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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 8:02 am 
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Pekka Rinne was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the eighth round in 2004, back when the franchise was celebrating its first playoff appearance.

Thirteen years, 11 NHL seasons and 564 games later, Rinne and the team that drafted him in a round that no longer exists are a win away from reaching a place they've never been before.

If Nashville can eliminate the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal Friday night at Scottrade Center, it will earn its first conference final spot.

"It would be huge for the organization," Rinne said Tuesday night after stopping 32 shots in a 2-1 Game 4 win that gave the Predators a 3-1 series lead. "Our fans, our players and the city are hungry for the next round. When you have a chance to close these things out, you really have to step on their throat."

Nashville proved to be superb closers in the first round, sending the Chicago Blackhawks home in four straight games, including a 4-1 victory in Game 4. While it has been the better team in this round as well, evidence suggests this closeout game might not go as smoothly as the first one.

St. Louis played well for most of Game 4, doing most of what it pledged to do after a 3-1 defeat in Game 3 which wasn't close. It played more physically, outshot the Predators for the first time in the series and won 53 percent of faceoffs.

But Rinne, Ryan Ellis and James Neal offset the Blues' solid performance with their heroics. Rinne improved to 7-1 in the playoffs with a microscopic 1.33 goals-against average, upping his save percentage to .953.

Ellis scored in his seventh straight game, tying the franchise playoff record with his fourth goal of the playoffs early in the third period. Neal supplied the game-winner with a spinning wrist shot that beat Jake Allen over the stick side with just under seven minutes left.

It capped Neal's best game of the postseason. The right winger fired 10 shots in Game 4 and could have scored another goal were it not for Allen's terrific stop early in the third period.

"You're fighting for every chance you get and every piece of ice," Neal said. "It's a tough game, so you try to get good looks. When you get good looks, you try to get them off good."

St. Louis doesn't plan to change a whole lot from Game 4, other than perhaps reducing its time in the penalty box. The Blues took seven minors Tuesday night after drawing six in Game 3.

Nashville has three power play markers in the series and two other goals that occurred less than 30 seconds after 5-on-4 time ended.

"I think we did a lot of things better tonight than we have in the previous games," St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo said after Game 4. "We put a lot more emphasis on the small things shot blocks and communication being there."

Should the Blues stave off elimination, Game 6 would occur Sunday in Nashville.
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On the eve of the Blues’ playoff elimination game against Nashville, there were no motivational quotes posted in the locker room, only drills drawn up on the dry-erase board hanging on the glass at practice.

The focus was on hockey, not psyche.

“It’s business as usual,” Blues forward Ryan Reaves said.

Yes, Mike Yeo’s team is down 3-1 to the Predators going into Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal series at 7 p.m. Friday and only 10.3 percent of clubs have come back to win a best-of-seven series in this scenario. But Thursday was for preparing the game plan, not a premeditated speech.

“There’s no need for it,” Yeo said. “If I have to try to motivate the players now … you might need to do it in January or February, but right now, that’s not the case. Right now, we know what’s at stake. We want to keep playing and so we know we have to be at our best against a good team. We want to keep playing and we’re excited about the challenge.”

It was a notably upbeat atmosphere at the Blues’ practice facility Thursday for a group that could be packing its lockers over the weekend. That’s because while Nashville holds a commanding lead in the series, the separation in the games has been minimal. Three of the four games have been decided by one goal and the other was a 3-1 win for the Predators in which they got their final goal in the third period.

“If we didn’t feel like we were in the games, it’s a different mood,” Blues forward Paul Stastny said. “The first game in Nashville we didn’t play that well and we were still in it and played better at the end. The last game was probably our best game of the series and it was basically a coin toss of a game.”

The Blues wound up falling 2-1 in Game 4, but not before putting up 33 shots on net and doling out 33 hits. They also won the faceoff battle for the first time in the series.

“I know we have another level, but we played a real strong game,” Yeo said. “I think that’s encouraging. Every game has been basically a one-goal game and so tweak a little here, get a little better there, we give ourselves a good chance.”

“They played a good game,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “They were desperate last game, they’re going to be desperate again. We’re going to have to play a game that’s good enough to win on the road. Everybody’s trying to win every single game they play. They’re looking to make it to one, we’re looking to end it. That’s what it comes down to.”

Looking to “make it one” will be the key for the Blues, according to Yeo, who has been part of a couple of comebacks from a 3-1 series deficit as an assistant coach with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (the Pittsburgh Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate).

“If we get caught up in the game of thinking of the end result, then we won’t be ready to do the little things and be ready to execute and have the detail in our game that we need,” Yeo said. “If we look at the big picture right now, we’re in trouble. We all know what the big picture is and we’re well aware of that.

“For me, that’s just the mental toughness you need and it’s not an easy thing. It’s discipline that you have to force yourself to use and prepare with. We just have to stay in the moment. We’re looking forward to getting back on home ice, in front of our crowd, and laying it on the line for them.”

Stastny agreed, saying, “I think we’ll leave it all out there and feed off the crowd,” and he was one of two Blues who had a feeling that Friday won’t be the final time this season that the players put their uniforms on. A win would send the series to Game 6 in Nashville Sunday.

“I don’t think there’s any mindset in here that thinks it’s going to be our last game,” he said. “We’re going in there to win and that’s all we can focus on. Whatever happens we can worry about that after the game.”

Another was Reaves, who reminded that few people even picked the Blues to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

“A lot of people counted us out,” he said. “I think the only people that didn’t count us out were the guys in this locker room and this organization. It’s the exact same thing right now. Before everybody is thinking we’re done and here we are.

“I think everybody is still committed for the long haul here. I don’t think it’s crossed anybody’s mind that it’s the last game. I think we’ve got a lot of hockey left. Right now I think everybody is thinking we’re done, but we’ll talk (Friday). See what happens after the game.”

Earlier in the series, Yeo wondered if the Blues “hated” the Predators enough, and players didn’t disagree. But now heading into a decisive Game 5, there’s no one wondering about that anymore.

“Game 1 we showed them a little too much respect and gradually we’ve gotten better,” Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson said. “Right now there’s a hate for them and I think they hate us. We have to bring that hate and that energy and excitement in the next game. We know it’s do or die, so we have to play like it. We’re not ready to pack it in. We want to push to a Game 6 so it will be a fun battle.”
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Back in mid-January, things looked awfully grim for the St. Louis Blues.

The club had started the season 15-7-4 but then went 9-14-1 after that. The rough patch led to a coaching change - Ken Hitchcock was replaced after six seasons behind the bench and Mike Yeo was promoted ahead of schedule. Then, Robby Fabbri sustained a season-ending injury and the Blues traded Kevin Shattenkirk just before the trade deadline.

An appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs - which Blues fans have come to pretty much take for granted because it happens nearly every year - was suddenly in doubt.

But did the Blues roll over? Did they say "things aren't going right, so let's forget it and try again next year?"

They could have. But they didn't.

Instead, they rallied.

The club that was out of the playoff picture at one point in January climbed to a third-place finish in the Western Conference with 99 points and then eliminated the second-seeded Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs.

In Friday's Game 5 (7 p.m., NBCSN, Y98 FM), the Blues face a big challenge. They're down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series to a Nashville Predators team that swept the Chicago Blackhawks - the top seed in the West - out of the first round of the playoffs. But when the adversity was at it's strongest this season, the Blues roared back.

Every one in the locker room, both players and coaches, are confident they can do it again.

Here's what they were saying prior to Game 5:

Paul Stastny

"If we didn't feel like we were in the games, it's a different mood. Every game has been a one-goal game. You don't want to look at the big picture, just one game. We'll just leave it all out there and feed off the crowd when we have to. I don't think there's any mindset in here that thinks (Game 5) is going to be our last game. We're going in there to win."

Robert Bortuzzo

"There's a lot of belief in this locker room. That's where things are going to turn around for us. We're confident in our group. We know we have another gear and that's where we have to take it to."

Ryan Reaves

"Our confidence is just like during the regular season when everybody thought we were out of the playoffs. We all knew in this dressing room that we weren't. We were stumbling but we weren't out. It's the exact same attitude."

Colton Parayko

"It's one game at a time right now. You don't want to look at it as winning three games in a row. It's one of those things where you look at winning the next game, the next shift, the next period. If you're winning every shift, winning each period, things will go your way."

Jaden Schwartz

"We don't really worry about percentages. We' re just really focused on Game 5 and that's all we're worried about. We got a couple days to regroup and look at some things. We're just worried about Friday and we're not looking past that. We all know the importance of it."

Scottie Upshall

"We're focused on being the better team come Friday, being a team that Nashville hasn't seen play yet. Because I still think we have another level. The fourth game is always the hardest to win and we realize that, and so do they. We're going to be at our best. It's going to be a good fight on Friday."

Mike Yeo

"The character and the leadership that we have on our team, we've faced adversity before. We know we have a tough hill to climb here, that we're playing against a real good team, and obviously we're aware of where we're at in the series. Our mindset is on Game 5. I think that's what did so effectively and what was a big part of our success the last part of the season. We didn't look at the hill we had to climb, who was in the lineup or out of the lineup. The guys focused on the job they had to do and we took care of the moment that was in front of us. That's what we have to do again."


This day in history:
1966 Blues make their first hire naming Lynn Patrick as General Manager
1966 Henri Richard scores is only career playoff OT goal to win the Stanley Cup as Montreal beats Detroit 3-2 in Game 6.
1968 Blues lose Game 1 of Stanley Cup Finals to Canadiens 3-2 in OT
1985 For 2nd consecutive game, Peter Stastny scores an OT playoff goal as Nordiques beat Flyers in Game 1 of Wales Conference Final
1993 Jeff Brown scores in double OT while Joseph make 57 saves as Blues defeat Maple Leafs 2-1 in Game 1 of Norris Division final
2013 Rookie Jean-Gabriel Pageau scores hat trick in Game 3 of Eastern Conference Quarterfinals becoming the 5th player in expansion era to have a playoff hat trick before his 21st birthday.

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 8:31 am 
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From reading the preview, there is a lot of inspiration and optimism in the locker room. Almost sickeningly so- makes me wonder if they know they're done and are just putting on a good face as required of paid professional athletes.

Not that I can blame them. Looking at the big picture, none of us expected this team to be competitive. I would say making it this far has already exceeded our expectations.

It just gets old. Beaten by another expansion team, again.

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 8:52 am 
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The Predators have already exceeded their expectations beating the Blackhawks in Round One. This, to me, actually puts more pressure on the Blues, because the Predators know they have exceeded theirs already. I can't say the same for the Blues which has them playing somewhat tight.

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 9:35 am 
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Ho hum, even if they win game 5, Nashville will take it in 6. This team is done like last nights dinner.

I'm already composing a post-mortem in my head to analyze what went wrong. As usual, it centers around team culture and an environment where the historical high water mark is a game that was won in a series that was lost. Expectations are so low you can trip over them.

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 11:00 am 
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This is a very valid point:
Second, goal scoring. Through the first 4 games of the 2nd round, the Blues have a -1 goal differential at 5v5. They out scored Nashville at 5v5 in game one, and tied them in game 2 and game 4. Game three was the only game that Nashville outscored the Blues at 5v5. So this team has been keeping pace (for the most part) with Nashville in terms of goal scoring at 5v5.

This team can win. They can beat Nashville. They are not being out played. If they can stay out of the penalty box and capitalize on the man advantages they earn they can turn this series around. But that “if” is as big as the St. Louis Arch.


Which leads to hope, not expectations.

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 12:39 pm 
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So Steen is on crutches and in a walking boot today at Scottrade.

Not looking good, but I'll be there hoping for the best.


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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 1:13 pm 
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tjk002 wrote:
So Steen is on crutches and in a walking boot today at Scottrade.

Not looking good, but I'll be there hoping for the best.


Not sure that's a bad thing. If Steen is out, it means someone else is taking face-offs. Given Steen's been awful on draws (32.5% - 40 attempts), this could be good. Still haven't been able to figure out why he was taking any over Sobotka (50.9% - 55 attempts) when they were on the same line.

The only issue now is who will actually win face-offs if Sobotka and Stastny are playing on the same line? That smells like a ploy from Yeo and won't actually happen in the game, but who really knows, besides Yeo?

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 6:15 pm 
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Out: Steen, Sanford
In: Jaskin, Paajarvi

Still in: Perron :|

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 6:31 pm 
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Schwartz had an open net for a split second, but a Pred lifted his stick, sending the shot awry! Boo!

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 6:47 pm 
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Not a very good omen when we can't score on a 2-minute 5 on 3. :facepalm:


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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 6:47 pm 
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5-on-3 after Ekholm clubs Sobotka with a high stick. Ekholm probably has a good argument, though - he was playing the puck and made contact with it, and the follow through after making contact hit Sobotka.

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 6:49 pm 
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5-on-3 for 1:50, and we still can't buy a freaking goal.

We had 6 shots. 3 were blocked (all Tarasenko, all blocked by Fisher), Tarasenko sent 2 others wide. Petro had a shot actually get on net. And, Neal had a breakaway attempt at the very end of the period coming out of the penalty box.

2:04 of PP time to go when we start the 2nd.

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 7:01 pm 
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Irish Blues wrote:
5-on-3 for 1:50, and we still can't buy a freaking goal.

And not only that, they managed ONE shot on goal, essentially a can of corn for Rinne.

If Nashville loses to this lineup, they should forfeit the rest of postseason. No excuse for them not to clinch.

Having said that, the Blues were just fine in that period. They just can't freaking score.

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 7:15 pm 
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Jaskin!!!

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 7:19 pm 
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Jaskin!!! Makes no mistake, knocking in a rebound!!! Blues lead 1-0!!!

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 7:30 pm 
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Not often a team takes 2 separate penalties at once. :doh:


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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 7:31 pm 
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2:00 5-on-3 PK. Awesome.

All the things that *don't* get called in the postseason, and then both of those get called ... and on the same play.

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Last edited by Irish Blues on Fri May 05, 2017 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 7:33 pm 
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And that's how you score on a 5 on 3.

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 7:51 pm 
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Blues 5-on-3 for full minutes and Parayko never sees the ice. :roll:

On the missed trip of Schwartz, if the refs call it, the Blues PP which hasn't scored a goal is on the ice, instead of Jaskin who actually scored a goal.

Totally agree with Cam Janssen during the 2nd period intermission. Why not use variations of last year's PP, instead of this useless pass the puck around the outside crap? It's not like the Blues don't have video of their own power plays from a year ago. But that would be too difficult for the power play specialist head coach to actually look at, I guess. The Predators could put 4 traffic cones on the ice for the PK and the Blues
wouldn't get the puck on net.

Blues don't deserve to win with how bad the PP is performing.

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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2017 7:55 pm 
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^^^ Agreed, our PP is effin' terrible.


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