SAN JOSE - Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said he’s looking for a dramatic change in momentum in this Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks, so he’s going to make a dramatic change to the lineup.
Goalie Jake Allen will start Game 4 tonight at SAP Center in San Jose (6:15 p.m. CT, NBC, Y98 FM).
“We’ve got to change the momentum,” Hitchcock said from the team’s hotel on Friday afternoon. “(The Sharks) have been dialed in for seven games now, and if we expect to trot out just a little bit better effort and expect to see a (different result), that would be misleading. We’re going to have to change momentum in a real positive way with probably a little bit more drama to it.”
This decision is plenty dramatic.
Jake Allen last started on April 3 against the Colorado Avalanche, where he was injured and did not return after the first period. He’s played twice in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, both times in relief of Brian Elliott. In those two appearances, he hasn’t given up a goal, making nine saves in a combined 49 minutes and 57 seconds of action.
Elliott, on the other hand, has started all 17 playoff games for the Blues, going 9-8 with a 2.34 goals-against average and a .925 save-percentage.
Hitchcock said he consulted with the coaching staff and management before making the decision on Friday morning.
“We’ve had two guys all year. This might be a story for people, but inside the locker room and for us as coaches, it’s an easy decision,” Hitchcock said. “It’s easier for us than it is for other people because we’ve trusted both guys so much. Even when there were bumps, we trusted Brian. But this is a little bit different. This is change of momentum.”
The Blues, who won Game 1 in St. Louis, have lost two straight to the Sharks and need a win Saturday to avoid going down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series.
“You win championships with defense. Both teams are committed to defense,” Hitchcock said. “They’ve been a little bit better at it than us, and that’s why they’ve got the 2-1 lead… (So) we have to make a change. Everyone is on a short leash. Forwards, (defense)… this is four teams left. Give us what you got.
"Ells has run quite a distance here. We just feel like Jake's a guy that can help us change the momentum of the series.”
DIAL IT UP
The Blues gave up just 16 shots to the Sharks in Game 3, but made a few costly mistakes that resulted in goals.
Hitchcock is convinced if they can clean up those mistakes, there could be a different outcome.
“If we clean up the transition stuff and stop giving up the odd-man rushes - we’re going to really give this a go. That’s the key,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve got to clean that stuff up. Those are the ones that are burying us. They had the puck a lot in Game 1, they made errors on it and we took advantage of it. They’ve done it in (Games) 2 and 3 now. If we can clean up some of this stuff, show the players exactly what’s happening, we can become more composed and more patient in that avenue, I think we’re going to do fine.”
Hitchcock said he saw flashes of the Blues’ A-game in Game 3, so he knows his club is capable of playing it.
His players feel the same way, saying a few simple adjustments will do the trick.
“San Jose has played us well these last two games, pressured us in certain areas. We’re used to having a little bit more time and space,” Blues forward Alexander Steen said. “Moving forward, it’s a 2-1 series and we’ve got a big game coming up. Right now the focus is on adjusting our game. We’re the ones that need to adjust a little bit more than them.”
“We have to play as if our lives are on the line,” forward Kyle Brodziak added. “Nothing’s come easy so far in this series for us and I don’t think we can expect that to change. Our desperation level has to go up for sure, and we’re recognizing that as a group. Hopefully we can put our best foot forward.”
Fans can enjoy tonight’s game with other diehard fans during our Blues Bashes, which will be held tonight at Ballpark Village and HotShots in Webster Grovers (1239 S. Laclede Station Road).
FOX Sports Midwest hosts Scott Warmann and Jamie Rivers will hold a chat with fans during the first intermission on Facebook Live. Check out FOX Sports Midwest’s Facebook page to tune in.