Blues know they have to improve -

Blues know they have to improve

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By John Bailey By John Bailey
By John Bailey By John Bailey

(HOckeyStL) -- The Blues found great success in Game One of their best of seven series against the Los Angeles Kings. Despite a late third period push from the Kings, the Blues had control of the game for most of Tuesday night. The Blues failed to convert on numerous quality scoring chances, and ended up blowing their one-goal lead late in the third period. Thanks to Alex Steen’s overtime heroics, the Blues emerged with the victory and the 1-0 series lead. The Blues will have to work much harder to leave St. Louis up two games.

In last year’s playoffs, the Kings never trailed in any series. Right now, they are looking to even things up before heading to Los Angeles for two games. The Blues are prepared for a strong push back from the reining Stanley Cup Champions, expecting it to be a much harder battle tonight than it was on Thursday.

“I’m sure we are going to get one of their better games; we just have to be ready for it,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock after his team’s pre-game skate on Thursday.

The Blues outshot, out-chanced, and outscored the Kings on Tuesday night, but aren’t satisfied with where they are. They know that a true contender must improve on a daily basis. Players are not looking too much into the Game One victory, stating that while they did some good things, there is a long way to go. And if anybody knows how strong the Kings can push when in a hole, it is the Blues.

“You can’t read much into it,” said Blues forward Chris Stewart. “You have to get four wins and obviously it would be great to get another one tonight.”

“If Game One is the high-water mark for us, it’s not good enough to win the series,” said Hitchcock. “We are going to have to play better than we did in Game One if we want to win the series. As long as you get better, you push the competition up. If you stay the same or move backwards, the other team will have the advantage.”

In last year’s playoffs, the Blues were swept by the Kings, with little problem. The Blues had some chances to get a couple of wins--their best two games of the series were Games One and Four--but the Blues experienced a quality team figuring out how to climb out of tough situations. That is what the Blues strive to be.

“We are dealing with an experienced team that knows how to win,” said Hitchcock. “They are not an old team but they know how to win. They have been pushed to the limit and they’ve responded every time. We are trying to gain that knowledge here and the only way to do that is to get better and better each game.”

Before Tuesday’s win, the Blues had been winless in their last eight games against the Kings. The Blues, who were viewed as the underdog of this series despite having the higher seed, have had trouble matching the Kings’ size and intensity the past few seasons. It’s obviously understandable that the Blues gained a great deal of confidence from their Game One victory.

“I don’t think, by any means, we played a perfect Game One but we just have to keep playing hard,” said Stewart. “To get that first win was a huge confidence boost. You are looking at the column and see we lost eight straight to one team, and now it’s eight to one. We are going to keep chipping away at it.”

Tuesday’s game is an 8:30 p.m. CT start, which is unusual for a game hosted by the Blues. Blues captain David Backes says ‘Hitch’ will likely use the extra time to watch some game footage, while Stewart will get a longer-than-normal pre-game nap. Whatever they do to prepare for tonight’s game, the Blues will have to be ready for the Kings who are seeking redemption and looking to even the series at one.

Notes for Game Two:

- The pre-game rally, originally scheduled to take place before Game 2, has been cancelled due to the threat of inclement weather. The doors at Scottrade Center will open at 7 p.m. CT.

- There are no lineup changes for the Blues tonight.

- The Blues will be going for their seventh consecutive home win tonight.

- The Blues are 20-11 all-time when winning Game One of a playoff series.

- The goaltending matchup will be Brian Elliott (STL) vs. Jonathan Quick (L.A.)

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