ST. LOUIS - Vladimir Tarasenko had a good reason to miss the morning skate today.
He was at the hospital with his wife, Yana, who gave birth to their son, Aleksandr.
Don’t worry, though. Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said he expects Tarasenko to be in the lineup for tonight's Game 2 (7 p.m., NBCSN, Y98 FM).
“The priority is to be with his family and we all understand that,” Hitchcock said. “We’ll support him 100 percent on it but our assumption is he’ll be here ready for the game.”
One thing to note: Ryan Reaves scored in the game after his son arrived, and Kyle Brodziak scored in two consecutive games in March following the birth of his.
A BETTER SHOWING
On Sunday night, the Blues earned a thrilling edge-of-your-seat 2-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of their Western Conference Final matchup.
The Sharks indicated they played well but couldn’t bury their chances.
Several players said after the game that the team could be a lot better.
“We had a really hard time to exit the zone and get on offense,” Blues forward Patrik Berglund said. “Obviously it’s something we’ve got to clean up and create more chances and get down in their own end and try to wear them out that way. We for sure are spending too much time in our own end.”
“We’ve got a whole other gear in us execution-wise,” said Hitchcock, who suggested there was some debris left over from their Game 7 matchup against Dallas. “We got through it through, so there’s a good feeling that we won a hockey game where we were not close to our best.”
That’s what good teams seem to do - find ways to win even when they don’t have their A-game. But the Blues can’t rely on that too often, especially against a team as skilled as the San Jose Sharks.
Hitchcock said Monday that he came to the rink and his players had already identified what needs to be better, long before the team’s daily meeting. So, expect a better performance from the Blues tonight in Game 2. You can also likely expect more from the Sharks, who will want to avoid falling behind 2-0 in this best-of-7 series before it shifts to SAP Center in San Jose.
“Guys are excited today to put a much better game out there,” Hitchcock said Monday. “We think we’re capable of it. A few adjustments and we’ll go from there. I know every guy in that room knows we’ve got another gear we can play at and we’ll start putting that in place (for Game 2).”
Dmitrij Jaskin took Tarasenko’s spot on the top line during the morning skate, but we’d expect tonight’s lineup to remain the same.
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Patrik Berglund - Alexander Steen - David Backes
Steve Ott - Kyle Brodziak - Scottie Upshall
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Brian Elliott made 31 saves on 32 shots for his 10th playoff performance this season with at least 30 saves. Elliott is 5-0 against the Sharks in his career in the postseason with a 1.29 goals-against average and a .954 save-percentage.
With Sunday’s win, the Blues improved to 4-1 in Game 1s at home since 2013.
David Backes delivered a Blues postseason record with 11 hits in Sunday’s game. He also scored his seventh goal and 13th point of the playoffs in Game 1, matching his postseason point total from the last five playoffs combined.
The Blues killed all three San Jose power-play attempts in Game 1, snapping San Jose’s four-game power-play goal streak.
The Playoff Plaza Party for today has been cancelled due to weather. Doors to Scottrade Center open at 5:30 p.m.