Cam Tucker

‘We needed to jolt ourselves into playing a lot harder’: Hitch goes back to Allen in Game 5

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The St. Louis Blues will once again turn to Jake Allen in goal for a pivotal Game 5 in the Western Conference Final, Ken Hitchcock confirmed Sunday.

Allen made his first start of these playoffs on Saturday in Game 4, conceding three third-period goals but ultimately making 31 stops as the Blues, courtesy of a sudden offensive outburst, evened the series at two games apiece heading back to St. Louis.

The move to switch goalies was made to spark the Blues, according to the comments from Hitchcock. It wasn’t a reflection on how Brian Elliott had been playing in these playoffs — posting a .925 save percentage.

“What I was trying to explain to people, you need a good goalie. We had a really good goalie playing, but we were relying on the good goalie all the time. We weren’t playing for Ells. We were relying on him. There’s a big difference,” Hitchcock told reporters.

“(Elliott) was standing on his head and we were giving up too many quality scoring chances, too many easy chances, too many odd-man rushes. We were getting comfortable thinking that, in my opinion, the goalie could stop everything.

“We just needed to compete a lot harder for whoever was in goal. That was why I made the change. Had nothing to do with Brian. His play has been unbelievable since the start of playoffs. In my opinion, we needed to jolt ourselves into playing a lot harder for who was in the net.”

Hitchcock later added he’s “comfortable with either guy,” but said he made the decision after consulting with the coaching staff.

Game 5 goes Monday in St. Louis.

Blues’ Brouwer is enjoying the best post-season of his career

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Troy Brouwer #36 of the St. Louis Blues looks on against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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At the age of 30, Troy Brouwer is setting new career highs in the playoffs.

In the Blues’ 6-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, tying the Western Conference Final at two games apiece, Brouwer scored twice and is up to seven goals altogether in these playoffs.

He had scored a total of seven goals in his previous 78 career playoff games. His greatest point total in a single post-season before 2016? Eight points, back in 2009-10 when he was with the Chicago Blackhawks.

“Coming into this playoffs, I had a lot of expectations on me this year,” Brouwer, who the Blues acquired last summer in a trade with T.J. Oshie, told reporters following Saturday’s win.

“With what (Blues GM Doug Armstrong) expected from me when he traded for me, telling me that my season was going to be judged on how I handled myself, how I played in the playoffs, down the stretch. When you have expectations like that on you, you want to perform your best. For me, I’ve been able to have some great responsibilities all throughout the season, earning the coaches’ and the players’ trust, being put in some really good situations for myself.”

What he’s doing in the playoffs this year could certainly gain the attention of other GMs in the summer. As per General Fanager, Brouwer is a pending UFA, in the final year of a three-year, $11 million deal.

From The Province newspaper:

Beyond the top tier of players available, though, the Canucks would be well-served to take a long, hard look at Troy Brouwer, who seemingly checks off many of the boxes on the team’s current wish list.

A North Delta native, Brouwer is a local who has his name on the Stanley Cup (with Chicago in 2010). He brings a wealth of playoff experience and has added to that this spring playing a key role helping St. Louis reach the Western Conference final.

He is a right shot right-winger. He’s big, he’s versatile, he’s durable — having missed just one game over the past five seasons — and most important, he has quietly put together an accomplished resumé as an NHL goal-scorer.

Hitch: If Blues ‘continue down this path, I like our chances’

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Needing an inspired performance — and, of course, a win — to avoid facing elimination heading back home, the St. Louis Blues delivered.

They scored six times, shedding that previous scoring drought that had started threatening their season at this juncture in the playoffs, and defeated the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 on Saturday, tying the Western Conference Final at two games apiece as it shifts back to St. Louis.

“This is a big step. This is catching our game again. We came here to win a hockey game. We did it. We got home ice back again. Now we got to bring our emotional level up,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters.

“Our players are going to hopefully bring another emotional level that they can play at. It’s when we play our best.”

Blues captain David Backes played only 5:34 of the game, his last shift coming late in the first period. Robby Fabbri was also held to fewer than 10 minutes of ice time, and only two shifts in the final period.

Hitchcock said both players “should be good to go,” but prefaced that by saying he would provide an update at a different time.

On the subject of goaltending — Hitchcock went with Jake Allen over Brian Elliott in Game 4, with Allen providing 31 saves for the win — the Blues’ bench boss said he would let reporters know on Sunday of his decision.

“For us to win, they have to be different. We have to play a lot of the way we played today if we expect to win. We played fast. We played physical. We created turnovers. We have to play like that,” said Hitchcock.

“If we do it like that, continue down this path, I like our chances. I like our chances to win. That’s the path we’ve got to continue to play on for us to be successful.”

 

Opening up a six pack: Scoring outburst helps Blues defeat Sharks to even series

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Ken Hitchcock made the interesting decision to start Jake Allen in Game 4 versus the San Jose Sharks. Goaltending, however, wasn’t the biggest issue facing the St. Louis Blues as they looked to get back into the Western Conference Final.

Scoring was a problem. A big one. The Blues had been shut out in two consecutive games prior to Saturday, as their scoring drought reached beyond 150 minutes. Another loss, and the Blues would return to St. Louis facing elimination.

Instead, they awoke offensively versus the Sharks, tying the best-of-seven series at 2-2 after a 6-3 road victory at SAP Center. Tempers flared in the final minutes, with a fight between Brenden Dillon and Carl Gunnarsson after a scrum broke out prior to a faceoff.

Allen made 31 saves for the win in his first start of the playoffs.

The offensive outburst started with Troy Brouwer beating Martin Jones on an early power play, ending the Blues’ scoring funk at 156:59.

By the midway point of the second period, St. Louis had built up a four-goal lead, with Kyle Brodziak scoring twice to chase Jones from the net.

The Sharks finally got on the board in the third period, cutting the Blues lead to three goals on three different occasions, but that was as close as they’d get.

As per NHL.com’s Time on Ice report, Blues’ captain David Backes didn’t play a single shift after the 14:46 mark of the first period. Replays showed he was involved in an awkward collision with a San Jose player along the boards.

Sullivan: Daley is ‘tough to replace’ but Penguins ‘believe’ in Maatta if he’s called into action

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Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t provide any further update on defenseman Trevor Daley, only saying he would be re-evaluated later on Saturday when the team returned to Pittsburgh.

Daley left Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final after suffering a lower-body injury, which forced Kris Letang to pick up 31:38 of ice time for the Penguins in the loss. Any potential loss of Daley could be a huge turning point in this series with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Daley has six points in 15 post-season games this year, but has also been averaging 22:08 of ice time. Only Letang, at 29:14, has played more per game for the Penguins in the playoffs.

“He’s a tough guy to replace. He’s a real good player. He’s really helped change our team since he’s come to join our team,” Sullivan told reporters of Daley.

“He’s a mobile guy. He’s got great offensive instincts. He helps us get out of our end zone. He’s a very good player. He’s not an easy guy to replace, but we’ve dealt with that all year. We’ve had a lot of guys go down, key guys, for long stretches of time.”

If Daley can’t play Game 5 on Sunday — the best-of-seven series is tied 2-2 as it returns to Pittsburgh — that could mean the return of Olli Maatta to the lineup.

Maatta has been scratched in the last three games — did he find his way into Sullivan’s doghouse? — after appearing in the series opener.

Sullivan heaped plenty of praise toward the 21-year-old blue liner, saying the Penguins “believe” in Maatta and they have “a lot of confidence in him.”

“We know, when you go this deep in the playoffs, you need your whole team, in the true sense of the word, to have success,” said Sullivan.

“So we’re fortunate to have the depth that we have at that position, and if we have to put somebody into the lineup, someone like Olli can help us win, we know that.”

As for his starting goalie for Game 5, Sullivan said he’ll make that decision Sunday.