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Blues know they must be better in Game 2

St. Louis coach Hitchcock: 'We've got a whole other gear in us, execution-wise'

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- The good news for the St. Louis Blues is they lead the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks 1-0. 

But in order for the Blues to continue to progress and advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970, they know they have to be better, and they feel they have more to give.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Tuesday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"We've got a whole other gear in us, execution-wise," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Monday. "Same debris left over from Game 7 [against] Chicago back into Game 1 vs. Dallas, same debris. We got through it though, so there's a good feeling that we won a hockey where we were not close to our best. 

"We know we've got a whole other level in us and we know we can meet that level. Guys are excited today to put a much better game out there [Tuesday]. 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 [Tuesday]."

Video: SJS@STL, Gm1: Elliott denies the Sharks on a rush

The Blues felt they played well in the first period and the first 15 minutes of the third, but they relied heavily on goalie Brian Elliott, who made 31 saves, in a second period predominantly spent in their zone. However, it was a game they somehow managed to get a lead in thanks to a turnover and ensuing Jori Lehtera goal, which turned out to be the game-winner.

"I think [Sunday] night was probably one of the worst we played this playoffs," Blues forward Patrik Berglund said. "We had a really hard time to exit the zone in our own end to get on offense. Obviously 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. [Elliott] obviously, again, came up big for us."

The series against the Sharks is a whole new element than what the Blues faced in the first two rounds against the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars, two teams predicated on using speed without all the size and strength.

"Yeah, they're a pretty structured team," Blues forward Jaden Schwartz said of the Sharks, who outshot the Blues 32-23. "Big bodies that can take away time and space. That's something that obviously they're focused on. We kind of knew coming in it was going to be a battle in front of both nets, through the neutral zone. Some adjustments need to be made. But it was nothing that we weren't prepared for. We had a feeling for how they play, some of the personnel that they have. We'll probably see a little bit more intensity [Tuesday], and that will ramp up a bit as the series goes on."

Video: SJS@STL, Gm1: Lehtera picks off pass, lights the lamp

The Blues outhit the Sharks 28-14, but one can expect those numbers to be increased in Game 2 and throughout the series. St. Louis must improve in the faceoff dot, where San Jose won 40 of 70 draws (57 percent).

"I don't think our players played in a harder game than there was [Sunday] from a compete on the puck side of things," Hitchcock said. "That was the hardest game we've played in ... we haven't played in a game like that. We played against Chicago, we played against Dallas. There was a lot of flow, there was a lot of speed in the game, there was a lot of quickness in the game. [Sunday], there was a lot of board play, a ton of board play, a ton of battles. I found watching our players, it was exhausting. If that's what the games are going to be like, these are going to be physically demanding."

However, the Blues know they can do better, which gives them comfort after winning a game without their best effort. 

"I think just the fact that we won it, we got a whole lot more to give, I think that's a big positive thing that we can bring on," Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson said. "Everyone knows this was kind of like a heavyweight fight, Round 1, just jabbing a little bit. Now we know how they play. We'll make some adjustments and off we go. But we got that positive feeling. We got a whole lot more to give and we're up 1-0."

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