Ken Hitchcock

Hitchcock on receiving Blues job: “I was shocked”

2 Comments

New St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock met with the media today, less than 24 hours after replacing former bench boss Davis Payne. The presser introduced Hitch as the 24th head coach in franchise history, although a more apropos introduction might’ve been “St. Louis’ fourth head coach in the last five years.”

Regardless…

Here are a few of the more choice quotes from Hitch and the man that hired him, general manager Doug Armstrong. Should mention that Hitch started things off by saying he was shocked to get the call last night (he was driving his car when he picked up) and “within a couple of hours” he and Armstrong had agreed on a deal.

Hitch on taking the job: “When this call came, I’m all about the people you work with with and I’ve known John (Davidson) since John was small and a goalie in the Western Hockey League, and I’ve known Doug (Armstrong) for 18 years, so I knew the working relationship. I just felt that I couldn’t miss out on this opportunity to work with these people. I couldn’t miss it.”

Hitch on his voluminous research: “”One of the things I did over the last one-and-a-half years is study every team closely. I have a six- or eight-game report on every team … I’ve watched every team play at least four times this year very closely and I’ve done it in preparation of the next gig. I assumed that if I went into a team, I better be ready on the scouting report.”

[NB: Sounds an awful lot like Andy Murray, a notorious stickler for detail that would prepare massive opposition scouting reports. Also, the same coach St. Louis fired less than two years ago.]

Armstrong on why he made the change: “It’s something when I looked at our team and saw the way we were progressing, there were postmarks that you look for in management. I felt where we are at right now, we needed an experienced coach, someone that could guide this younger team to the area it wants to go to. I just felt that I wanted the certainty of a head coach with a proven track record, a winner, to push these young players and push this organization to the next level.

Armstrong on why he made the change now: “I think it was very important that I didn’t wait around. If I had that feeling, I shared it with (Davidson). We talked extensively over it. He gave me the full support to continue down that path. When you’re going through this process, you have to look at all the potential candidates. Ken was on that list… Everything came back to Ken’s resume, what he’s accomplished. I’ve seen him first hand as an assistant manager mold a team (in Dallas). I’ve saw him take a young, exciting Philadelphia Flyers team to Game 7 of the semifinals. I saw him take a Columbus team and provide structure and got them into the playoffs. I just thought he had all the attributes we needed moving forward.”

[Possible translation: “Payne was fine, but lacked experience. We didn’t have time to wait for him to get it.”]

One final note on the timing of the move: Payne led St. Louis to a 6-7-0 record despite a brutal opening schedule. Nine of the Blues’ first 13 games were on the road; after starting the year with two games at home they went 11 days between their second and third home games and 13 days between the third and fourth.

But Hitch? Hitch gets to take over as the Blues begin a five-game homestand on Tuesday, and they’ll actually play seven of their next nine at Scottrade. As they say, timing is everything…

Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

5 Comments

Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

…. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.

Sell this: Kucherov, Lightning put trades behind them, blast Senators

1 Comment

The Tampa Bay Lightning might be in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean their players are quitting on this season.

After shipping Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle out of town, they could have rolled over against a hungry Ottawa Senators team. Instead, they blew them out, winning 5-1 on Monday.

Nikita Kucherov was the biggest standout, collecting a natural hat trick, which you can watch above. (He also generated an assist.)

Jonathan Drouin had a big night in his own right, assisting on all three of Kucherov’s goals. Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson generated two assists apiece, as well.

And, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy inspired at least a few “Ben who?” jokes by making 39 out of 40 saves, including this beauty:

As you can see, Ottawa actually had a 1-0 lead at that point, so it could have been a different game if the agile goalie did do the splits there.

The Lightning are still five points out of the final wild card spot, trailing Boyle’s new team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators, meanwhile, find themselves slipping a bit out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, especially considering Montreal’s comeback win against New Jersey.

Tampa Bay may may not be done making moves and recognizing painful truth that the odds are against them rallying to a playoff spot. That said, nights like these make you wonder if a run is at least possible.

Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.

 

Trade: Capitals go all in for Kevin Shattenkirk; Blues receive picks

17 Comments

If there was any doubt about the Washington Capitals going “all-in” to win a Stanley Cup, they erased it on Monday. They sent a pick-heavy package to the St. Louis Blues to land defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

Yes, that’s right; the top team in the NHL standings landed the biggest trade deadline target. They also edged other contenders hoping to land Shattenkirk, including the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.

Here’s the official announcement, which clears up some of the finer details:

The conditional second-rounder might come in 2019, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford. The full conditions are … complex, so check out this thread from the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan for the highly specific factors that could net more picks for the Blues.

***

To recap, the players involved go as follows: Brad Malone and Zach Sanford to St. Louis; goalie Pheonix Copley to Washington.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the Blues retained 39 percent of Shattenkirk’s salary in the deal.

***

Sanford, 22, was a second-round pick (61st overall) by the Caps in 2013. He has three points in 26 NHL games this season and also played 25 games (compiling 16 points) in the AHL.

Malone, 27, is a gritty player (30 points and 188 PIM in 176 games played) while Copley, 25, generated a nice .920 save percentage in 25 AHL games this season. He also struggled in his lone NHL appearance for St. Louis in 2016-17.

***

Almost exactly one year ago, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said that he believed the team has a two-year window to win a Cup, or at least as their best opportunity to win it all. He’s backing up those words with this bold move.

(And maybe he was playing coy by stating that he was only looking to improve his team “on the fringes.”)