ST. LOUIS - Back in mid-January, things looked awfully grim for the St. Louis Blues.
The club had started the season 15-7-4 but then went 9-14-1 after that. The rough patch led to a coaching change - Ken Hitchcock was replaced after six seasons behind the bench and Mike Yeo was promoted ahead of schedule. Then, Robby Fabbri sustained a season-ending injury and the Blues traded Kevin Shattenkirk just before the trade deadline.
An appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs - which Blues fans have come to pretty much take for granted because it happens nearly every year - was suddenly in doubt.
But did the Blues roll over? Did they say "things aren't going right, so let's forget it and try again next year?"
They could have. But they didn't.
Instead, they rallied.
The club that was out of the playoff picture at one point in January climbed to a third-place finish in the Western Conference with 99 points and then eliminated the second-seeded Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs.
In Friday's Game 5 (7 p.m., NBCSN, Y98 FM), the Blues face a big challenge. They're down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series to a Nashville Predators team that swept the Chicago Blackhawks - the top seed in the West - out of the first round of the playoffs. But when the adversity was at it's strongest this season, the Blues roared back.
Video: Kerber, Strickland on storylines for Game 5
Every one in the locker room, both players and coaches, are confident they can do it again.
Here's what they were saying prior to Game 5:
"If we didn't feel like we were in the games, it's a different mood. Every game has been a one-goal game. You don't want to look at the big picture, just one game. We'll just leave it all out there and feed off the crowd when we have to. I don't think there's any mindset in here that thinks (Game 5) is going to be our last game. We're going in there to win."
"There's a lot of belief in this locker room. That's where things are going to turn around for us. We're confident in our group. We know we have another gear and that's where we have to take it to."
"Our confidence is just like during the regular season when everybody thought we were out of the playoffs. We all knew in this dressing room that we weren't. We were stumbling but we weren't out. It's the exact same attitude."
"It's one game at a time right now. You don't want to look at it as winning three games in a row. It's one of those things where you look at winning the next game, the next shift, the next period. If you're winning every shift, winning each period, things will go your way."
"We don't really worry about percentages. We' re just really focused on Game 5 and that's all we're worried about. We got a couple days to regroup and look at some things. We're just worried about Friday and we're not looking past that. We all know the importance of it."
"We're focused on being the better team come Friday, being a team that Nashville hasn't seen play yet. Because I still think we have another level. The fourth game is always the hardest to win and we realize that, and so do they. We're going to be at our best. It's going to be a good fight on Friday."
"The character and the leadership that we have on our team, we've faced adversity before. We know we have a tough hill to climb here, that we're playing against a real good team, and obviously we're aware of where we're at in the series. Our mindset is on Game 5. I think that's what did so effectively and what was a big part of our success the last part of the season. We didn't look at the hill we had to climb, who was in the lineup or out of the lineup. The guys focused on the job they had to do and we took care of the moment that was in front of us. That's what we have to do again."
Video: Yeo before Game 5 vs. Nashville