Blues plan to begin comeback against Predators in Game 5
Trailing series 3-1, aiming to be 'great hockey team'by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The mandate for the St. Louis Blues is simple.
Right wing Scottie Upshall delivered the blueprint Wednesday, about 13 hours after a painful 2-1 loss against the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Second Round on Tuesday that has the Blues facing elimination for the first time this postseason.
The Predators, the lowest seed in the West, lead the best-of-7 series 3-1. With one more win, they will advance to the conference final for the first time.
Game 5 is Friday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
"This is a moment for us to rise up and be better, all raise the bar, and be a great hockey team," said Upshall, who has played 52 Stanley Cup Playoff games and been in a conference final three times but has yet to reach the Stanley Cup Final. "We have to be a great hockey team Friday."
From where will that greatness come? Every Blues player, Upshall said.
He has been around hockey long enough, breaking into the League with the Predators during the 2002-03 season, to understand that the odds of winning three straight games are low. To him, it is not the percentage that's important, it is the possibility. Forget the past, he said, and make the present better.
"It is not going to be one person, not two people," he said. "It's going to be everyone creating our own experience with this."
That process began Wednesday at the practice facility with some quick meetings and an optional skate. Coach Mike Yeo said he wanted to get his players together and put Game 4 in the past.
"To be playing hockey at this time of the year is a real good thing," he said. "All we have to do is get excited and get prepared for one game right now."
How can they turn that one game Friday, a win-or-else scenario, into two, and perhaps three games?
Here are five things the Blues must do:
Nashville has trailed for 3:51 in this series, and that was for the final stretch of Game 2, a come-from-behind 3-2 victory for the Blues. The Predators have led for 124:43 of the 240 minutes played and have been tied for the other 111:26. They have not had to chase the game.
"We've put a little bit of pressure on them at times but we haven't been able to get up two and see how they react and see the way they face adversity," Upshall said.
Video: STL@CAR: Upshall scores a beautiful shorthanded goal
Eliminate high heat
Nashville has played its forwards up high throughout the series, putting the St. Louis defensemen under pressure and taking away the defenseman-to-defenseman pass that is part of their offensive-zone game plan.
"It's one of those things where we have to put [the puck] down low because if they're going out hard like that, it's tough to get a shot lane," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "You want to make sure you keep the puck alive."
Toe the line
The Blues want to be physical, but they can't be retaliatory. They took a penalty of aggression during a scrum in Game 4 and paid for it when Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis scored the game's first goal on the ensuing power play.
"We know we have to be disciplined, but for me, the competitive level of our team last game, that was really good," Yeo said. "Obviously, there is a like you don't want to cross but you want to get as close as you can."
Video: STL@NSH, Gm4: Ellis cleans up rebound for PPG
The Blues can talk about how close this series has been; Nashville has never had more than a two-goal lead and the Blues have been tied or within a goal for all but 42:51. But St. Louis hasn't been good enough. Yeo must consider every option and he plans to do just that.
"Obviously as a staff, we can't just ask the players to be better; we have to look at what we can do and see if there's something different that we can try, whether it's personnel or tactically," Yeo said.
Nothing the Blues do tactically will matter if the players don't believe there is a way out of this predicament. Mental toughness will be the key if this comeback is to happen.
That mindset appears to be there, judging by the comments from Upshall.
"We're focused on being the better team come Friday," he said, "being a team that Nashville hasn't seen play yet because I still think we have another level."