By Dan O'Neill in Los Angeles
There's no sugar to coat it with. After losing to Los Angeles on Thursday, the St. Louis Blues trail the Kings 3-0 in the Western Conference semifinals. Historically, that's a fatal blow.
The Blues have been down 3-0 in a series eight times previously. On seven of those occasions, they were eliminated in four games. On the other occasion, they lost in five.
Coach Ken Hitchcock is realistic about the situation. His team essentially has one goal in mind: Get the series back home.
"Just get it back to St. Louis,"' Hitchcock said. "We're the hammer, they're the nail. We've got to move the nail around a little bit so they miss.
"We've done a lot of good things the last couple of games, but we're not built chasing games and we've been chasing the games. So it's forced us into difficult matchups. We've got to try to get a lead and then build our minutes from there."
Hitchcock explained the Blues are not a team that is well suited for comebacks. They scored the first goal of the series in Game 1, but the Kings responded with a tying goal rather quickly. That is the only lead the Blues have had. They have not had one after a period.
"You're giving up 20 shots a game, so you're doing something right," Hitchcock added. "But one of the problems that's happening is we're not built for coming from behind all the time. We're built the other way. So we'll see if we can get a lead and build good minutes from there."Penalty trouble
Penalties have been a significant issue for the Blues during the first three games. They had six penalties in Game 3, almost all of them taken while reacting to a situation. The Blues use many of their top forwards to kill penalties, including David Backes, Andy McDonald, T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund.
The more penalty killing they must do, the less energy those players retain for late in the game or five-on-five play. Kings captain Dustin Brown has been a chief contributor to the dilemma. On Thursday, the Blues took two retaliatory penalties against Brown. He has been a pest throughout the playoffs, and he's proud of it.
"You got to try to get guys off their game," said Brown, who had big hits on Backes and Alex Pietrangelo in Game 3. "Maybe I've got the best of them so far in this series. If they try to go after me, that's a good thing for us.
"I've been able to handle it. I handled those situations in the regular season games, so... Guys don't like me too much because of the way I play. I try to be hard on their top guys and I don't think any team really likes that."
Brown has been a pain for the opposition when he is doing the penalty killing, as well. He had two shorthanded goals in the Vancouver series and he has assisted on two shorthanded goals against the Blues.Monotone voice
Kings coach Darryl Sutter often talks in a low monotone voice that can be hard to hear. Some of the Kings players acknowledged they had trouble understanding their new coach when he took over in December.
"The first couple of weeks there were a couple of practices where we didn't know what the hell we were doing," Brown said. "The first few weeks were hard to understand. But now he communicates pretty well with us."
Defenceman Matt Greene, a standout in the series, employed a shrewd strategy to get around the communication issues.
"I always made sure I was last in line in the drills," Greene said. "I could see what everyone else was doing first."Dan O'Neill reports for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Follow him @wwdod.
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