Ken Hitchcock

Hitchcock on receiving Blues job: “I was shocked”

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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…

Sharks scratch Flames’ big lead, Calgary wins anyway

Calgary Flames' Mikael Backlund (11) chases down the puck against San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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If you turned off Thursday’s Calgary Flames – San Jose Sharks game early, you’ll probably be stunned to see that Calgary won 6-5 via a shootout.

For instance:

  • A Sharks fan may have bitterly called it a night when Calgary went up 4-1.
  • Conversely, a Flames devotee might have retired after San Jose took a 5-4 lead, possibly with a broken remote.

The Flames only trailed for about two minutes before scoring the last “real” goal of the game, eventually taking their third straight win thanks to a shootout triumph.

It’s been a strange ride for Calgary, with its most recent win happening after Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were punished with a healthy scratch. As strange as this game was, the “charity point” can leave both teams looking through a lot of film, yet with something gained as well.

Ultimately, the message may very well be: don’t sleep on these teams.

(In less positive news, Karri Ramo is injured, and it doesn’t look good.

Jonas Hiller closing out the game on a hot streak could be pretty important if Ramo’s out for some time.)

By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick helps him make more history

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

(He also passed Jean Beliveau for 39th all-time in goals with his 509th, as NHL.com notes.)

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Update: Minnesota managed three goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington got the edge 4-3.