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Stillman: Western Conference Final loss provides ‘fuel’ for Blues

St Louis Blues v Dallas Stars - Game Two

DALLAS, TX - MAY 01: David Backes #42 of the St. Louis Blues walks off the ice after scoring the game winning goal against Antti Niemi #31 of the Dallas Stars in overtime in Game Two of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 1, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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The St. Louis Blues have had some time to digest losing to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

Their run to the NHL’s final four included series wins over the rival Chicago Blackhawks and high-flying Dallas Stars, after posting 107 points in the regular season. In the end, however, they couldn’t find a way to beat the Sharks, the emotion of that Game 6 loss showing on the faces of guys like David Backes.

On Friday, the Blues released a letter online from chairman Tom Stillman, who highlighted those more optimistic points.

From Stillman:

Our post-season adventure brought us a hard-fought Round 1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, the defending Stanley Cup champions and our biggest rival. The atmosphere at Scottrade Center was electric throughout the series, and our Game 7 victory is one of my fondest memories as a Blues fan. Round 2, a match-up between the top regular-season teams in the Western Conference, was another series for the ages, as our team took another Game 7 victory.

Unfortunately, our quest for the Cup ended in the Western Conference Final. While the loss still stings, it does not diminish our pride in the team’s accomplishments throughout the season; it only provides fuel and experience for our ongoing efforts to bring the Cup to St. Louis.

He continued:

As we bring this tremendous season to a close, we are working on making next season even better. Head Coach Ken Hitchcock will return for his final season, eager to build on this year’s progress. With a compelling mix of seasoned players and young, breakthrough talents, the future is very promising.

Yes, the Blues retained Hitchcock behind their bench for one more season. (On that note, it was reported the Blues are interviewing Mike Yeo as a possible replacement-in-waiting for Hitch.)

Yes, 20-year-old rookie Robby Fabbri enjoyed an 18-goal, 37-point regular season and 15 points in 20 post-season games. Vladimir Tarasenko was held in check during the conference final but still scored 40 goals during the season and 15 points in the playoffs.

But the Blues still have work ahead of them this summer.

Backes and veteran forward Troy Brouwer, who had a breakout performance in the playoffs, are pending unrestricted free agents.

Backes has said he wants to be back in St. Louis, while Blues GM Doug Armstrong has said it’s a priority to get Backes to return, though it will depend on what the player wants and if it fits into the team’s cap situation.