The Balance of Power – A Key to the Blues’ Playoff Success

The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs haven’t been very kind to the St. Louis Blues in recent years. Finally, they’ve made the step many have expected them to take, and did it against an excellent Chicago team. It may have taken seven games, but the hockey team from The Gateway City came together to prove they’re more than a “one and done” type of team this season.

A Goal’s a Goal in the Playoffs

Troy Brouwer proved to be the man of the hour in Game 7. It wasn’t a pretty goal, but it proved to be the difference-maker, as the Blues had a 3-2 lead with less than 12-minutes to play. As they say with any playoff goal, it doesn’t matter how it goes in as long as it’s a goal. Brouwer joked after the game in an interview with Darren Pang, “That was almost really embarrassing. If I would’ve missed that one, I might’ve quit hockey.”

#36’s goal was his first of the series. Stats like that may sound alarming, but the fact that players like Paul Stastny and Patrik Berglund had just two points shows just how balanced the team was. There were only four players on the team that didn’t register a point in the seven games, none of which played all seven. At the same time, each game-winner for the Blues was scored by a different skater.

At times, the Chicago Blackhawks had success with their “patented” stretch passes out of their zone and up the ice. In Game 6 in particular, Chicago was able to take advantage and find their way through the stingy St. Louis defense. Throughout the series Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, and Kevin Shattenkirk all logged big minutes on the back end. The team rallied around the d-core and goalie Brian Elliott, playing to their strengths and shutting down much of the Blackhawks’ offensive chances.

And That’s the Bottom Line

Players stepped up for the Blues all series. Forwards you wouldn’t normally “expect” to see below the hashmarks and in the corner of the defensive zone were there. The entire season acted as a growth period for the roster, culminating with this Round 1 series and the exciting Game 7 at Scottrade Center.

Behind great coaching from Ken Hitchcock, Kirk Muller, and Brad Shaw, the team came together to make the most of their opportunities, while also shutting down some big Chicago chances. The Blackhawks clearly have a talented defensive core, but when your opponent has eight different players scoring at least one goal, it’s tough to prepare and defend against.

We have knowledge now of what it takes, and we gotta use it. Bottom line, we gotta use it… it’s the emotional knowledge of how deep you have to dig. We found that in this series. – Ken Hitchcock

The entire roster stepped up, and contributed, playing their role shift by shift. While some of the big names on the team chipped in with a few more points, it’s the smaller, less noticeable, plays and players that proved to be the difference. Stastny (55.8%) and Jori Lehtera (47.4%) were beasts on the faceoff dot in all zones. Forwards like Alex Steen scored timely goals while getting in the corners in the defensive zone and alleviating Chicago’s zone pressure.

Coach Hitchcock seems to have a way with words when it comes to tense (and now relieving) situations. His words speak true to his roster’s character, drive and willingness to play as a team and prove to the NHL they’re a force to be reckoned with.