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5 Reasons: Why Blues were eliminated

Poor home record, lack of offense from Tarasenko among factors in St. Louis losing series

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- The St. Louis Blues were two wins from competing in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970. 

But after a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday, the Blues will have to wait another season to try to win the Stanley Cup for the first time.

Here are 5 reasons the Blues were eliminated:

1. INEFFECTIVE HOME PLAY

The Blues were fortunate to advance to the Western Conference Final with a 4-6 record at Scottrade Center during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That included a 1-2 record against the Sharks, and they were outscored 11-5.

"We fought real hard during the regular season to try and get home ice advantage and we were better on the road," Blues forward Troy Brouwer said. "You need to win your road games in the playoffs to have success, but you also have to have a better home record than we did."

2. INVISIBLE TARASENKO

Until Vladimir Tarasenko scored two goals in the third period of Game 6 after the outcome already was decided, the Blues' top offensive player during the regular season was held without a point.

Tarasenko had six points in the Western Conference First Round against the Chicago Blackhawks and seven points in the second round against the Dallas Stars.

But the Sharks defense pair of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun held Tarasenko in check for almost the entire series.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm2: Jones denies Tarasenko's chance

3. INABILITY TO STOP SHARKS' TOP LINE

The Blues always talk about needing their best players to be their best players, but it was the Sharks' top players who were the best of the series. Their top line of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl combined for 21 points in six games.

Pavelski had four goals and five assists, and at least one point in each game. Thornton had seven assists and at least one point in the final four games. Hertl had three goals and two assists.

The Blues line of Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny and Brouwer had strong series against the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in the first round, and the Stars' Jamie Benn in the second round. But they were unable to slow the Sharks' top line in the conference final.

4. INABILITY TO HANDLE SHARKS FORECHECK

The Sharks defeated the Blues at their own game, with physicality and checking.

The Blues often were hemmed in their zone and could not play their forechecking game in the offensive zone because of the lack of clean breakouts by their defensemen.

"They're fully logged in checking," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Sharks. "That's how you win at the end. Offense will take care of itself. If you're fully logged in to check, you're 100 percent committed to forwards working for [defensemen], everybody working for the goalie, you're going to win. It's very difficult to do. It's very demanding [but] it's what we preach since Day One in training camp. And when you get a buy-in like they have right now, it's like gold."

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm7: Thornton lays a big check on Ellis

5. PLAYING TOO MANY GAMES

The Blues were forced to play Game 7 against the Blackhawks and Stars in the first two rounds while the Sharks got past the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the first round and defeated the Nashville Predators in seven games in the second round. Those extra games the Blues had to play showed in their conditioning in the conference final.

"Not the team. We had individuals that were struggling," Hitchcock said. "Guys that were high-minutes players ... we're going to look back on a lot of things. But one of the things that hurt us energy-wise was our inability to close out when we had the opportunity. It extended the series, ended up forcing us into playing players multiple minutes and ended up really hurting us in this series overall. 

"Taking nothing away from San Jose. Their ability to check won them this series. They were committed a little bit better than us and they did a great job. Their forwards really worked and put a lot of pressure on us from the backside. Constant pressure. And had the energy to play that way. But we made some tired decisions late in games, late in periods, late in shifts that we hadn't made. I think if you're going to look at one aspect, it is our inability to close off those first two series to get the rest that San Jose got in closing off [the Kings] this early."

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