ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 3: Brian Elliott #1 of the St. Louis Blues makes a save against Antoine Roussel #21 of the Dallas Stars in Game Three of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on May 3, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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‘I want to sleep on what I’m going to do,’ says Hitchcock of Blues goalie situation for Game 7

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Brian Elliott has started every game in these playoffs for the St. Louis Blues. And, outside of Game 6 on Monday, he’s been pretty good with a .926 save percentage.

But could Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock be contemplating a change in goal for a series-deciding Game 7 between his team and the Dallas Stars? Elliott was pulled after giving up three goals on seven shots in the opening period and St. Louis lost 3-2, despite a furious comeback attempt.

Jake Allen entered into the game for the Blues.

“I want to sleep on what I’m going to do,” said Hitchcock on the subject of his starting goalie for Game 7, as per the Dallas Morning News.

Maybe he’s just being coy?

Maybe not?

Allen’s only game action in these playoffs came Monday, after the Stars had opened up a three-goal lead and chased Elliott from the net. Allen made seven saves on seven shots in 42 minutes. Yes. Seven shots. The Stars didn’t necessarily keep pushing for any offence after the opening period, as the Blues just kept charging to try to tie the game.

“He’s the ultimate pro,” said Allen of Elliott. “He’ll definitely be ready. He’s been the best player on our team the whole playoffs and he’ll be ready to go again.”

 

 

Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?

The puck shot by Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel crosses the goal line as St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (19) attempt the stop during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Dallas. The Stars won 2-1. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
AP
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The Dallas Stars only beat the St. Louis Blues by one goal (2-1) in Game 1, but the feeling is that the score was deceptively close.

Blame it on fatigue from that epic series against the Chicago Blackhawks or not; the Blues looked out of rhythm and out of breath against the hard-charging Stars.

At least they’re not in denial about that, though.

“We’re not going to beat anybody giving up 40 shots on goal,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after their Game 1 loss on Friday. “We’re not going to beat anybody giving up the scoring chances we did today.”

Hitchcock added “we’ve got to find the energy to play our game, and we’ve got to find it quickly in the next 48 hours.”

Allowing 40 shots on goal might not be that common for the Blues, yet they leaned heavily on Brian Elliott against the Blackhawks in that series.

Just look at the SOG comparison in that series and in Game 1 vs. Dallas:

Game 1: Blues – 18 SOG, Blackhawks – 35
Game 2: Blues – 31, Blackhawks – 29
Game 3: Blues – 36, Blackhawks – 46
Game 4: Blues – 20, Blackhawks – 42
Game 5: Blues – 46, Blackhawks – 35
Game 6: Blues – 28, Blachawks – 36
Game 7: Blues – 26, Blackhawks – 33

Game 1: Blues – 32, Stars – 42

Such shot comparisons make you wonder if Game 1 provided evidence of a rest advantage or if this might just be the state of affairs for the Blues (at least against two electric offenses).

One area to watch is the transition game. The Stars seemed to tear through the neutral zone while the Blues sometimes struggled to get things going.

“They’re a team that wants to play real fast up the ice and through the neutral zone,” Jay Bouwmeester said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Yeah, we didn’t do a very good job of slowing them down. A lot of their chances were off the rush. That’s what you want to take away from them.”

File that under “easier said than done.”

Hitchcock’s response to all the haters? ‘Take a day off’

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There’s no doubt that the Blues’ run of great regular seasons followed by poor playoff performances left some people skeptical about their ability to win the big game.

Some, like yours truly, were still skeptical when they jumped out to 2-0 lead in Game 7 (I wasn’t totally wrong, was I?). But in the end, St. Louis finally got over the hump.

If you had your doubts about the St. Louis Blues’ ability to win big hockey games, Ken Hitchcock has a message for you:

The players and the staff deserve a lot of credit for what went down last night. The Blues could have closed up shop a number of times in this series. There was that time they dropped a double overtime game in Game 5, the time they blew a two-goal lead in Game 6 and the time they blew a 2-0 lead in Game 7.

It also helped that they got this fortunate bounce:

Both teams always have a lot to lose in a Game 7, but in this case, it’s not a stretch to suggest that the Blues had way more at stake than the ‘Hawks did.

Think about it, what if St. Louis had lost Game 7?

They probably would’ve axed their entire coaching staff and made significant on-ice changes over the course of the summer. Names like David Backes, Troy Brouwer, Brian Elliott and Kevin Shattenkirk might have all been looking for new homes (they still could be moved).

Many will focus on how the Blackhawks are going home early, but the Blues deserve the credit. They got the job done with their backs against the wall and many of their jobs on the line.

A quick second-round exit could still lead to a ton of changes in the Blues’ organization, but now that they’ve tasted success, they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Related:

Tarasenko and Panarin share special moment in handshake line

What could Jonathan Toews have done differently?

No rift: Hitchcock loves Tarasenko’s passion for the game

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If you thought Ken Hitchcock would be upset about Vladimir Tarasenko telling him off on Saturday, guess again.

If you missed it, the Blues had a power play opportunity during the game and Tarasenko only played nine seconds on the man-advantage. As the Blues were going back to the locker room for the intermission, Hitchcock tried to explain himself to Tarasenko, but the Blues forward blew him off (top).

After the game, Hitchcock explained what happened during the sequence.

“They just came off a long shift, and they were tired,” Hitchcock said of Tarasenko’s line, per ESPN. “I was trying to cheat to get time, to give them a rest, but the referee wouldn’t let us cheat. So he wanted our players out there right away.

“That’s what happens when you’ve got a guy like that that wants to make a difference. I love it. I love it in him.”

Will St. Louis be able to overcome the mental hurdles that have popped up this year and in years past? The Blues had an opportunity to close the series out in Game 5, but Patrick Kane scored in double OT to force Game 6. In Game 6, the Blues blew a 3-1 lead and ended up losing 6-3.

“We’ve got Game 7 at home,” Hitchcock said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s the best-case scenario we could have hoped for, we could have dreamed for getting this matchup and getting home-ice advantage.”

Best-case scenario might seem like a bit of stretch, but the Blues can still make their fans forget about all the mistakes they’ve made in this opening round.

Related:

Is there a rift between Tarasenko and Hitchcock

Hitchcock on his team’s defending in Game 3: ‘We looked like the Washington Generals a few times’

St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, back, directs his team as players Steve Ott, front left, and Ryan Reaves look on against the Colorado Avalanche in the third period of an NHL hockey game on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, in Denver. The Blues won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Associated Press
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The St. Louis Blues got a much-needed win in Game 3 of their best-of-seven series against the Chicago Blackhawks, but that doesn’t mean their coach was satisfied with everything they did.

During his post-game press conference, Ken Hitchcock compared his team’s defending (at times) to the Washington Generals basketball team. That, of course, isn’t a good thing. The Generals were “famous” for losing thousands of games to the Harlem Globetrotters.

Hitchcock may have been referring to his team’s performance in the second period when they allowed the ‘Hawks to take 24 shots on goal.

Their defending may not have been up to Hitch’s standards, but they did enough to win. The Blues benefited from a hot power play and some lucky bounces. Two of St. Louis’ goals were scored on the man-advantage, including Jaden Schwartz‘s game-winner.

The Blues also got a favorable bounce when Patrik Berglund‘s shot went off Michal Rozsival, off the ice and in the net.

Game 4 goes Tuesday night in Chicago.