St Louis Blues v Los Angeles Kings - Game Three

Blues’ coach Hitchcock says his team ‘unlucky’ in loss to Kings

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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.”

Hitchcock tabs Elliott as Blues’ playoff starter

brianelliottgetty
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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.

Hitchcock looking to join 600-win club tonight

Ken Hitchcock
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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.

Hitchcock on injured Halak: 2-3 weeks before ‘we know what’s going on’

Jaroslav Halak
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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.

Hitchcock: Allen becoming a ‘prime-time player’ for Blues

jakeallengetty
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If Ken Hitchcock’s history is any indication, St. Louis goalie Jake Allen might be on the verge of something big.

Allen, the 22-year-old rookie netminder, has taken his opportunity to move ahead of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott in the Blues’ pecking order with aplomb, going 8-1-0 with a .920 save percentage and 2.19 GAA.

The development has impressed Hitchcock, but hasn’t come as a huge surprise.

“He’s becoming a prime-time player,” Hitchcock told the Belleville News-Democrat on Tuesday. “We expected this when we drafted him and we expected this when he matured.”

The Blues took Allen in the second round (34th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the fourth goalie taken behind Chet Pickard, Thomas McCollum and Jakob Markstrom.

Hitchcock says teams can’t afford to miss on goalies selected that high (“you can’t make a mistake on those,” he said. “Those have to be prime-time players,”) and added that Allen’s situation in St. Louis reminded him of similar scenarios in Columbus and Dallas.

More, from the News-Democrat:

“This is a very similar story,” Hitchcock said. “Pascal [Leclaire] had a heck of a year the year before, a lot of shutouts, played great and then got hurt. We were thinking of playing Steve [Mason] 15 to 20 games and probably in the minors.

“Then when Passer got hurt, [Mason] ended up playing all the games.”

An injury to Dallas veteran goalie Ed Belfour gave [Marty] Turco his first chance.

“Eddie got hurt and Marty came in and played great and Marty’s career took off from there, so I’ve gone through this twice to be honest with you,” Hitchcock said. “This is very familiar ground.”

The Mason comparison is interesting because Allen could replicate some of the Columbus netminder’s success.

Mason was nominated for the Vezina and won the Calder in 2009. While Allen’s a long shot for a Vezina nod, he currently leads all rookie goalies in every significant statistical category.

Should he stay hot and carry St. Louis into the playoffs, there’s no telling what hardware will come his way.