ST. LOUIS - Two weeks ago, we wrote about how rare Game 7s had been for the Blues - just three have been played at Scottrade Center since it opened in 1994, and that includes the 3-2 win against Chicago in Game 7 on April 25.
Yet, here we are - this time in Dallas, for a Game 7 in the second consecutive playoff series. The puck drops at 7 p.m. at American Airlines Center (NBCSN, Y98 FM).
“This is what we play for, games like this, where we have the opportunity to show up on a big stage,” said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. “I think all the guys in the locker room are thinking the same thing. I expect a big effort from us.”
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, who will be coaching in his seventh career Game 7, said his players should be excited about tonight’s opportunity.
“It’s a group that’s been resilient all year, it was built through adversity. It’s a really proud group,” Hitchcock said. “I would be awful shocked if you didn’t get our A-game (tonight). If it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough, but I think you’re going to get our A-game. Our guys should be excited. This is a chance to knock off some really good hockey teams to get a chance to play in the conference finals. Our guys should be pumped up to do it.”
The Dallas Stars have never played a Game 7 at American Airlines Center - their last Game 7 appearance at home was way back in 2000 at Reunion Arena. The Blues, on the other hand, have an entire roster of players who now have at least one Game 7 appearance.
For Troy Brouwer, the Game 7 hero in the first round, it’ll be his eighth straight Game 7.
“Maybe I’m Mr. Consecutive Game 7, but not Mr. Game 7,” Brouwer said Tuesday before the team left for Dallas. “For me, it’s getting to be normal, just going straight to Game 7. It’s nice to have that experience. Obviously to be able to come out on top in the first series is going to give us a lot of confidence going into this Game 7.”
The players admit tonight will be a big challenge, especially on the road. But the Blues are 6-2 in their last eight games at American Airlines Center, and they’ve won three road games in a playoff series before - in 1999, Pierre Turgeon’s game-winning overtime goal lifted the Blues to a Game 7 win on the road in Phoenix.
“We knew it was going to be tight matchup, a tight-checking affair. It’s taking seven games once again, but that’s how close the Central Division is,” Blues captain David Backes said. “It’s a battle until somebody stops breathing almost at the end of it. Guys are prepared to do that.
“I think we’ve learned lessons over years of experiences, a lot of hard lessons,” Backes added. “We’ve got a goal on where we want to end the season and it’s not (tonight).”
Hitchcock said Brian Elliott would get the start for Game 7 tonight and called it a “no-brainer.”
Hitchcock said after Game 6 that he wanted to sleep on who his starting goalie would be, and he still didn’t have an answer Tuesday when the team boarded a flight to Dallas.
“He’s earned the right to go at it,” Hitchcock said after today’s morning skate. “He’s given us a chance to get to Game 7 again and I couldn’t think of a better opportunity for him or for us. Really a no-brainer to be honest with you, but I wanted to talk to him and make sure he’s feeling good about himself.”
The players say they feel it’s the right decision.
"[Elliott's] been the MVP of our team for the first two rounds,” Backes said. “We've given up some glorious chances that he's bailed us out on. Jake comes in (in Game 6) and does a heck of a job, but Brian Elliott's been our best player…He's been awesome for us.”
“I’ve said to you guys before, we can stand here all day and talk about how great he's been down the stretch and in the playoffs,” he said. “Everybody sees, everybody knows he's been lights-out for us.”
In 13 games this postseason, Elliott has a 2.39 goals-against average and a .926 save-percentage.
Tonight’s lineup was not revealed during the morning skate, so we’re not 100 percent certain what tonight’s lineup would look like tonight. Here’s what Hitchcock did say though about the lineup: “I know how difficult this game is going to go. It’s going to be played with a lot of emotion and a lot of intensity. I want people who are not going to spit the bit when that happens, so I’ll put those guys in.”
Tonight will be the fourth Game 7 between the Blues and Stars. The Blues are 2-1 in those games, but all three have gone to overtime.
Backes has six points in his last five games (three goals, three assists).
Fans can enjoy tonight’s game at one of our Blues Bash locations in St. Louis: Ballpark Village and HotShots Manchester (14051 Manchester Rd., Ballwin, MO 63011). Fans attending the bashes will have an opportunity to win great prizes and even possibly see Louie, Blue Crew or Blues Alumni!