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.
With Justin Fontaine in the box for tripping, Zach Parise opened the scoring with his second of the playoffs.
Matt Cooke started the play by causing Kevin Shattenkirk to turn the puck over at the Wild blue line.
Parise then beat Blues’ starter Jake Allen from a bad angle.
It makes one wonder…
Parise is the sixth player in franchise history to score a shorthanded goal in the playoffs.
Minnesota is 2-0 in the series when scoring first.
Following Wednesday’s 6-1 whipping of Minnesota in Game 4 of their opening round series, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock had a telling quote:
“This is our game. It’s not our best game. We can play a lot better than we played today. We’ve still got things we’ve got to work on, but this is our game.
“We’re going to play this game and if it’s good enough, we’re going to put it out there, and if we win with it, great. If we don’t win with it, so be it. But this is our game.”
If Wednesday was truly indicative of the way the Blues want to play, might want to keep an eye on what Kevin Shattenkirk does moving forward.
Why? Well, Shattenkirk assisted on three of St. Louis’ six goals last night, continuing a theme that’s been present throughout this series; all told, he’s recorded helpers on seven of the Blues’ 12 goals and is currently tied with Anaheim’s Corey Perry for the playoff scoring lead.
Shattenkirk is also the first St. Louis blueliner to have six assists in a series since Hall of Famer Al MacInnis did it in 16 years ago.
Part of Shattenkirk’s Game 4 outburst came from a subtle move by Hitchcock. Hitch moved the 26-year-old back onto a defensive pairing with Carl Gunnarsson and the two fared pretty well, emerging with solid possession metrics (while allowing Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo to reunite as a pairing, which was also a boon for the Blues.)
While Shattenkirk was quick to deflect praise onto his teammates following the win, his comments said plenty about the Blues’ top talent coming through in a crucial moment.
“Our best players played well. Our whole lineup played well I think,” Shattenkirk said. “We got something from everyone tonight.”