Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 4/22/12
ST. LOUIS Their resilience returned. The trait has defined the St. Louis Blues' surprising season more than any other. It's why they earned their first Central Division title since the 1999-2000 season, it's why they whipped the San Jose Sharks in two games at HP Pavilion earlier in the week, and it's why they clinched the franchise's first playoffs-series victory since 2002 with a flurry of late production Saturday night. Yes, resilience is the reason the Blues' charge under coach Ken Hitchcock will last at least one more round. None of this would be possible without it: Their bench emptying to the roar of Scottrade Center's standing-room-only crowd after a 3-1 victory, white rally towels swirling as center Scott Nichol waved after exiting the handshake line, a sense that this 4-1 Western Conference quarterfinals series triumph could be the first step of a much deeper playoffs run. The Blues' 1-4 finish to the regular season and a loss in Game 1 seem like ages ago, don't they? In the last four contests, St. Louis found the form that made it a Presidents' Trophy contender. The Blues looked calm, composed and collected in routing a team that was supposed to have an edge with more postseason experience. So much for perceptions. The Sharks looked confused as their season slipped away. Meanwhile, the Blues had the look of a Stanley Cup contender. "We've never given up all year no matter what the score has been," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman told FOXSports.com. "Even if we're down and we could lose a game, we continue to battle to the end and never give up. It showed again tonight. We keep it close and keep plugging away at our game. You never know when you'll get a bounce." Oh, the Blues received a bounce in Game 5. It came in the form of third-period goals from center Andy McDonald and wingers David Perron and Jamie Langenbrunner to dash the Sharks' hopes of returning this series to San Jose. St. Louis had confidence all along Saturday, even when the Sharks' 1-0 lead looked as if it might hold. After all, this is a team that finished 30-6-5 at home in the regular season. This is a team that knew how to win. Hitchcock has talked about a complete "buy-in" from players since he replaced former coach Davis Payne in November. Their faith in the Stanley Cup-winning leader's plan was evident Saturday as it has been all season. And in Game 5, that trust was displayed in their actions both on and off the ice. Afterward, the Blues locker room was celebratory but not filled with over-the-top excitement. It had the feel of a group coached to dream bigger. It had the feel of a group taught to focus well beyond the quarterfinals. Sure, players spoke about enjoying the moment, and the organization's milestone playoffs-series victory is something to be recognized. But the scene showed players know a much greater prize winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history is attainable. And they have the talent and drive to do it. "They get along," Hitchcock said. "They love it, and they go after each other in a fun way. But they really need each other and rely on each other. It's a very unique team in that there are no superstars. It's just a bunch of guys who grew up together that are having fun together and now really count on each other." That's the secret of the Blues' success. Most players haven't experienced long postseason runs St. Louis had reached the playoffs once in the past six seasons before this year so they aren't scarred by past failures. The speed of the turnaround under Hitchcock surprised even the coach, and the Blues have thrived off blind ambition since. The approach has served them well. Look at where the other top seeds in the playoffs find themselves after Saturday: The Vancouver Canucks trail the Los Angeles Kings 3-1; the New York Rangers trail the Ottawa Senators 3-2; the Boston Bruins trail the Washington Capitals 3-2. Meanwhile, the second-seeded Blues took care of business against the seventh-seeded
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