Blues need to develop 'killer instinct,' GM Armstrong says

News-DemocratApril 29, 2014 

— A few days after the debris of another first-round playoff loss settled, St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong and coach Ken Hitchcock met with the media Tuesday to discuss the playoffs and regular season.

Among the major topics were Armstrong's decision that goaltending prospect Jake Allen and forward Dmitrij Jaskin would be with the Blues next season and the team's need to develop more of a killer instinct in playoff and big-game situations.

Armstrong hinted that a major roster overhaul probably isn't the answer, but did not rule out making trades or signing to improve the current group.

For the second year in a row, the Blues won the first two games of their first-round playoff series before losing four straight. Both losses came against defending Stanley Cup champions, Chicago this spring and Los Angeles a year ago.

"There are no excuses," Armstrong said. "We're in the winning business and we're not winning at the appropriate time of the year, and we have to fix that.

"We lost to a very good team. There's a reason they are Stanley Cup champions a couple times over the last four or five years. ... We saw that in this series when the temperature went from simmer to boil, their best players elevated their game."

Armstrong on what the team needs:

"We need that killer instinct ... when you have a team down 2-0 you need to take the knife and jam it through their eye into their brain and kill 'em. We don't do that."

Armstrong on bringing Jake Allen up next season:

"Jake Allen's going to be here next year. He's earned the right. He's the top American (Hockey) League goalie. He's got that team in the playoffs. Now we're going to see how far he can take it. He will be one of two (goalies here); who his partner will be will be discussed at the appropriate time ... over the next few weeks."

What about veteran goalie Ryan Miller, who was brought in as part of a major trade designed to upgrade the team's goaltending for the playoffs?

"We win as a team and lose as a team, I thought Ryan wasn't the reason that this series ended in six. The series turned on a couple of things, obviously the last one was our inability to score power play goals ... That has nothing to do with Ryan Miller, he's a long way from (Chicago goalie Corey) Crawford in the second period (of Game 6).

"Some of the goals that went in, deflections, things like that, breakaways ... as a team we didn't get the job done and he's certainly part of that. But he's not the scapegoat for this and it would be disingenuous to even go down that path.

"Playing with a hot flame as long as we do burns you at certain times. The inability to score power play goals ended up hurting us."

What are the Blues' plans for Miller, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1?

"It's a two-way street with Ryan at this time. He has opportunities, I want to sit and talk to him. I want to get his feeling about our organization, how he felt about coming in, where he thinks we're at, see if he has any interest in even being a St. Louis Blue."

Armstrong on the team's need for more scoring:

"We need more from all of our top players. With all due respect and not to come off as a smart---, when Barret Jackman and Chris Porter are tied for third for scoring ... you need more from other people."

How does Armstrong view Jake Allen's chances of being the No. 1 goalie for the Blues next season?

"I view Jake Allen coming in here next year competing for starts. Jake Allen's partner is going to have to hold Jake Allen out."

Armstrong said signing veteran winger Brenden Morrow likely held back the progress of winger Magnus Paajarvi, who was obtained from Edmonton in the David Perron trade. What about Paajarvi?

"He's another younger guy that's going to be into our (top) 12, most definitely. Magnus is going to get opportunity ... he's got to get stronger, He's got to get bigger. He has to commit to becoming the player that we want. If he does that, the ice time will be here and if he doesn't do that, then someone else is going to find it and take that ice time."

Is the coaching staff being held accountable?

"We're all accountable. Now is not the time to isolate a person or a player or part of the organization and set them adrift and hope that the problem goes away We have to get better as a staff. I have to get better, the coaches have to get better. We have to find a way."

The Blues lost their final six games, earning a first-round playoff matchup with Chicago instead of someone else. What happened?

"It started with an innocent play at the end of a game in Nashville with (Vladimir) Tarasenko going down. That just started the ball rolling The last six games of the season ... I thought we lost composure in Colorado game and that snowballed into the Chicago game.

"Not that Dallas or Minnesota would have given us a free walk to the second round, but they don't have the knowledge that Chicago has on what it takes to win."

What will it take for the Blues to go further in the playoffs? Hitchcock had this reply:

"When you've got your foot on their throat, step. I don't know any other way to describe it. The end result is you've got go further, further in every aspect of your game -- checking, special teams, scoring ... you've just got to go further. It's hard to do, but you've got to do it."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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