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Blues using 'glass half full' mentality after loss

St. Louis optimistic about extending Western Conference Final despite losing at home again

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS - The question started to trail off, as the implication became clear. The reporter pointed out that the St. Louis Blues had sustained an excellent run, through the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, the Dallas Stars in the second round, and now the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final. So, the reporter said, "Now the totality is you're 60 minutes away from this whole thing coming to a close…"

Blues captain David Backes interrupted the question.

"We're 60 minutes away from a Game 7, too," Backes said.

The glass is clearly half full for the Blues. Or at least for their captain.

And yet, the Blues are on the brink, one loss away from the end of a season in which they have silenced the doubters, likely protected coach Ken Hitchock's job and finally made it to the conference final for the first time in 15 years. They got to that point with a loss on Monday, falling 6-3 to the Sharks at Scottrade Center in Game 5, after being tied 3-3 heading into the third period.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm5: Schwartz goes short side to beat Jones

So how did they feel in these moments, not long after the seconds ticked down to zero? Was there disappointment? Frustration? Confidence?

Backes sighed a long breath out.

"Good question," he said. "We're realists, and we're down 3-2 in a series."

But he said they would put it behind them, take it out of their minds and strengthen their resolve. They would move full-force into Game 6 at SAP Center in San Jose on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET; CBC, NBCSN, TVA Sports), trying to find what they found before Game 4, a mostly dominating win. That is perhaps a bit of a salve for these Blues. It will be on the road. And that has often been the best medicine for St. Louis.

The Blues are 4-6 at Scottrade Center in the playoffs, losing two of three home games to the Sharks in this series.

"If I had the magic answer, I'd give it to you," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said when pressed on why the Blues cannot seem to win enough at home. "I'm not too sure. It's something that we really need to take a hard look at and figure out why we're doing that. That's on us players."

It's not like this was a problem in the regular season, not like it was for the Sharks. While the Sharks had 18 home wins this season, the Blues were good in their own building, going 24-13-4.

"I just think we're a little cuter at home than we are on the road," Backes said. "We just stick to an ugly, pucks-deep type of game on the road and it's effective and it just wears on teams, where here we're feeding them a little bit too much, we're in the box a little too much."

Hitchcock did not necessarily agree with part of that assessment.

"I don't think we were too cute," he said. "I don't think that was it at all. We made some puck errors under pressure. They get to play, too. Both teams played really hard today. We were the ones that made the defending mistakes that ended up in our net. I think we made a few more defending mistakes than they did, and that hurt us tonight."

Though he did agree that the penalty kill - and being in the penalty box in the first place - was probably the reason the Blues are in this position. They gave the Sharks three chances on the power play in Game 5, and the Sharks took advantage twice. They tied the game 2-2 in the second period on a Joel Ward power-play goal at 4:37 and tied it again later in the period, 3-3, at 18:33 on a Joe Pavelski power-play goal.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm5: Pavelski buries one-timer for PPG

And so they lost, again, at home.

"It's hard to describe. The pressure to win at home is greater, and so is the discouragement if you're not doing well," Hitchcock said. "Winning at home right now in the playoffs is either feast or famine. You either look like you're a million dollars, or you get frustrated at times. I think from that standpoint there's a few times we've been frustrated.

"Our expectations are high and we want to do well for the fans. Sometimes that cocktail doesn't mix very well. I mean, if we could have eliminated the errors, there was a tremendous amount of effort today, but we did make big errors, and they came back and haunted us."

That leaves the Blues in an elimination game. It is not the first time this postseason that they have faced such a game. In fact, they've already played in two of them. The difference there, though, was that those were both in Game 7, in the first round and in the second round, with the Blues needing to win a do-or-die game to move on.

This is different, slightly. But not really.

They still need to win. The pressure is still on. But the glass is still half full.

"We've still got a series here," Pietrangelo said. "It's not over. We've got a job to do: Go in there and get two points."

It's that simple.

"The realization is we win or we go home. That's just the facts of things," Backes said. "That's how much onus we need to put on playing our best game of the series."

Because if they don't, it's all over.

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