(HockeyStL) -- There was no sense of panic, and morale remained high in the Blues’ locker room following Friday’s optional skate. The Blues know that they played well enough to deserve the win in game one, but know that they must move forward with the same tenacity, and style of game they played on Thursday. They are well aware that they have some areas of their game that need to be cleaned up, and as team captain David Backes emphasized, everyone needs to be on board.
As the Blues move on to game two, there will be some lineup changes, as well as some new line combinations. One thing that will stay the same is who is between the pipes.
Head coach Ken Hitchcock confirmed that Jaroslav Halak will remain in goal for game two. Halak allowed three goals on 34 shots against. His counterpart, Antti Niemi was the story of the game, stopping 40 of the 42 shots he faced. Niemi was very sharp, and is the main reason the Sharks came out with the win. Halak played well enough to deserve a win, but unfortunately, and as Hitchcock says, that’s playoff hockey for you.
As for the lineup changes, it appears that Ryan Reaves, Chris Stewart and Kent Huskins will sit for game two.
Huskins is a defensive-minded defenseman, and while that doesn’t sound like a bad characteristic, offense was lacking in the first game. Huskins was paired with young, star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who was for the most part quiet in game one. Pietrangelo is very good at moving the puck, and throwing pucks at the net to generate scoring chances. Huskins’ defense first mentality limits Pietrangelo offensively, and while this is not a shot at Kent Huskins, it is an area that will be addressed by inserting Carlo Colaiacovo into the lineup. Huskins was a bit slow in Thursday’s game, and Colaiacovo has the ability to compliment Pietrangelo’s offensive game, something Huskins is unable to do.
Colaiacovo was a liability for the Blues in the last week of the season, but it’s unfair to pass judgment on his play as he was playing with an injury that was undoubtedly bothering him. Now he is healthy, and will need to be on top of his game if he hopes to earn a permanent roster spot.
To add even more offense, Hitchcock will insert Matt D’Agostini back into the lineup for game two. Hitchcock opted to sit D’Agostini for game one, as he was clearly not 100-percent. It’s safe to assume he will still be trying to adjust to the pace of the game, but the Blues have chosen to D’Agostini over Chris Stewart. Hitchcock wants Stewart to make a bigger impact, and Stewart’s failure to do so in game one has led to his benching.
Crombeen will also be inserted into the lineup, taking Ryan Reaves’ spot. Reaves took a skate to the face in game one, but it appears that this was a coaching decision, not a medical one. Crombeen’s style of play is similar to Reaves’, so this change isn’t a major one.
The Blues will look for certain players to contribute more at both ends. Players like Vladimir Sobotka, Chris Stewart, David Perron, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Jason Arnott need to step up and find ways to help out the Blues. These players were a few that were not as noticeable as they needed to be in game one.
Game one was a chance for both teams to get a feel for what they are up against, and the Blues are looking to clean up some areas of their game that were lacking, and move on to game two.
The Blues will play game two at Scottrade Center before heading to San Jose for two. The Blues must take advantage of being on home ice for game two. How the Blues respond in game two, should be a telltale sign as to who the Blues really are as a team, and whether or not they are ready for the next level.