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After Breakout Season, Blues Break Down

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Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 10:35 am | Updated: 10:36 am, Tue May 8, 2012.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — It seems only natural that many St. Louis Blues think the Los Angeles Kings can go all the way, the way their grand postseason hopes went down the drain.

The Blues were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, and the top team standing. Hopes were high for a deep Stanley Cup run given the President’s Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks were out, along with other perennial title threats in Detroit, Pittsburgh and Chicago.

They never got comfortable against a Kings team that beat them at their own game with dogged forechecking, smart physical play, and a defense that never left any gaps in front of an acrobatic goalie who was the star of the show.

“They’re the best team that we’ve played against, so that’s all I can judge it on,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “L.A. plays the way you have to play to win the Cup now. I’m sure they’ve had stumbles along the way to figure it out, but it looks like to me like they’ve figured it out.”

The Blues looked like they had the formula in the first round when they dropped the opener at home in double-overtime to the Sharks and then took four straight.

Getting swept by the Kings minimizes to a certain extent what was a breakthrough season. The Blues topped 100 points for just the fourth time in franchise history, finding high gear after Hitchcock arrived in early November and tying for second-best overall in the NHL with 109 points.

Goalies Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott combined for 15 shutouts and the Blues were the NHL’s best at home with a franchise-record 30 wins and just six regulation losses. Elliott, who led the NHL in goals-against average, was a star after stepping in for an injured Halak in the first round.

They hadn’t won a playoff game in eight years or a series in a decade before dispatching the Sharks. And then it all went flat.

Andy McDonald and Patrik Berglund combined for 15 points against the Sharks, but the top six forwards mustered just seven points against the Kings, with Berglund, T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen going scoreless.

A team built on relentless play unaccountably appeared a step slow much of the series, forced to react instead of dictating terms. Discipline went out the window with numerous ill-timed penalties fueling the Kings’ momentum.

In Game 4, a double-minor high sticking call to Scott Nichol postponed the Blues’ third-period comeback effort. Matt D’Agostini was whistled for boarding, negating a penalty on the Kings’ Dustin Brown for breaking Vladimir Sobotka’s stick.

Those types of things happened throughout the series.

“We took penalties at the wrong time,” Hitchcock said. “We got emotionally wrapped up during the shift and couldn’t shut it down when we needed to shut it down.”

Spotty defense too often left Elliott on his own with Brown, Dustin Penner and Anze Kopitar free to dangle the puck near the crease unmolested. Elliott was good, but not great like the Kings’ Mike Quick.

Until the second half of Game 4, when defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk led an offensive surge, there wasn’t enough traffic in front of Quick.

Injuries took a toll, too.

Star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo missed Game 2 with an injury believed to be a knee, and although he returned for the last two games and led the team in minutes he wasn’t the same. Pietrangelo was on the ice for six of the Kings’ last seven goals.

The play of a couple of veterans, defenseman Barret Jackman and forward Jason Arnott, sagged noticeably

Perhaps they were hurt, too. Later this week, it’s expected the team will reveal other previously undisclosed injuries that sliced into the productivity.

Worst of all, the home advantage they maintained all year suddenly vanished.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Steen said. “I don’t think we ever got up to our game. Give LA a lot of credit, they played well, but I definitely don’t think we played up to par.”

So now they’re watching and wondering what might have been.

“What we really play for is postseason success,” said forward David Backes, the team captain. “This is something that’s going to sting but we’re going to have to learn from it.”

Moving forward, a front office that was patient with a slow-developing youth movement has several decisions to make, perhaps under new ownership if a protracted sale process can be completed. The biggest call: Whether to continue staying the course.

David Perron and Oshie, former first-rounders, and Chris Stewart will be restricted free agents. Among those due for unrestricted free agency are defensemen Jackman, Carlo Colaiacovo and Kent Huskins, and forwards Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner and Scott Nichol — the veteran trio brought in to speed the development process.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Area Scoreboard

Area Sports Schedule

American Legion Baseball

Ninth District Senior Legion Tournament

Thursday, July 17

At Westhoff Park

G1 (1) West 11, (8) Pacific 1

G2 (4) St. Charles 17, (5) Elsberry 2

At St. Peters Rec-Plex

G3 (3) Washington 4, (6) Wentzville 0

G4 (2) Daniel Boone 8, (7) St. Peters 2

Friday, July 18

At St. Peters Rec-Plex

G5 Elsberry 8, Pacific 3

G6 St. Peters 9, Wentzville 1

At Westhoff Park

G7 St. Charles 4, West 1

G8 Daniel Boone 7, Washington 4

Saturday, July 19

At St. Peters Rec-Plex

G9 Washington 9, Elsberry 4

G10 West 9, St. Peters 6

G12 West 14, Washington 1

At Westhoff Park

G11 St. Charles def. Daniel Boone (fft)

Sunday, July 20

Rest at Westhoff Park

G13 Championship — West 2, St. Charles 1 (13 innings)

Monday, July 21

G14 If-Needed Game — St. Charles 13, West 11

Zone 1 Senior Legion Tournament

At Lindenwood University, St. Charles

Thursday, July 24

G1 West 13, Daniel Boone Post 262 8

G2 Jefferson City Post 5 11, Hannibal Post 55 2

Friday, July 25

G3 West 11, St. Charles Post 312 1

G4 Daniel Boone 10, Hannibal 2

Saturday, July 26

G5 Jefferson City 9, West 2

G6 St. Charles 11, Daniel Boone 10

G7 West 6, St. Charles 2

Sunday, July 27

G8 Championship — West 11, Jefferson City 0

G9 If-Needed Game — Jefferson City 14, West 12

Jefferson City advances to state tournament in Sedalia.

Senior Legion State Tournament

At Liberty Park, Sedalia

Thursday, July 31

G1 Jefferson City Post 5 vs. Lee’s Summit Post 189 Aux. Outlaws, 4 p.m.

G2 Joplin Miners vs. Festus Post 253, 7 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 1

G3 G1 winner vs. G2 winner, noon

G4 G1 loser vs. G2 loser, 3 p.m.

G5 G3 loser vs. G4 winner, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 2

G6 Championship — G3 winner vs. G5 winner, 1 p.m.

G7 If-needed game — G6 winner vs. G6 loser, 4 p.m.

Ninth District Junior Legion Tournament

Tuesday, July 8

At Union High School

G1 (1) Elsberry 3, (8) New Haven 0

At Ronsick Field

G4 (3) Washington 7, (6) Wentzville 1

G4 (2) Union 8, (7) Hannibal 1

At St. Peters Rec-Plex

G2 (5) St. Peters 8, (4) St. Charles 6

Wednesday, July 9

At New Haven

G5 Wentzville 4, New Haven 0

G6 St. Charles 8, Hannibal 7 (9 innings)

At Ronsick Field

G7 St. Peters 5, Elsberry 2

G8 Washington 2, Union 1

Remainder at Ronsick Field

Thursday, July 10

G9 Union 7, Wentzville 1

G10 Elsberry 3, St. Charles 2

Friday, July 11

G11 Washington 12, St. Peters 11 (10 innings)

G12 Elsberry 6, Union 3

Saturday, July 12

G13 Elsberry 4, St. Peters 3

G14 Championship — Washington 3, Elsberry 1

Washington wins district, to host Zone 1 Tournament at Borgia. Schedule below.

Junior Legion Zone 1 Tournament

At Borgia

Thursday, June 17

G1 Elsberry Post 226 10, Chillicothe Post 25 2

Friday, June 18

G2 Washington Post 218 5, Elsberry 1

G3 Chillicothe 5, Elsberry 4

Saturday, June 19

G4 Championship — Washington 16, Chillicothe 0 (5 innings)

Washington advances to State Tournament in Jackson.

Junior Legion State Tournament

At Jackson

Thursday, July 24

G1 Jackson 3, Springfield Glendale 2

G2 Eureka 7, Sedalia 0

Friday, June 25

G3 Jackson 8, Washington 3

G4 Springfield Glendale 8, Sedalia 3

G5 Jackson 4, Eureka 2

G6 Washington 8, Springfield Glendale 0

Saturday, June 26

G7 Eureka 11, Washington 10 (9 innings)

G8 Championship — Jackson 7, Eureka 6

Jackson advances to Regional Tournament in Leavenworth, Kan.

Sunday, June 27

G9 If-Needed Game — G8 winner vs. G8 loser, 1 p.m.

Freshman Legion Ninth District Tournament

Tuesday, July 8

At Elsberry Legion Field

G1 (1) St. Charles 7, (8) St. Peters 0

G2 (4) Elsberry-Winfield 4, (5) Wentzville 3

At Elsberry Khoury League Field

G3 (3) Hannibal 3, (6) Warrenton 2

G4 (2) Washington 10, (7) West 1

Wednesday, July 9

At Elsberry Khoury League Field

G5 St. Peters 17, Warrenton 6

G6 Wentzville 5, West 4

At Elsberry Legion Field

G7 St. Charles 10, Elsberry-Winfield 2

G8 Washington 3, Hannibal 0

Remainder at Elsberry Legion Field

Thursday, July 10

G9 St. Peters 11, Hannibal 9

G10 Elsberry-Winfield 13, Wentzville 4

Friday, July 11

G12 Elsberry-Winfield 8, St. Peters 3

G11 Washington 6, St. Charles 0, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 12

G13 St. Charles 10, Elsberry-Winfield 1

G14 Championship — St. Charles 5, Washington 2

Sunday, July 13

G15 If-Needed Game — St. Charles 2, Washington 0

Missouri Freshman

Legion State Tournament

At Rotary Recreational

Complex - Ronsick Field

Wednesday, July 16

G1 Creve Coeur Post 397 16, St. Robert Post 331 2

G2 Ste. Genevieve Post 150 4, St. Charles Post 312 0

G3 Jackson Post 158 1, vs. Springfield Glendale Merchants 0

G4 Washington Post 218 9, Eureka Post 177 4

Thursday, July 17

G5 Springfield Glendale 11, St. Robert 1 (St. Robert eliminated)

G6 St. Charles 10, Eureka 2 (Eureka eliminated)

G7 Ste. Genevieve 4, Creve Coeur 2

G8 Washington 12, Jackson 10

Friday, July 18

G9 Jackson 12, Springfield Glendale 0 (Springfield Glendale eliminated)

G10 Creve Coeur 8, St. Charles 3 (St. Charles eliminated)

G11 Ste. Genevieve 3, Washington 2

G12 Creve Coeur 11, Jackson 7 (Jackson eliminated)

Saturday, July 19

G13 Washington 8, Creve Coeur 3 (Creve Coeur eliminated)

G14 Championship—Washington 5, Ste. Genevieve 2

Sunday, July 20

G15 Championship Game 2—Washington 3, Ste. Genevieve 0

Great Midwest Football League

July 19

Missouri Cyclones 34, Illinois Justice 0

Swim Team Schedules

Washington Swim Team

Date    Opponent    Time/Result

6-9    at Oaks Landing    Washington 192-100

6-16    Westglen    Washington 259-206

6-23    at Fox Creek    Washington 311-225

6-30    at Chadwick    Chadwick 264-258

7-7    Cherry Hills    Washington 291-140

7-11 at Division Meet, Westminster Christian First

Pacific Swim Team

Date    Opponent    Time/Result

6-9    Lake of the Woods    LOtW 176-130

6-16    at Union    Union 289-220

6-23    Bridle Creek    Pacific 371-124

6-30    at Arbor Oaks    Pacific 282-241

7-7    at Indian Hills    Cancelled, weather

7-12    Division Meet    First

Union Swim Team

Date    Opponent    Time/Result

6-9    at Arbor Oaks    Union 180-120

6-16    Pacific    Union 289-220

6-23    at Lake of the Woods    LoTW 312-201

6-30    Indian Hills    Union 322-275

7-7    Bridle Creek    PPD

7-12    at Division Meet, Pacific    Third

Pacific Diving Team

Date    Opponent    Time

6-14    at MAC West    MAC West 40-30

6-21    at Lindgate    Lindgate

6-28    at Cool Dell    9 a.m.

7-13    at Championships    8 a.m.

*Indicates League Games

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