Where's the Depth?
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock confirmed he will stick with Jaroslav Halak for game two on Saturday.
Halak was good in the series opener but was asked to make fewer difficult saves than Antti Niemi at the other end. Niemi was solid and showed why he deserves more respect as a winning goaltender than he gets.
He’s very top heavy and looks twice the size as Halak.
Halak didn’t skate Friday but is fine after being tripped up by Martin Havlat in the third period. He was favoring his left leg and had a short visit with the trainer but remained in Thursday’s game.
There will be changes on Saturday as Carlo Colaiacovo will likely return to the lineup replacing Kent Huskins.
Alex Pietrangelo didn’t have the impact we’re used to seeing and some of this had to do with who was on the other side. This isn’t a knock on Huskins whose game isn’t suited to play with Pietrangelo. He’d be better off with a different partner but Hitchcock’s options are limited.
There’s no doubt Colaiacovo will need to elevate his play. His last few games were a struggle and Hitchcock revealed he was dealing with an upper body injury. Whether that played a role in his play is unclear.
The Blues want better reads from Colaiacovo and don’t want him leaving Pietrangelo in vulnerable situations. He can still be aggressive in the offensive end but he needs to be smart-aggressive. These two were good together for a long stretch during the regular season and it’s time to return to form.
The last thing Peitrangelo needs is rotating partners and someone needs to stabilize things.
Offensively I would think Matt D’Agostini returns. There are other options but he’s probably the first player to return to the lineup. Who sits remains to be seen?
Ryan Reaves didn’t play after the third period as Hitchcock was looking for combinations to win the game. He was kicked in the forehead by Marc-Edouard Vlasic during the game but is fine.
Jamie Langenbrunner saw limited action in overtime as well.
Let’s Go Inside….
The Blues played too much on the outside Thursday night. Ken Hitchcock talks about the need to pound pucks in the paint, and winning races to the net. These are the adjustments the Blues will need to make if they’re going to even up the series.
The Blues did a lot of good things in Game 1 but they failed in the above mentioned areas.
Much of this has to do with San Jose collapsing down low. There wasn’t a ton of room to attack the front of the net. “They had five goaltenders,” Hitchcock said.
The Blues may have to hit a few ankles to assist in opening up some shooting lanes. At any rate they’ll need to eventually get off the wall as San Jose has no problem letting them cycle the puck on the outside.
Where’s the Depth?
The Blues bottom six forwards need to be better plain and simple. For the most part they were outplayed by San Jose’s third and fourth lines and it proved to be a difference maker in the outcome.
Torrey Mitchell, Andrew Desjardins, Tommy Wingels, TJ Galiardi, Dominic Moore, and Daniel Winnick got the job done.
When your top line is being shutdown you need offense from other parts of your lineup. Patrik Berglund, Andy McDonald, and Alex Steen had their moments but the Blues got little help past the second line.
Ken Hitchcock wants to his bottom two lines to play harder. He wants more grit and desperation and whether he gets it could be the difference in who wins the series. Are these guys capable of getting a little dirty? Teams who advance in the playoffs have these types of players. It comes down to understanding your role and there shouldn’t be any confusion.
In fairness I thought Scotty Nichol played a hard game Thursday night.
The David Backes line did a real nice job defensively on Joe Thornton and company but there’s another gear for these three offensively. They’re good enough to produce offense and can’t just be concerned with keeping Thornton, Marleau, and Pavelski off the scoreboard.
This is what made the Blues so strong this season. Part of their success defensively had to do with how much time they spent in the offensive end of the rink.
Hitchcock wants more desperation from his role players and more sacrifice from his skilled guys. Seems like a reasonable request to me.
It comes down to just playing better hockey and getting it from all areas of the lineup. Depth was a big part of the Blues succes this year but Hithcock says it's not about what you were during the season, it's who you are today.
Overall it was a great game between two teams that don’t budge very much. It may not have been the most entertaining game to watch for those without a rooting interest but that’s the way the Blues play.
The Blues have gotten a little away from rolling all four lines. This gave them an edge during the season. It's not easy matching three lines and keeping the rythem you want on your bench.
The Blues had more scoring chances than San Jose but Hitchcock points out most of the Sharks chances came off of the Blues turning pucks over.
As good as Martin Havlat was offensively (scoring twice) Brent Burns was on the defensive side for San Jose.
More to come,
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