Blues focus on Blackhawks, not last season's exit

Tuesday, 04.22.2014 / 1:09 AM
Louie Korac  - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The St. Louis Blues' course through the first three games of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs has an eerily similar feel to the path that resulted in their early postseason exit last season.

It was Game 3 of the 2013 Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Kings. The Blues, who held a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series, carried the play and had the better chances in the game, but St. Louis found itself with a 2-1 series edge instead of a commanding 3-0 lead.

Last season, they got game-winning goals from Alexander Steen and Barret Jackman to jump out to the 2-0 series lead on Los Angeles.

Fast-forward to the 2014 playoffs. The Blues jumped out to a 2-0 series lead on the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in their Western Conference First Round series on the strength of game-winners from -- you guessed it -- Steen and Jackman.

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick did it to the Blues last season in Game 3, stopping 30 shots in a 1-0 win.

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford did it to them Monday at United Center.

The Blues felt like they were the better team Monday. They even felt like they had the better scoring chances.

But the result was similar to their opening-round Game 3 loss last season; Chicago won 2-0 behind Crawford's 34 saves and now trails St. Louis 2-1 in the best-of-7 series.

The Blues, who outshot the Blackhawks 34-25, were down 1-0 less than five minutes into the game, but they regrouped and took it to the Blackhawks in their home arena.

Similar to last season against the Kings? Well, the Blues would not have any of it for more reasons than one.

"Last year is last year and this is this year," said Steen, who had five of the team's 34 shots. "[We're a] different team and we're playing a different team. We're focused on what we're doing now, not what we've done in the past. Tonight was a good effort but not good enough."

Left wing Jaden Schwartz concurred.

"I don't really worry about last year, it's done with," Schwartz said. "The focus is on this year.

"We had a good game, a lot of chances, but both goalies played well. We've got to find a way to out-work the goalie."

Outworking the goalie is something St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock brought up often when the Blues dropped the final four games of their series to the Kings after winning Games 1 and 2. That was not the case Monday.

"He made some saves ... we saw three from our bench he made, didn't even see; just hit him," Hitchcock said of Crawford. "We've got to stay the course. If we continue to play at this pace, at this level, we're hoping that that's good enough to win the next game."

Game 4 is Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS, NBCSN, FS-MW, CSN-CH) in Chicago, and Hitchcock and the Blues believe this series will not end the same way as the one against the Kings did a season ago, despite the similarities to this point.

"They're new seasons," Hitchcock said. "I said this [Monday] morning ... when you're knocking off just a team in the League ... different animal. You're knocking off the defending champion. They're not the defending champion because they have skill, it's because they've got resolve. You're trying to beat their resolve. You're not trying to beat their skill. Everybody's got skill, and it is one helluva challenge. Sometimes you do it, and sometimes you don't, but I can tell you one thing: Every time we play like we've played, we get better as a team and better as an organization and we get closer and closer.

"They know that we're not going away easy. If we're not good enough at the end of the day, that's fine, but we're not going away in any game. This is the level we're going to play at. We get [David] Backes back in the next two or three games, we're going to even go higher, and if that isn't good enough, that's not good enough, but it has nothing to do with blowing games ... There's a certain resolve that is required to win a championship, and that team over there's got it, and we're trying to take it back from them."

Playing your best and not scoring won't produce victories though.

"Yeah, I thought we played good," Steen said. "We had power-play chances (St. Louis was 0-for-4 on Monday and 1-for-16 in the series) and our fair share of other chances. We've got to put them in the net."

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