HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues knew the challenge of facing a hot goaltender in Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne would present enough challenges for them in their Western Conference Second Round series.
Rinne came off a first-round sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks in which he allowed three goals in four games (0.70 goals-against average and .976 save percentage) and certainly grabbed the Blues' attention.
The Blues accomplished what they wanted in Games 1 and 2 of this series, scoring six times, but went on the road for Games 3 and 4 and could only find the back of the net twice.
It's among the reasons why the Blues are down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series facing elimination in Game 5 on Friday (7 p.m.; NBCSN, KYKY 98.1-FM).
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It comes down to sacrificing the body and perhaps getting more people in front of Rinne, taking away his eyes.
"We got our chances, but he is a world-class goalie that doesn't give up rebounds when he sees pucks," Blues left wing Scottie Upshall said of Rinne. "He showed that last night. He smothered a lot of good shooting opportunities. We have to get second and third chances, and to do that, you have to be standing on top of him, you've got to find ways to skate by him and, even if he's out of his crease, you're bumping him because you're right there. It's second and third efforts that we need to worry about. And I'm confident we're going to be like that on Friday.
"(Rinne's) been solid, both goalies have been solid. They realize they're in a position they're in because their goaltending has been great and they've been getting timely goals. We've been able to find ways to score at home against Pekka. We need to play a hard-fought game, score the first goal, play wit the lead and get them to react to us."
Perhaps the defensemen can funnel more pucks towards the goal to create more of those loose pucks that are hard to find, much like the goal that Ryan Ellis scored on in Game 4 to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.
"Their d-men do a good job of blocking out, I guess," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "I think that they making it tough, I guess. It's a new challenge for our group, which is good. We're going to take that challenge and make it our best opportunity next game to take that challenge head on because that's all we can do.
"We've been doing an OK job (of funneling pucks). I think we can do a better job though. I always think we had a lot of opportunities, not only blocked, that we've sometimes aren't getting to the net, but at the same time, sometimes our play is to throw it to the forwards and let them do their job and continue to be successful down there. It's a read thing for us. Not always are we tying to get it to the net because sometimes its better to let the forwards do their work down low. They're doing a great job of protecting the puck, they've done a great on that all playoffs, when you see that, you want to get the puck in the forwards hands and let them do that work."
Some of it is puck luck going against the Blues, as Jaden Schwartz said an opportunity he had to give the Blues the first goal of the game, but his shot hit teammate Vladimir Tarasenko instead.
"Yesterday, there was a rebound there, I had an open net and I think I hit Vladi's skate," Schwartz said. "That's just the way it goes sometimes. We've just got to do a better job of making tape-to-tape passes, coming down hill a little bit more and not looking for the perfect pass, just getting them on net and find a way to get rebounds. That's something we obviously want to be better at.
"Their job is to box us out, but we're getting chances, we're getting rebounds. Sometimes whether it's hitting a skate or hitting a stick, I think we're doing a pretty good job. Obviously you can always do better of taking the goalies eyes away and trying to get more numbers there. But for the most part, we've done a pretty good job. And like I said, the first few games we had some bounces going our way and the last couple we didn't. We'll turn that around on Friday."
The Blues had the good fortunes of getting people in front of the net against the Minnesota Wild and goalie Devan Dubnyk in the first round, taking his eyes away and making him feel uncomfortable.
For the Blues to save their season, they're going to have to try and make Rinne feel the same way.
"We can create some more second men, some secondary opportunities," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "Certainly on the power play, it's a game of inches. They got the one power-play goal with that mindset. They also saved one that was going into the net on our power play. That was a good mindset by us shooting the puck. It was good seeing Vladi around the net. Obviously a couple real good opportunities and that puck's going in the net and it doesn't go in. We've had a really good start every game and we would get ourselves down in the game so I'd like to think that we're due for a first goal, but regardless, if we get the first one or if they get the first one next game, we have to be ready to play 60 minutes. We can sit here and maybe say we deserve better, but bottom line is we know where we're at and we know what we're up against, so we have to be ready for that challenge."
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