Thursday, May 9, 2013

Blues still confident despite facing elimination

After holding 2-0 series lead, St. Louis must
win at tough Staples Center to prolong season

LOS ANGELES -- Despite holding a 2-0 series lead, despite seeing that series lead in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs slip away and put them on the brink of elimination against the defending champs, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock professes there's fight left in his team.

"This is not over," Hitchcock said on the heels of the Blues' 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. "Somebody's got to win another hockey game. If we can raise our spirits again and go at it again like we did, I like our chances."

They're confident words from a coach whose team just dropped its third straight in the series.

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Barret Jackman (right) said the Blues still have confidence they can beat
Dwight Kings (left) and the Los Angeles Kings.
All five games between the Blues and Kings have been decided by one goal, leaving no margin for error. But it was the Blues that made the small slip-up in overtime Wednesday that led to Slava Voynov's second game-winning goal of the series when he scored eight minutes into overtime.

"Every opportunity, every goal is important here," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, whose goal with 44.1 seconds remaining Wednesday evened the score up at 2-2. "You never know what bounce is going to happen next. That's playoff hockey and we just have to keep grinding away."

Teammate Barret Jackman said nothing has surprised him in the series.

"That's exactly the way we thought it was going to be coming in," Jackman said. "We feel that both teams are very physical, skate very well and create a lot of turnovers with the forwards checking and the d-men's gaps.

"We knew it was going to be close. One goal each game, maybe a little bit more of a stretch than you thought but it's exciting hockey and now we've just got to find a way to win."

The Blues' task is daunting, to say the least. Not only have the Kings won nine straight at Staples Center, the site of Game 6 Friday at 10 p.m. ET. But the Blues have dropped seven in a row [0-6-1] in this building since March 17, 2011. But Hitchcock didn't take many negative aspects away from Wednesday's loss other than the end result.

"If we play like that again, I like our chances," Hitchcock said. "All we've got to do is win a road game to get her back here again [for Game 7 Monday night]. I like our chances, if that's the effort and that's the all-in attitude we have, I really like our chances.

"There's lots of positives ... effort, discipline, structure, whatever you want. There's lots of positives. Overtime's a crap shoot. We win a game in overtime [in Game 1], and I'm sure they're thinking they're going to win. I know to win the Cup, you've got to win most of your overtime games. But for me, the way we played, that's something that we've got to build on. If that's the type of effort ... that's all you can ask this time of year. But you need an all-in mentality. We had that. This felt very similar to Game 1, and we had an all-in mentality and dominated the game. We need to come with the same mentality for Game 6."

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Vladimir Sobotka (17) and the Blues will have their work cut out for them in
Game 6 against Jonathan Quick (right) and the Los Angeles Kings.
The Blues feel confident coming into Los Angeles knowing it lost two games [1-0 in Game 3 and 4-3 in Game 4] that they felt like could have gone their way.

"We're still positive," Jackman said. "We still feel like we have a very good team that can easily skate with L.A. We have to continue to wear them down and go into L.A. and continue to do the little things that we did [Wednesday] night and hopefully we're on top in Game 6."

If not, it'll be the second straight season the Blues will see their season come to a close against the Kings, who eliminated them in a four-game sweep in the Western Conference Semifinals a year ago.

"It's always tough going into a road rink in the playoffs," Pietrangelo said. "Look at the atmosphere that we have here. It's not quite the same in L.A. Their fans are a little bit quieter, but at the same time, it's tough to fly there and play that road game in their rink, but we thought we did a lot of good things in L.A. (in Games 3 and 4). We just go there, play our game and get this thing back here on Monday."

The Blues are 0-7 in their last seven elimination games dating back to the last time they won, which was April 23, 2000 in Game 6 of the conference quarterfinals at San Jose. The Blues lost that series in seven games.

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