April 24, 2014

Blues to host L.A. Kings in first round of NHL playoffs starting Tuesday

St. Louis Blues Chris Stewart (R) celebrates a 3-1 win with goaltender Brian Elliott over the Chicago Blackhawks in the last regular season game of the season at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 27, 2013. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

St. Louis Blues Chris Stewart (R) celebrates a 3-1 win with goaltender Brian Elliott over the Chicago Blackhawks in the last regular season game of the season at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 27, 2013. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Jaden Schwartz set the tone with the first two-goal game of his NHL career, Brian Elliott stopped 22 shots to give him a franchise-best 11 wins in the month of April, and David Backes added a pair of assists to give him 300 career points as the Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 on Saturday night to clinch fourth place in the Western Conference.

The win will set up a rematch with the Los Angeles Kings, who swept the Blues in the playoffs last season, on their way to a Stanley Cup Championship. The Blues finished the season 29-17-2.

“We earned this,” said head coach Ken Hitchcock. “We fought hard to get back in this and I think that reality check of waking up one morning and just assuming you’re going to be in the playoffs and then all of the sudden, you’re sitting there in ninth place is exactly what this team needed. The reality check of getting back to who we were had to come sooner or later. The right people for me took the team over and really established our checking mindset and when we started to win games 1-0, 1-0, I think the buy-in became a lot easier. But the right people needed to take the game over because we were halfway everywhere and not being very effective, but we really turned it around.”

Blues-Kings, 1st round schedule: (all times Central)

TUESDAY, APRIL 30, at St. Louis

7 P.M.

THURSDAY, MAY 2, at St. Louis

8:30 P.M.

SATURDAY, MAY 4, at L.A.

9 P.M.

MONDAY, MAY 6, at L.A.

9 P.M.

*WEDNESDAY, MAY 8, at St. Louis

TBD

*FRIDAY, MAY 10, at L.A.

TBD

*MONDAY, MAY 13, at St. Louis

TBD

One of the key pieces for the Blues turning the season around was goaltender Brian Elliott. He finished April 11-2-0 with a 1.28 goals-against average, a .948 save percentage and three shutouts after starting the season 3-6-1 with a 3.65 GAA and .851 save percentage.