Roman Polak, Jakub Kindl, Pavel Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader

Pressing question: Can the Blues get back on track?

16 Comments

One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…

The way a team is playing when it finishes the regular season doesn’t always continue into the playoffs.

Just ask the St. Louis Blues, who finished the 2008-09 campaign on a 9-1-1 streak, only to get swept by Vancouver in the first round.

The Blues are hoping the opposite scenario will occur in 2014, given they enter the postseason on a six-game losing streak in which they’ve been shut out three times and outscored 22-5. That skid cost them first place in the Central Division, and earned them a first-round match-up with the defending champions from Chicago.

Not long ago, St. Louis was the oddsmakers’ favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Today, one has to wonder if the Blues will even win four games this postseason, let alone their first championship in franchise history.

Head coach Ken Hitchcock is counting on the return of forwards T.J. Oshie, David Backes, and Vladimir Sobotka to kick-start an offense that had no trouble scoring most of the season.

“The offense goes when you get the people that have coordinated us all year coming back in,” Hitchcock said, per the Post-Dispatch. “It’s pretty simple. This (playing with replacements) is a perfect example of ‘Try like crazy, try hard, battle away,’ but you need your best players in the lineup to be going.

“When you start dropping guys out, it’s hard to create. For us, just get the players back in, get the thing coordinated, get guys back playing with people that played with each other all year and see where it goes from there.”

Meanwhile, the Blues’ big trade-deadline acquisition, goalie Ryan Miller, is confident he can rediscover the form that convinced general manager Doug Armstrong to pay a hefty price to Buffalo, despite already having a capable netminder in Jaroslav Halak.

Miller has lost his last five starts, allowing 18 goals on 125 shots, for a save percentage of .856.

“Obviously it’s been a tough stretch as far as goals-against, but I don’t feel like I’m in a really bad place,” Miller said. “I feel like I’m in a pretty good place, honestly. I know people probably will take that and just chop it up and laugh about it, but I feel pretty good.

“I can compete. I just have to worry about battling and competing. It was going to be the same job no matter what. Once you get to the playoffs everybody’s at zeros, so compete.”

The Blues entered the NHL in 1967, meaning no current franchise has been around as long as they have without winning the Cup.

This was supposed to be the year.

It still can be.

“There’s challenges in every season,” said Miller. “We’re facing ours right now. I think it can end up a positive.”

For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.

Video: The Stars had six skaters on the ice and still didn’t cover Tarasenko on breakaway goal

1 Comment

Vladimir Tarasenko can be elusive to the opposition at five-on-five. Apparently that also applies to when the opposition has six skaters on the ice and their goalie still in the crease.

Tarasenko opened the scoring for the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 on Thursday, sneaking in behind the Stars defense for a breakaway goal on Kari Lehtonen. The Stars, by the way, had six skaters on the ice as the puck was turned over in the St. Louis zone.

Despite Dallas clearly having too many skaters, the play wasn’t blown down and Tarasenko found himself in the one-on-one situation. He made no mistake.

(Here’s a screen grab of the turnover inside the St. Louis end, leading to the breakaway. Six Dallas skaters.)

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.50.07 PM

 

WATCH LIVE: Sharks at Predators – Game 4

Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber (6) and center Colin Wilson, right, celebrate after Weber scored a goal against the San Jose Sharks during the second period in Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal playoff series Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. San Jose Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau is at left. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
AP Photo
Leave a comment

The Nashville Predators have a chance before the home crowd to even up their second-round series with the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. You can catch Game 4 between these teams on CNBC (9 p.m. ET) or the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for this game:

Ribeiro likely scratched, again, as Preds look to even series with Sharks

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

 

 

Gerard Gallant, Lindy Ruff and Barry Trotz named finalists for Jack Adams Award

4 Comments

The list of finalists for the Jack Adams Award has been released. Gerard Gallant (Florida Panthers), Lindy Ruff (Dallas Stars) and Barry Trotz (Washington Capitals) are the three nominees for the award, which goes to the head coach that “contributed the most to his team’s success.”

The winners will be announced June 22 during the 2016 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

Gallant was behind the bench for a Panthers team that included an interesting blend of youth (Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov) and experience (Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo), locked into a franchise-record 12-game winning streak and took the Atlantic Division with a 47-26-9 record — another new standard for the franchise. The Panthers’ season ended with an opening-round playoff loss to the New York Islanders.

After missing the playoffs last season, Ruff coached the Stars to top spot in the Western Conference standings with a 50-23-9 record and a team that includes top-end talent from the likes of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and John Klingberg, playing a game of speed and skill. The Stars led the league in goals for (265) and goals-for per game (3.23).

Trotz, in his second season in Washington, helped the Capitals to a Presidents’ Trophy for the 2015-16 regular season, besting the second-best team, the Stars, by 11 points. The Capitals finished the season with a record of 56-18-8, setting them up as Stanley Cup contenders when the playoffs began last month. Armed with 50-goal scorer Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals also finished second in the league in goals for (248).

This is Gallant’s first nomination for the award. Ruff and Trotz are each three-time award finalists, with Ruff winning in 2006, as per NHL.com.

Last season’s winner, Bob Hartley, was fired by the Calgary Flames earlier this week. He’s not the first Jack Adams Award winner to be dismissed from his job the following year.

WATCH LIVE: Stars at Blues – Game 4

St. Louis Blues center Kyle Brodziak, right, fights with Dallas Stars left wing Curtis McKenzie in the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals against the Dallas Stars, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in St. Louis. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)  EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER OUT; THE ALTON TELEGRAPH OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
AP Photo
Leave a comment

The St. Louis Blues can move to within one win of the Western Conference final with a victory on home ice at Scottrade Center tonight. The Dallas Stars will be hoping to send this series back to Texas all even. You can catch Game 4 between these teams on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for this game:

‘Just worried about safety of friends and family’: NHL donates $100K to Fort McMurray fire relief effort

If the Stars don’t get some better goaltending, their GM will have some explaining to do

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty