It’s been a frustrating season for the St. Louis Blues, and it ended on Friday as the Los Angeles Kings took Game 6 and knocked the Blues out of the playoffs for the second consecutive year. While the Kings are a good team, the Blues had several opportunities to put the Kings away, and failed to do so. Instead of advancing, the Blues will head home early, again.
The Blues took the first two games of the series, but those would be their only wins. The Kings rebounded on home ice and went on to win four straight and the series. If the series could be described as anything, it would be a series of many missed opportunities.
“We are a pretty hungry group from management to coaches to put a championship team together and it’s not good enough,” said Hitchcock. “You get opportunities like we did in Game 3 and Game 5, you can’t miss those opportunities.”
When the Blues went up two games, they needed to keep the Kings down, but instead, they let them claw back. The Blues had the better of the play for the majority of the series, but it didn’t matter as the Kings did something the Blues couldn’t; they finished.
“We had a lot of people play very hard,” admitted Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. “We didn’t get timely goals and that’s what playoffs are. Goaltending is a big part. I thought the best player in the series was their goalie. He made the big saves.”
The goalie Hitchcock is referring to is Jonathan Quick who, for the second consecutive postseason, seemed unsolvable to the Blues. Quick stopped 167 of the Blues’ 177 shots for a .944 save percentage. He held the Blues to less than three goals in all but one game, and was, by far, the Blues’ biggest problem every night.
But the Blues had their chances, however few they were. Open nets missed, players late on a play, unlucky bounces, and Jonathan Quick’s solidarity in net were all things that worked against the Blues’ goal scorers, but there are no excuses. When there are seven forwards that don’t score a single goal in a series, including three that are expected to be offensive threats, there can be no excuses.
“We need more from the people that are home-grown,” said Hitchcock. “That is something we will address in the offseason in conversations with each individual. That is what we need; we need the home-grown the people, the guys we have built around to get to the next level.”
What the Blues displayed in their six games was not good enough. They may have outplayed the Kings, but they fell short of what it takes to win. Despite bumps and bruises for every player, courtesy of one of the more physical first-round series of the playoffs, the Blues would much rather be playing on. Instead, they will have several months to think about their first-round loss, which can be viewed only as digression. If the Blues want to be the best, they have to beat the best, and they showed that they don’t have what it takes to win.
The squandered opportunities are sure to leave a sour taste in the team’s mouth. They had the same taste last year after being eliminated, but this year was different. This year, the team we so close to winning, yet when the final buzzer sounded, they were a long ways away.
“I hope our players, when they pause and reflect about it, are really pissed off and disappointed in the opportunity we missed here,” said Hitchcock. “We took everything to the beach but we didn’t put it in the water.”
The Kings get to enjoy more playoff hockey while the Blues will be forced to watch it on T.V. The Blues’ best wasn’t good enough, and for a management and ownership that has poured so much into these players, it won’t sit well. The realization will come in a few days to the players that they had a real shot to defeat the reigning champs and move on. Because of the missed opportunities, the Blues risk missing the big opportunity to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. The quest continues next year, but the window of opportunity will not remain open forever. The Blues better solve their woes, or risk ruining all that has been built in the past decade.