDonald), Steener. There's a lot of good pieces to the puzzle here and a lot of good components to play winning hockey. It's going to be a bright future here for sure."

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