(HockeySTL)-- The Blues’ two-game trip to Chicago is half-over, and the Note is still searching for the back-breaker win against the Blackhawks. St. Louis remains up in the series 2-1, but a win in Chicago would go a long way in defeating the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The Blues were close to earning that win on Monday, but came up short. The Blues were shut out, and a first-period “soft” goal by Jonathan Toews would be the only goal the Blackhawks would get, or need. After that goal, the Blues outplayed the Blackhawks; they just couldn’t outplay netminder Corey Crawford.
But Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock was very pleased with his club’s performance despite the loss, and says it bodes well for the team moving forward.
“Best game of the series, by far,” said Hitchcock following the game. “We played a great game. Man, we poured a lot into today. We did a lot of things well. It’s one of the best road games I’ve ever seen us play.”
The game was almost a mirror-image of last year’s postseason games in Los Angeles, where the Blues also held a 2-0 series lead going onto the road. The Blues played two of their best games under Hitchcock in L.A., but couldn’t muster a win. While Monday was a very similar situation and result, the team isn’t letting the comparison to last year bother them.
“Last year is last year,” said Blues forward Alexander Steen. “We are playing a different team. We are focused on what we are doing now, not what we have done in the past. (Monday) was a good effort, but not good enough. That’s the bottom line.”
For Hitchcock, the Blackhawks may be a different team than the Kings, but the outlook of defeating a defending champion remains the same.
“They’re new seasons,” Hitchcock said. “When you’re knocking off just a team in the league, it’s a different animal. When you are knocking off a defending champion, they’re a champion because they have resolve. You are trying to beat their resolve; you aren’t trying to beat their skill. Everybody has skill. Sometimes you do it and sometimes you don’t.”
The Blues tested the resolve of the Blackhawks on Monday, but Chicago prevailed. The team is content with that loss, understanding that they did a lot of good things and simply have to push forward. That being said, knowing they had a great chance to take a 3-0 series lead and failed to do so is not lost on the club.
“I thought we played good,” said Steen. “We had our fair share of opportunities but we had our chances and we have to put the puck in the net. We’ll take the positives away from this one. We played well, a solid game, we had our chances, but like I said, we have to put the puck in the net.”
The Blues next face the Blackhawks on Wednesday. They aren’t practicing on Tuesday, but instead taking the day off to regain some energy.
“You look, and we get another day-and-a-half off to get more energy to do the things we need to do,” said Hitchcock. “If we continue to play at this pace, this level, we are hoping that it’s good enough to win the next game”
The Blues haven’t won in regulation at the United Center since 2010, but they are confident that if they play the way they did on Monday, they can return to Scottrade Center on Friday up 3-1 and with a chance to clinch the series.
To Hitchcock, losing when the team plays this well is not an issue, because he knows that with each game, the Blues will find a way to push harder, and to get better. He finds solace in knowing that the Blackhawks now have heard the Blues’ message loud and clear; they aren’t going away easily.
“I can tell you this, every time we play like we did, we get better as a team and better as an organization, and we get one step closer,” Hitchcock said. “They know that we aren’t going away easy. If we aren’t good enough at the end of the day, that’s okay but we aren’t going away easy.”
St. Louis will have to continue to test the Blackhawks’ resolve, as they have done in each of the first three games of the series. Beating that resolve means the Blues emerge as victors. Typically, the way the Note played on Monday would be good enough to crack that resolve.
“It has nothing to do with blowing games,” Hitchcock said. “It has to do with a certain resolve that is required to win a championship. That team over there has got it and we are trying to take it back from them.”
But if nothing else comes from Monday’s game, the Blues can push forward knowing that they played their best game of the year on some of the toughest ice in league. With their confidence pushing higher, the Blues will use Monday’s defeat as a stepping stone, as a poster for where they can improve. But more importantly, they will use it as motivation pushing forward.
“We are really starting to gain our confidence back again and we are going to need it to beat this team, Hitchcock said.”