Three days after the Western Conference semifinal series was set between the Blues and Los Angeles Kings, the NHL announced the dates of the first four games on Wednesday.
The Blues have home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series and will host the first two games at Scottrade Center. Game 1 will be Saturday and Game 2 Monday, but the times have not been announced and might not be until the final two first-round series in the Eastern Conference are completed tonight.
Nonetheless, the Blues believe they can be more productive as a result of finally having the dates in their hands.
"Certainly getting that schedule (Wednesday) makes it easier for players to prepare for the next two days," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "The coaches want the players peaking for Game 1 and now they can tailor their practice schedule to that."
The Blues and Kings will then shift the series to Staples Center for Games 3-4 Thursday, May 3, and Sunday, May 6, respectively. Likewise, those starting times have not been announced.
The teams will have two days off after Game 2 in St. Louis and they will also have two days off after Game 3 in L.A.
"It's strange. ... I've never been a part of a series where you had two days off, play a game and then have an additional two days off," Armstrong said. "But traveling to the West Coast, you like the idea of having two days off after Game 2. We had two days off in San Jose (in the first round) and we used the time wisely."
The dates for Games 5-7 (if necessary) also will be announced at a later time.
In the 2-2-1-1-1 format, the Blues would host Game 5, the Kings would host Game 6 and the series would conclude with Game 7 in St. Louis.
The three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, given to "the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position," were announced Wednesday and Blues netminders Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak were not on the list.
The finalists, as selected by the 30 NHL general managers, are Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles) and Pekka Rinne (Nashville). The winner will be announced June 20 in Las Vegas.
Rinne led the league in wins, with 43. Quick led in shutouts with 10 and Lundqvist was in the top four in wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.
Meanwhile, Halak and Elliott had impressive numbers, but might have split the vote after splitting time in net. Elliott was No. 1 in GAA (1.56) and save-percentage (.940) and second in shutouts (9), but finished with far fewer wins (24). Halak was fifth in GAA (1.97), seventh in save-percentage (.926) and tied for fifth in shutouts (six), while ending with 26 wins.
"You know what," L.A. coach Darryl Sutter asked. "It's too bad for St. Louis that you can't do two for one, because if it was, you know which direction (the Vezina) is going."
Multiple goalies from the same team have won the Vezina, including the Blues' Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall in 1969. But in 1981, the Jennings Trophy was introduced and awarded to the team whose goaltenders allowed the fewest goals in the regular season. Elliott and Halak shared the award this season.
The announcement for the remaining NHL awards will be as follows: Thursday, Norris Trophy (top defenseman); Friday, Hart Trophy (MVP); Monday, Jack Adams Award (top head coach).
ANOTHER LONG LAYOFF
The club had eight days off during the NHL All-Star break in late January. In its first game back, the club edged the Kings 1-0 on Feb. 3.