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Blues

Not The Time For Fourth Line Diplomacy

By Chris Hrabe
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Jarret Stoll #28 of the Los Angeles Kings attempts to break up a play by Chris Porter #32, Adam Cracknell #79 and Ryan Reaves #75 of the St. Louis Blues during the first period in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on May 4, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Jarret Stoll #28 of the Los Angeles Kings attempts to break up a play by Chris Porter #32, Adam Cracknell #79 and Ryan Reaves #75 of the St. Louis Blues during the first period in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on May 4, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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I think it would be too simplistic to point to one thing that has led us to the 3-2 series advantage for Los Angeles, and too dumb to do so without giving a tremendous amount of credit to the Kings & Darryl Sutter. But last night was still a buzz kill. A buzz kill because it can be awfully frustrating to hear about how well a team played after a loss that pushes them to the brink of elimination.

That was the message from Ken Hitchcock last night and again today after practice before the St. Louis Blues departed for Los Angeles, 60 minutes away from a potential elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Were there positives in Game Five? Sure. Were there head-scratching moments as well? There were.

I think that it would also be too simplistic to say that the Blues should have kept rolling what was working in the first period of the game. There were many factors that led to all of the opportunities the Blues had early on, and the reality is, none of the opportunities led to goals. But there were opportunities.

There was energy, there was hitting, there were shots on the net. Over and over, the Blues were relentless in attacking Jonathan Quick. The fourth line was re-engaged, and seemingly contributing to the re-invigoration of the team that flew home just more than 24 hours prior, losers of two straight games in Los Angeles.

The Blues outshot the Kings 12-8 in the first period Monday night, and looked like a completely different team. There was energy. There was optimism.

And just like that, the brakes were slammed. I think one of the bigger disappointments was again seeing the game “not dictate” the use of the fourth line in the second and third periods.

“We go out in the first, and the play dictated that we were able to get out there for a regular shift,” Chris Porter told me this morning.

“You know, it didn’t happen that way in the second and third. But I thought whenever we were on the ice we were making stuff happen, and that’s the goal of our line.”

But weren’t the Blues and Ken Hitchock supposed to dictate what they wanted to happen on their home ice? Simplistic? Maybe. Reasonable? Seems like it should be.

In a game where certain guys have taken lumps from media and fans for “coasting” or “going through the motions,” it was refreshing to see Cracknell, Porter and Reaves doing what they do best. Too bad it was only for eight or nine minutes.

Must be frustrating, right Ryan Reaves?

“Yes and no. The situation of the game, I guess, didn’t really call for it,” Reaves responded diplomatically, after a pause.

“We were down late in the game and we tied it up. So obviously, the right call was made.

“In OT, they weren’t really playing their fourth line, so it’s tough to get out there when they’ve got some really good players over there. But we’ll be ready, and hopefully we can get in a little more.”

It was tough for the guys that were out there for the Blues as well. At least, it sure seemed like it.

This Blues team was able to generate the matchups and advantages that they wanted time and time again over the last month of the season and the first two games of this series. So, even if the team is playing good hockey (like Hitchcock says,) the Kings are just that much better.

“I think we’ve proven over the last month that we can kind of dictate how we want to play,” said Porter.

“That’s north and south. That’s physical. Playing in the offensive zone. I think we’ve been able to do that. We’re just trying to get out there and provide a spark, whether it’s for the crowd or the guys on the bench.”

Hard to spark a team and light a fire when the lighter is sitting on the end of the bench. But hey, I guess that’s what the situation dictates. Maybe it will dictate something else on Friday night.

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