HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The St. Louis Blues showed up Friday morning ready, eager and willing to be better than they were on Thursday night.
Even though there were good portions of a 3-2 double-overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, the Blues came in with the type of attitude after a tough loss that a coach wanted to see.
But with every loss at this time of year comes adjustments, and coach Ken Hitchcock said to expect them from the Blues.
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When the real fun begins for the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, there will be an extra edge to the playoff games for the cast of veterans Doug Armstrong brought in for this very purpose.
When the general manager brought in players like Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, Scott Nichol and Kent Huskins, it was with the idea that the Blues not only make the playoffs but go into a series battle-tested.
"We were brought in here -- Arny, Scotty, Husky and myself -- because we've been through this and there's a lot of guys getting their first playoff game or first five or so," said Langenbrunner, the dean of playoff experience on the Blues with 137 contests that include a pair of Stanley Cup titles. "We've been fortunate to have been through it a few times.
ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock has been alternating goalies since his arrival in November. There was a luxury to playing both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Both have played extremely well, probably better than the veteran coach expected.
Neither gave an inch, both put up impressive numbers; so how do you just go with a quick pick after the pair won the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed in a season? Both were instrumental in that team award.
That's why the decision as to who will start when the Blues open the Western Conference Quarterfinal against the San Jose Sharks Thursday, won't come down until … well, Thursday morning.
"No, not yet. I'll do that on Thursday morning," Hitchcock said Monday when asked if he had made a decision yet. "It's a great luxury to have. It's just a pain in the [butt] to talk about, to be honest with you. You've got two good guys, two guys going good. Can't really make a wrong decision. We'll just kind of play it out and see how we go."
Also, why give the Sharks advance notice? Force them to prepare for both, which is what the playoffs are all about, right? It's the element of the unknown.
But when it comes to playoff experience, the Sharks have to like the math a lot better approaching their first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. San Jose's roster boasts a combined 1,069 games of playoff experience to 486 for St. Louis. Thirteen Sharks have at least 30 games of postseason experience compared to just five Blues.
ST. LOUIS -- So many athletes in and around the Toronto area grow up and play hockey, and beginning at an early age is inevitable.
Alex Pietrangelo is no exception.
However, only a select few make it to the top of the sport. Those long odds didn't stop Pietrangelo, who grew up about 45 minutes north of Toronto in King City, Ont.
"I had the backyard rink at the house my dad [Joe] made for us," Pietrangelo said. "I don't think it really kicked in until I got drafted third overall in the  OHL draft and I thought, 'This could be a real opportunity for me and I can actually become a pro.'"
ST. LOUIS -- There would be no Presidents' Trophy, nor a top seed. The St. Louis Blues saw the news come to fruition when they landed in St. Louis following their regular-season finale, a 3-2 win against the Dallas Stars on Saturday.
But as quickly as news filtered in that the Blues would be the No. 2 seed Blues in the Western Conference, they quickly shifted focus to what's most important -- a seed is just a number and the Blues are in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which is all a team can ask for.
The first step was putting a halt to their season-high four game winless skid (0-2-2) and go into the postseason with the confident mindset that propelled the team when Ken Hitchcock took over as coach in early November.
The Blues finished the season 49-22-11, the second-most victories in franchise history (they won 51 in 1999-2000) and 109 points, two behind the Vancouver Canucks for the top spot in the League. They will face the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals beginning Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN).
The San Jose Sharks have been to the Western Conference Finals two straight seasons. With most of the core players still in place, this is the season they take the next step and claim the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
The Big Why: The Sharks boast one of the League's most dangerous offenses, led by two lines capable of dominating the opposition.
On the top line, Joe Thornton remains one of the League's premier set-up men, and he's flanked by a pair of elite scorers in Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau. Pavelski had his first 30-goal season, and Marleau went into the season's final day needing one goal to hit 30 for the sixth time in seven seasons.
There will be a narrative that dominates the discussion about the St. Louis Blues in the next few days -- that they are too inexperienced in the postseason to be a serious threat to claim the Stanley Cup.
Don't believe it.
While many of the Blues' key skaters are short on Stanley Cup Playoffs experience, there are guys on this team that have been through the postseason wars. More importantly, the Blues have the necessary components to thrive in the postseason and claim the Stanley Cup.
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