Are we headed to a Conference finals letdown?

Sharks1.jpgThere’s no doubt that this has been one of the most amazing hockey
playoff seasons we’ve had in a very long time. Forget the multiple Game 7
dramas, or the absolute upsets of the Penguins and the Capitals. You
could even overlook the history that was made last night in Pittsburgh,
and you would still come away thinking this has been one heck of a

The television ratings are up.

Dan Boyle’s own

Roberto Luongo’s delusion.

Joe Thornton’s redemption.

Phoenix Coyotes took the Red Wings to the brink out in the desert.

Salo’s…..well, Salo’s issue.

Ian Laperriere taking a puck to
the face for the good of his team.

The multiple players that have
returned early from injury, making a big impact (both good and bad).

of this in just the first two rounds of the playoffs, and we still have
two left to go. There’s really only one way to go from here, and that’s
to some disappointing series in the conference finals. It almost feels
inevitable. We’ve exhausted nearly every storyline imaginable thus far
in the playoffs, from improbable comebacks to Cinderella teams, to the
teams out West that we’ve all seemingly forgotten about.

Now we
have four teams remaining, who have up to this point burned an
incredible amount of energy and fought through so many injuries that a
letdown is coming. Some of these teams will likely have nothing left in
the tank and will get steamrolled by their opponent, lost in the dust on
the way to the Stanley Cup.

Whether it’s Philadelphia, who
seemingly reached into the depths of their hockey souls for one last
gasp against the Bruins, overcoming a 0-3 deficit both in the series and
in the game, or it’s the San Jose, who finally made it to this point
only to find themselves facing an angry, rabid and hungry Blackhawks

Hopefully I’m wrong, and the chances are that I’m off base.
Yet after so much greatness this season, there will come a point where
it all crashes down and we’re left with a 4-1 series win the Conference
finals before an easy sweep in the Stanley Cup finals.

Maybe it
doesn’t matter. Those West Coast teams we’ve all forgotten about?
They’ll destroy whatever team they face in the finals anyhow.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”