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Blues need scoring spark from Tarasenko, anyone

St. Louis coach Hitchcock needs his to team to be more consistent in order to even series

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

SAN JOSE - St. Louis Blues forward Troy Brouwer had just hopped over the boards. Instead of sitting on the bench, he abused it by hitting his stick down once, twice, three times. There was less than 10 minutes left in the third period, and Brouwer had just hit a post, unable to score against the San Jose Sharks.

Nor would the rest of his teammate's breakthrough in those final 10 minutes, ultimately getting shut out for a second consecutive game, falling 3-0 to the Sharks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center on Thursday.

The Sharks lead the best-of-7 series 2-1. Game 4 is Saturday in San Jose (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

But that is only a one-game deficit, a fact that Blues coach Ken Hitchcock reminded a reporter after the game, exasperation in his voice.

"The series is 2-1," Hitchcock said. "You've got to win four games. This is nothing."

Video: STL@SJS, Gm3: Jones turns away Stastny

The greater concern is that the Blues have not played well in the first three games of this series. They have scored two goals and have been shut out in the past 150:45 spanning three games.

"We just haven't created enough quality chances to really test [Sharks goaltender Martin Jones] and make him make save after save, what we can do when we're really on our game," Blues captain David Backes said. "The result has been a couple scoreless games for us.

"It's not the way we're going to win games. We need to get back onto our method and our ways. When we do that, we're going to have success. It's 2-1 them. Park this again and find a way as a group to bind together and get out of this goal-less streak, then open up the floodgates hopefully. When we find a way to get one, probably going to be a real ugly one."

That would work. A goal would work, too.

Whether or not the Sharks did anything differently between Games 2 and 3 is something Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo isn't worried about.  

"It's tough to win when you don't score," Pietrangelo said. "We can't leave our goalies out to dry like that. It's on us now to find a way to create more offense, to find a way to score some goals."

The question is how. How do they do that? How do they solve their problem?

Video: STL@SJS, Gm3: Jones denies Backes' chance

"I think creating offense is really dangerous right now," Hitchcock said, when asked about the Blues game strategy. "That's the wrong decision. We like to score goals. We need to score goals. I think there's steps that lead to that that we have to get a bigger buy-in. The steps are what we want to talk about.

"There are things in our game that need to take place on a more consistent basis if we expect to score. That's what we're going to talk about. If we just talk about the end result, we're going to end up in the same boat."

No one has been scoring for the Blues, none of the stars of the team's first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks or the second-round series against the Dallas Stars. No one. And that includes the most notable goal scorer on the team, Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored 40 goals during the regular season.

"The thing that could help him, we can't give him, which is more experience," Hitchcock said. "Can't give it to him. He's learning some hard lessons, like any young player. Robby [Fabbri's] learning it. [Colton] Parayko is learning it. Vladi is learning it. Vladi is learning some really hard lessons. …

"As you experience this as a younger player, you're going to have to learn to fight through a lot if you expect to score. We would like him to learn that lesson a day from now, but we're not sure on the timeframe.

"Some guys never learn it. Some guys can't do it. Some guys learn that lesson and they really become accomplished players, especially scoring players. But he's going to have to fight through everything if he expects to score a goal and contribute offensively."

That might mean a goal in some games. It might mean an assist others. It might mean nothing on the scoresheet.

"He's going to have an understanding of what it takes to play at this time of year, in the Conference Final, with 100 percent commitment on the other side," Hitchcock said.

And while the Blues will attempt to accelerate Tarasenko's learning curve, there is not necessarily much they can do. He will need to figure out how to score effectively, to fight through the inexperience, to contribute. They need him. They need anyone.

It seemed as if every time the Blues got the puck into the offensive zone it was one-and-done, it was high or left or right or post. They did not have enough speed coming out of the defensive zone. They did not execute. They did not force Jones to be at his best.

They need to. They need to simplify, to use what has worked previously, to pressure the Sharks. They need more than one line, or one and a half lines, or one and occasional line, as Backes put it, to be effective.

Because, as Pietrangelo said, it's tough to win when you don't score.

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