ST. LOUIS - Ten minutes into Monday’s morning skate, Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock stopped everything.
He had seen enough.
“Our zip in our pregame skate was crisp, our execution was high, so we cut it off,” Hitchcock said during his pregame press conference. “I don’t know what it was - nine, 10, 11 minutes - we’re done. That’s what you want to do. Keep it brief, keep the execution at a high level and let them play.”
The Blues are saving their energy for tonight’s Game 6 (7 p.m., NBCSN, KMOX 1120 AM), where they have an opportunity to eliminate the Dallas Stars and book a trip to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001.
In fact, the last time the Blues reached the conference final, they eliminated the Stars to get there.
But don’t hold any parties just yet. Yes, the Blues looked sharp in the morning skate, yes the Blues are very confident - but the Dallas Stars get a say and will likely bring their best game of the series tonight.
“We expect their best and obviously we’re going to bring ours and it's going to be a heck of a hockey game again,” Blues forward Alexander Steen said. “It’s no real different situation. We’ve got to win another hockey game.”
“With your backs against the wall, we’re going to get their best,” said defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. “That’s a very good hockey team and will definitely be a good test.”
In addition to being impressed with how sharp the Blues were this morning, Hitchcock said he’s confident in his team and just wants them to play their best in tonight's game.
“These teams are so close and there’s very little difference between these two teams. You just want your players to play their best,” he said. “I don’t think you can have these attitudes where you’re going to win quick because the other team gets to play too. There’s a reason both these teams are playing at this time of year. There’s a high sense of pride in both groups. We know we’re going to go the distance to win this game… I don't want to have any regrets as this thing moves along where we're looking at subpar performances. Play your best and let's count the score at the end of the day.
“I feel confident in our team,” Hitchcock added. “I feel like as good as we’ve played in this series, we’re going to get our best effort (tonight). I really feel like that.”
The Blues will make one lineup change tonight, putting Bortuzzo in for Joel Edmundson.
“Our feeling is more we need more attacking right now,” Hitchcock said. “Bortz is a guy that jumps up on the play and really attacks, plays on his toes and he’s good at joining the rush. Eddie’s more of a defending player, a stay-at-home kind of guy.”
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Patrik Berglund - Alexander Steen - David Backes
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Dmitrij Jaskin
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Kevin Shattenkirk - Robert Bortuzzo
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo combined for a +6 rating in Game 5.
Troy Brouwer has four goals in his last six games.
The Blues’ win in Game 5 gave Hitchcock his 83rd career playoff win, passing Mike Babcock and Toe Blake for ninth on the NHL’s all-time list.
The Blues have converted 10 of 36 power-play opportunities in the playoffs, which is good for a 27.8 percent success rate - the best of all remaining teams in the playoffs.
Today's Playoff Plaza Party has been cancelled due to weather. Doors to Scottrade Center will open at 5:30 p.m.
Fans can stop by Section 122 at tonight’s game to get a Fish Eye Fun photo courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.