(HOckeyStL) -- The Blues were the source of excitement in St. Louis from the beginning of April to the start of May. Making their first playoff appearance in three seasons, the Blues quickly became the talk of the town, and people were already envisioning a parade down Market Street. Could this be the year the Blues bring the Stanley Cup to St. Louis for the first time in franchise history?
The Blues opened the playoffs facing the San Jose Sharks, who failing to meet expectations for the past few seasons, had a lot to prove. They came out firing, winning the first game of the series in double overtime. The Blues learned that the seventh seeded Sharks would not be an easy opponent.
In game two the Blues came back with a win, but this game shaped the Blues future halfway through the second period.
Blues goal tender Jaroslav Halak left the crease to corral a puck when he was hit by teammate Barret Jackman. The hit left Halak down for an extended period of time before he made his exit down the Blues tunnel and into the locker room amidst a quiet Scottrade Center. He would not play again in the playoffs.
The Blues went on to win the next three games, including a come-from-behind victory in game five that left fans ready for round two.
A few nights later the Los Angeles Kings defeated the top seeded Vancouver Canucks four games to one, setting up a semifinal battle between the Kings and the Blues.
It was sure to be a great series, and a person would have been foolish to consider otherwise. Both teams were tops in the league in save percentage, shots against, and goals allowed. The goaltending matchup was a dream come true for hockey fans, seeing the top tandem in the league (Halak and Elliott) taking an elite goaltender in Jonathan Quick. But then an announcement came from Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock that confirmed the feared: Jaroslav Halak would miss the first two games of the series.
Not to worry right? Brian Elliott had the best save percentage in the league at .940, along with his league leading goals against average of 1.56. This would prove to be an insignificant stat as Elliott failed to prove he was not the same without his fallback in Halak.
Elliott was average the first game, but it was the second game that was the confidence buster. Elliott allowed 5 goals on 21 Kings shots. His save percentage and his confidence was plummeting beyond recovery. After game two, Hitchcock announced that Halak was out for the series.
It all spiraled downhill for the Blues, and at an incredibly fast rate. The Blues defense was atrocious, letting defenders skate right past them, and camp out in front of Elliott as freely as they could come. It was an embarrassing performance, and despite returning to their style in game four, it was too late for the Blues. They were swept by the Los Angeles Kings, and what was a promising season became overshadowed by the lack of effort in round two.
Ken Hitchcock attributed the turning point of the series to Alex Pietrangelo’s injury in game one. Despite only missing one game, the tide had turned and Los Angeles took all of the momentum away from the Blues and even getting Pietrangelo back was not enough to get it back from the hungry Kings.
The Blues took many retaliatory penalties and racked up 107 minutes worth of penalties. Despite this overbearing number, the Blues only allowed one power play goal, but the momentum and energy they gave up killing penalties was a series killer for them.
Keep in mind the Blues exceeded expectations this season with a payroll well under that of most NHL teams. What was disappointing was their lack of effort in the second round. Despite this, players gained much need playoff experience that will only help them down the road. The Blues will move on and prepare for next season, and hope that this was only a taste of the success they will have in the future.
Check KMOV.com later in the week for the last article of the series: Looking ahead to the future