In the Stanley Cup playoffs where a series can be changed in an instant, it's tradition for fanbases to overreact to losing the opening game or, if you're in Pittsburgh or Vancouver this morning, the first two.
The Western Conference's No. 2 seeded St. Louis face that prospect tonight in Game 2 against the San Jose Sharks. A double overtime loss thanks to Martin Havlat's goal gave San Jose their eighth win in their last 10 games. It's no time to overreact if you're Ken Hitchcock, the man who turned St. Louis from worst to first in the matter of months. He's identified the buttons to push to get his players to respond when he needs them to. Adjustments, not big changes, are in order.
That's why Jaroslav Halak is back in net and Chris Stewart is scratched for Game 2. Hitchcock said after the morning skate that he needs more from Stewart, who's been underwhelming since his 28-goal campaign in 2009-10 with the Colorado Avalanche and managed just one shot in 15:22 of ice in Game 1. Kent Huskin and Ryan Reaves are also out and in will come Carlo Colaiacovo, Matt D'Agostini and B.J. Crombeen.
San Jose coming into Scottrade Center, where the Blues were an NHL-best 30-6-5 during the regular season, and taking the opening game will up the pressure in Game 2. Hitchcock isn't one to stay pat after a win or loss, preferring to make tweaks along the way. Even if the Sharks win tonight, Hithcock's been around the game for so long he won't be worried until he's shaking Todd McLelland's hand and on the wrong side of the end result.
From the Post-Dispatch:
"I don't put any stock until four games are won anymore," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "For whatever reason, the world of hockey has changed since the lockout. I think it's almost harder sometimes to win at home than it is on the road now. The teams are so competitive and there's so much pressure on the home team and there's not a big advantage like you had before."
According to the NHL, of the 300 times a team has gone down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series, only 39 have been able to come back and advance.
And as we may see in Vancouver, if the Blues go down 2-0 and Halak is playing well, does Hithcock make the move to Brian Elliott (should he be fully healthy) just to shake up a team that would be in need of a boost?
St. Louis' fortunes away from home (19-16-6) weren't as good, but while home-ice advantage in the playoffs has turned out to be a myth for the most part, heading back to San Jose down 0-2 would mean an experienced Sharks team would be halfway to an upset and only getting stronger.
A road split is not something that would satisfy the Sharks, not with the way they've played of late or in their quest to continue to hold the momentum in the series.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy