Friday, April 22, 2016


Stastny line faced with tough defensive matchup; 
Blues looking to win all road games; quickly moving on from loss

ST. LOUIS -- Paul Stastny's line with Alexander Steen and Troy Brouwer have a combined one goal and one assist among them (by Steen in Game 4).

Offensively, it would be a huge pick-me-up of the trio can pick it up in that department, particularly Saturday night when the Blues try to close out the Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks (7 p.m.; NBC, KMOX 1120-AM) in Game 6, but that group has been given a special assignment throughout this series: shadow Jonathan Toews and anyone on his line.

And when Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, when his team was down 3-1 in the series heading into Game 5, moved Patrick Kane to the line with Toews, it made the task even tougher.

All three were near or over the 30-minute mark in the 4-3 double-overtime loss.

"I know Paul's got his hands full, and he's done a heck of a job," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's got his hands full. It's a premier player in the league and it's a hard match. I think Paul understands every drop of the puck could be the next and last drop of the puck when you play against that man. He's done a heck of a job at remaining highly competitive against a very competitive player."

The plus-minus numbers weren't great in Game 5, and they can be deceiving, but having to pay so much attention to the defensive side of the ledger has obviously taken away from the potential offensive numbers they're capable of putting up.

But when Quenneville put most of his offensive eggs in one basket on that top like that includes speedster Richard Panik, the job became tougher.

"We talked about it obviously before the game (Thursday)," Steen said. "We knew that that was going to happen. I thought for the most part, we've done a good job of containing them and keeping them to limited time and space. I think there's a couple sequences or periods within the game where they got a little too much time and space and were able to get creative again. We were able to seal that back up. I thought we were the team that took the initiative in the overtime, had more of the puck and more of the chances. It was an unfortunate bounce on Kane's game-winner). Obviously we're heading back to Chicago now."

The disparity in time on ice was something Blues fans questioned, particularly why Brouwer would play almost nine minutes (30:11 to 21:28) more total and more than a minute more in power play time (3:21 to 2:10) than Vladimir Tarasenko, who's the Blues' most lethal scoring threat.

"It depends on where the faceoff was," Hitchcock explained. "I don't really look at that. (Tarasenko) had the most shifts on the team; he had 40 shifts (actually 41). That's a lot of ice."

For the record, Steen (44) and Jaden Schwartz (43) led the Blues among forwards in shifts. Stastny and Brouwer also each had 41.

* Quickly moving on -- The difference continues to show for the Blues, who win or lose, have the ability to move on from games, as evidenced Friday when the team met with reporters at the airport prior to departing for Chicago.

With emotions running so high in a potential series-clinching game in front of their sellout crowd, some of the players were able to come back down from the emotional high of the game quickly, some needed a bit.

"It takes a glass of wine and you just focus on the next game," left wing Scottie Upshall said. "For us, we've done a great job all year of focusing on the next shift, on the next game and for us, there's no better opportunity than a Saturday night in Chicago to go in and close it out.

"Just one glass?

"Just one glass, that's all it takes," Upshall said.

Red or white?

"It's a red," Upshall added.

After a late night, or early morning, depending on how one views it, the coaching staff was back to work quickly Friday morning.

"It was good. In this business, as a coach, you've got to sleep quick," Hitchcock said. "We were back at work at 8 going at it and ready to go now.

"I don't know that anybody has an upper hand in this series, there's so much equality and everything I guess would be the best word. I said before, there's not much difference in anything. I think we would take it in a heartbeat. I think knowing that if this is the small advantage that we get to have, then it's pretty impressive. We know that neither team is in control of anything right now other than you get to play the next game."

"The emotions obviously, you're still pretty revved up afterwards, but the same type of thing," right wing Steve Ott said. "We have a task at hand. We thought it was going to be a series and a real good series and it has been. But now we're going to Chicago for a chance to continue to try to close this out."

Steen said, "It takes a bit to get the adrenaline back down, but on board with a lot of fluid again, a lot of waters, calm down and got some sleep."

* Second period lapse -- The Blues literally lost Game 5 in the final five minutes of the second period, when Artem Anisimov scored with 4:36 remaining and the killer from Artemi Panarin, who gave Chicago a 3-1 lead with 0.4 seconds remaining.

On both plays, the Blues could have avoided them from happening, but Chicago's lethal weapons made them pay.

"It was the last seven (minutes)," Hitchcock said. "We just became impatient at the puck, tried to force things, led to turnovers. When the emotions in a game get very high, that happens. We took advantage of a lot of things on them in the third because of the same thing and in the overtime because of the same thing. We were able to take advantage of a lot of issues on the ice because of that going the other way, but that seven minutes, we tried to get going with the puck a little bit too quick, turned it over because of it."

When asked if he was surprised the mistakes came from some of his best players, Hitchcock said, "I don't know that it was hiccups; it's just what happens when emotions run high. It was their players, too. It was their top guys, too. Same thing. When you've got good players playing against each other, there's no control and ebb and flow; it's chaos. You just have to play within the chaos. Both teams had their moments yesterday. It was such an emotional game, in the stands, on the ice, don't expect anything different tomorrow."

The Panarin goal which came after Jay Bouwmeester lost a board battle after the Blues won a defensive zone faceoff. It was the second time in the series the Blackhawks scored a goal in the waning seconds of the second. Duncan Keith did it in Game 2 that tied the score 1-1.

"We've unfortunately had some d-zone draws," Steen said. "They're able to stack up a little bit on those draws. We've just got to be a little bit hungrier to get those pucks out and just maintain that awareness of where everybody is on the ice and not get chasing the puck."

* Looking for 3-0 -- With wins at United Center in Games 3 and 4, the Blues will attempt to win all three road games in this series.

There's something to be said for winning three times, including once in the regular season, this month in Chicago.

"Absolutely. I think the way that we've been playing in all the games is something that we take with us," Steen said. "I don't think that's something that ... I like defensively how sound we've been. We can be a little bit more assertive or hungry in the O-zone to create a little bit more chances offensively. I think to bring with us that defensive structure that we've had throughout the series  is something we've got to look to do."

The Blues have been able to at times quiet the raucous crowd of Chicago with their play.

"We came in there with a mindset and it's about this team," Ott said. "We're not fully concerned about the Chicago Blackhawks. Yes, they're a great team, but all year, we've had to worry about ourselves and certain situations. And when you continue to worry about yourselves and face the adversity that we have for the regular season and now the playoffs, you're seeing true colors. I thought our game was very solid last night, could have easily went the other way. It didn't, but now we go into Chicago with that same type of mindset.

"... We are a different team. They know that we're a different team. We all believe and we know that we're a different team as well than we have been in the past. No different than when we were down 3-1 (in Game 5) and what happens? We come back, fight the adversity and put the game in overtime. There's never a doubt of the situation of, 'Let's just move onto the next game.' It's 'no, we're still in this.' We clawed back in. Obviously I think that this series, the team that we've seen throughout so far these five games, you're going to see the rest of the way."

And in a game that's so tightly-contested, better to be leading the series 3-2 than trailing it.

"Yeah, we find ourselves in a good spot," Upshall said. "Emotionally, we've been in a big whirlwind after last night, but we've got to focus on the task at hand going on into Chicago knowing that we're going into a big building. It'll be a great atmosphere and an opportunity for us to play our best and close out the series. We're focusing on tomorrow night and the 60 minutes that lies ahead and give it our best shot."

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