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Blues' Brouwer releases frustration, then delivers

Forward gives St. Louis leadership, goals in all-important Game 4

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / Staff Writer

SAN JOSE -- It was not Troy Brouwer's finest moment. After he had hit yet another post in the third period of a losing effort in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, his third in two games, Brouwer headed back to the bench to vent his frustrations. He whacked his stick again and again and again, the physical act of battering an attempt to break and perhaps break through.

He knew it wasn't what he was supposed to do, the veteran brought in to help bring the St. Louis Blues from the depths of first-round losses to the heights of playoff success. But he couldn't help himself.

"A lot of guys are watching me on the team, seeing how I react," Brouwer admitted after the Blues came back to win the series-tying Game 4 against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. "It can be contagious when you get a little bit frustrated. That was something I had to push aside in my game."

He had spent some time talking with Blues assistant coach Kirk Muller, getting his head straightened out, as his team headed into Game 4. It had been difficult, hitting those three posts in two games, games where his team had not been able to score a single goal. It would have been easy to take that burden on himself, and he did.

Video: STL@SJS, Gm4: Brouwer nets gorgeous tic-tac-toe PPG

"So, wanting to score, wanting to give our team an opportunity to get back in the games was partly, well fully, for the frustration," Brouwer said. "You look back, the fact that you're getting chances, you're getting opportunities. Even though you're hitting posts, you're doing good things to get yourself in a good scoring area."

That was what he focused on in Game 4, a game he knew his team needed. It was a game where Brouwer needed to be what the Blues wanted when they acquired him in a trade with the Washington Capitals on July 2, 2015: the big-game presence, the calming influence, the mature, seasoned professional.

He was all of that, and he scored two goals, too.

Brouwer contributed two power-play goals Saturday, getting the first score for the Blues at 6:14 of the first period, ending a scoreless streak that had lasted 156:59. He added a second at 3:55 of the third period, the fifth goal for St. Louis, in the 6-3 win.

"I know they were both power-play goals, but being around the net, finding those soft areas, getting my stick on the second one for a tip, those are things I consistently need to do," Brouwer said. "Whether I'm scoring or whether we're creating chaos around the net to create more opportunities, I have to be consistent in doing those types of things."

Video: STL@SJS, Gm4: Brouwer pads the Blues' lead in the 3rd

And, more than that, he has to be the right influence on the Blues. That was one of the reasons he had been brought to St. Louis, for his experience and playoff games, for his settling effect and his knowledge of how to win.

As Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said, "I think there's a number of guys that have [been] a conscience of the team."

One of them is Brouwer.

"When they raise their emotional level, it's a good sign," Hitchcock said. "You got no other choice but to follow."

And while his teammates might have been following his display of disappointment and frustration in Game 3 on Thursday, they followed a far different display Saturday. The Blues saw Brouwer do what he, and they, needed to do to win. They were witnessing the play that comes with an extensive postseason record and a Stanley Cup ring.

"Brouw is a guy in these type of big games [who] has kept coming and showing up," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "He's showed that to us all playoffs. That's comforting for us."

It's comforting even more when Brouwer actually seems comfortable, when he is not fighting himself and his stick and his frustrations.

"Coming into the playoffs, I had a lot of expectations on me this year," Brouwer said. "With what [general manager Doug Armstrong] expected from me when he traded for me, telling me that my season was going to be judged on how I handled myself, how I played in the playoffs, down the stretch. When you have expectations like that on you, you want to perform your best.

"For me, I've been able to have some great responsibilities all throughout the season, earning the coaches' and the players' trust, being put in some really good positions for myself."

He had gotten into those positions in Games 2 and 3 and just wasn't able to convert. He expressed his frustrations, did his best to murder a hockey stick, and eventually got back to what he needs to do; to give his team a chance and to keep his sticks in one piece.

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