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Blues lament what might have been

by Louie Korac

LOS ANGELES -- Losing by one goal four times in a row makes a team wonder what went wrong. The St. Louis Blues were so close, yet so far away from dethroning the Los Angeles Kings.

The Blues again had the grit, determination, push, effort and everything that comes with winning a Stanley Cup Playoff series. But the most glaring aspect in their six-game loss to the Kings: a lack of finishing ability.

The Blues scored 10 goals in a Western Conference Quarterfinal series that was there for them, especially after winning the first two games. But the inability to score on high-end opportunities, and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick's ability to turn aside all other opportunities had the Blues thinking what more could they have done.

"I think that's probably the story of the series," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I would say for us missed opportunities. We had a lot of people play very hard ... didn't get timely goals. That's what playoffs is. Goaltending's a big part of it. I thought the best player in the series was their goalie. In the end, he made the big saves when we had the five or six close-in chances today. He made the big saves."

Patrik Berglund, who had one goal in the series, said a case in point was his breakaway opportunity on Quick in the third period with the Blues down a goal. Berglund had a chance to tie the game, only to be thwarted by Quick and fire wide on the rebound. It was the story of the series for the Blues, who got seven goals from their top nine players -- but take away Alexander Steen (three) and T.J. Oshie (two) and the Blues got next to nothing from the guys they expect to score.

"I wanted to take one step and go five-hole," Berglund said of his attempt. "I just picked up the puck pretty quick. ... I wanted to trick him a little bit and take a quick shot. He saved it, the puck was there again and I missed the net.

"I think we deserved better than this. I think we battled really hard, played really hard. We had all the chances in the world to score more goals than they did. At this time, it really stings because I think we were right there. We expected to get past this round."

The Blues were a popular pick to come out of the Western Conference and compete for a Stanley Cup this season after being eliminated by the Kings in the conference semifinals a season ago. But this step back made the plane ride back to St. Louis and the upcoming summer a long one after another failure to produce in the postseason.

"I think that's probably the story of the series. I would say for us missed opportunities. We had a lot of people play very hard ... didn't get timely goals. That's what playoffs is." -- Ken Hitchcock

This is a team that got zero goals in the six-game series from Andy McDonald, Chris Stewart, who led the Blues with 18 goals this season, and David Perron. Berglund and David Backes each had one.

"We hit a few posts, a couple that were sitting right there in the crease ... it's getting to be a broken record, but we still didn't get the job done," Backes said. "It's about winning four games to win a series. Up 2-0 and to lose four straight is pretty sour right now.

"You only get so many years in the League, you only get so many times in the playoffs to try and make a run. This team was hot going into the playoffs and added pieces at the deadline, didn't stand pat or sell or any of that. We took on some big players and we were expecting better than this. I don't know what the next step is, but right now, it's just sour."

Hitchcock, who led the Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup in 1999, said the series came down to Quick outworking the Blues' scorers.

"You can't allow the goalie to outwork you if you want to be a champion," Hitchcock said. "You're going to have to find a way. ... We can lament on missed opportunities and how hard we played ... you get opportunities like we did in Game 3 and Game 5 and tonight, you can't miss those opportunities..

"I hope when our players pause and reflect on it are really [angry] and disappointed in the opportunity that we missed here because we didn't finish. We took everything to the beach, but we didn't finish putting it in the water and that's going to be disappointing and we're going to have to live with it for the rest of the summer."

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