The St. Louis Blues once held a 2-0 series lead over the L.A. Kings, but there has been a drastic turn of events.
The Blues, following a 3-2 overtime loss to the Kings in Game 5, are now one loss away from being eliminated in the first round of these Stanley Cup playoffs.
Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock delivered an impassioned post-game talk to the media about his team’s performance and the reality of having to go on the road into L.A. for what is now a must-win Game 6.
His comments were relayed onto Twitter by St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Jeremy Rutherford, who covers the Blues.
“It was our best effort, collectively, it was our best effort of the year. We played a hell of a hockey game,” said Hitchcock.
“If we play like that, I like our chances. If that’s the effort and that’s the all-in attitude we have, I really like our chances.
“We got a heck of an effort from everybody across the board. We had no passengers today. We had an all-in mentality.”
It wasn’t like they didn’t have their opportunities.
The St. Louis Blues, with a chance to put the defending Stanley Cup champions on the brink of elimination in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, needed two goals Saturday to beat the L.A. Kings.
Instead, the Blues got nothing. The result: a 1-0 loss to the Kings, which cuts the Blues’ lead in this best-of-seven series to 2-1.
Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick produced a 30-save shutout after placing much of the blame on himself for L.A.’s first two losses this post-season.
“I thought we were more than anything today unlucky — we were unlucky,” Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“We had a lot of chances, bang-bang plays that went through them out the other side. There are sometimes when the goalie outworks you, he out-battles you, but today, I think were were unlucky.”
The St. Louis Blues locked up the fourth seed (and at least one round of home ice advantage) on Saturday, but some couldn’t help but wonder: who’s going to start in net once the postseason begins?
Head coach Ken Hitchcock told NHL.com’s Lou Korac that Brian Elliott is the man – at least at the moment.
“He’s our goalie right now,” Hitchcock said. “He’s the guy we’re going to go with.”
The Blues faced an unusual set of circumstances last postseason, as both Elliott and Jaroslav Halak were sidelined with ailments. Hitchcock believes that Elliott, 28, was strong in the 2012 playoffs before an ear infection sent things off the rails.
“He was very good when Jaro got hurt in the playoffs and then he had the inner ear infection and didn’t really play up to par,” Hitchcock said.
With Halak and Jake Allen waiting in the wings and a tough matchup in either the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings in order, Elliott knows he needs to avoid a sub-par outing.
Tonight’s Blues-Blue Jackets matchup is a huge one for playoff jockeying in the Western Conference.
But it’s also a significant one for St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock.
Hitchcock is sitting on 599 career coaching wins, and No. 600 would put him in some pretty illustrious company.
Only 10 other bench bosses in NHL history have achieved the feat: Jacques Martin, Jacques Lemaire, Bryan Murray, Ron Wilson, Joel Quenneville, Mike Keenan, Pat Quinn, Dick Irvin, Al Arbour and Scotty Bowman, who has the record with 1,244 wins on his resume.
Of note, five of the aforementioned coaches have worked in St. Louis: Bowman, Arbour, Keenan, Quenneville and Martin.
It’s a good thing for the Blues that Brian Elliott is starting to play like 2011-12 Brian Elliott, because it doesn’t sound like Jaroslav Halak (groin) is guaranteed to be ready for the playoffs.
“Not skating, not practicing, so probably two or three weeks before we know what’s going on,” St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock said of Halak today, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen.
The playoffs are scheduled to start April 30.
Halak, 27, was also injured (ankle) for much of last year’s postseason, leaving the goaltending duties to Elliott.
For now, the Blues will once again have to rely on Elliott, with rookie Jake Allen in the backup role.