The St. Louis Blues’ time is now — or at least, it’s supposed to be. In theory they’re a pretty good team and we have seen a lot of evidence to support that in the regular season, but in four years they have only won one playoff series.
At this point the Blues are drawing comparisons to the San Jose Sharks of old that consistently dominated in the regular season only to come up short in the playoffs. That seems unfair to the Sharks though because in their 10-campaign playoff streak from 2004-14, they were never booted in the first round in back-to-back years. St. Louis has done it three times in a row.
So if the goal is to compete for the Stanley Cup, it seems that changes are likely on the way in St. Louis.
“I would assume so,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk told NHL.com’s Lou Korac. “Army’s (GM Doug Armstrong) not a guy who’s going to sit back and let this happen year after year.”
Whatever Armstrong does though, Shattenkirk hopes it doesn’t involve showing head coach Ken Hitchcock the door as the blueliner is convinced that the veteran bench boss with 708 wins under his belt is the right man to guide the team going forward.
Similarly, forward T.J. Oshie doesn’t think the current core of players is the problem.
“I guess if you watch the game and you don’t just look at the stat sheet, the core group has been playing some pretty good games since the playoffs,” Oshie said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford. “We’ve been doing a lot of things that Hitch has been asking us to do, and for whatever reason we haven’t gotten the goals… We just haven’t gotten the goals.”
Whatever course Armstrong decides to take, it is important to note that there’s no easy fix. The San Jose Sharks had a lot of turnover during its decade of futility and it never ended up being enough.
They weren’t happy after a Game 3 shutout loss to the Minnesota Wild. But the St. Louis Blues emphatically bounced back on Wednesday.
The series is now tied 2-2, heading back to St. Louis for Game 5 on Friday. The Blues were dominant against the Wild in Game 4, coming away with a 6-1 victory after a great start in the first period. The offensive outburst might garner most of the attention, especially when Vladimir Tarasenko scores a goal like this and goalie Devan Dubnyk gets chased from the game.
“Our scoring is a direct reflection of our checking. When we check, we score,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, as per NHL.com.
“It looks like we’ve joined the tournament now and we’re dialed in. We’ve got home-ice back, we’re dialed into our game, we’re going to be hard to play against when we’re dialed in this. Not fun to play against.”
The Wild couldn’t regroup after a slow start.
Minnesota cut the St. Louis lead to two goals early in the second period, as Jared Spurgeon converted on the power play, but any momentum gained from that was didn’t last long.
“It didn’t have the feel of the type of game that we were going to come back,” said Wild head coach Mike Yeo.
“We weren’t on it from the start, and it got worse. Normally, I think we start well but we stay with our game very strongly as far as whether we’re ahead [or] whether we’re behind, and tonight we broke that, that’s for sure.”
After allowing four goals on 16 shots on Tuesday, Blues goaltender Brian Elliott bounced back in a big way by posting a 28-save shutout in St. Louis 1-0 shootout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
It was Elliott’s fourth shutout of the season and his 20th since joining the Blues in 2011-12. That puts him in a tie with his former goaltending partner Jaroslav Halak for the franchise record.
T.J. Oshie and Vladimir Tarasenko each scored for St. Louis in the skills competition while Elliott beat Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds.
Elliott’s efforts made head coach Ken Hitchcock the fourth bench boss in NHL history to reach the 700-win mark. It was a particularly appropriate game for him to accomplish that feat as the 63-year-old bench boss coached the Philadelphia Flyers for parts of four seasons. He also was in charge of the Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets at various points in his career.
As it happens, all three of the coaches ahead of Hitchcock on the wins list are also former Blues bench bosses. Joel Quenneville (745 wins) leads the Chicago Blackhawks now, but he spent parts of his first eight seasons in charge of the Blues. Scotty Bowman (1,244) got his start with St. Louis too, running the team from the 1967-68 campaign until he was replaced by Al Arbour (782 wins) during the 1970-71 campaign. The four legends have won the Stanley Cup as a head coach a combined 16 times, but never with St. Louis.
Hitchcock hopes to become the first this year.