Hitchcock wants more from Blues defense: “Jackman and Shattenkirk had a tough first round”


Say this about Ken Hitchcock — the man has high standards.

After his St. Louis Blues responded to a series-opening loss to San Jose with four straight wins, you’d think Hitch would be nothing but complimentary of his squad.

Yet in speaking with Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Blues head coach found something to critique — the play of his key defensive pairing, Barret Jackman and Kevin Shattenkirk.

“Look, Jackman and Shattenkirk had a tough first round,” Hitchcock said. “They didn’t play as well as they played during the regular season. We’re going to need them to play better here. They’re going to need to be significant players in the second round.”

The Jackman-Shattenkirk pairing is a pretty traditional one — Jackman’s the robust, physical, stay-at-home guy that allows Shattenkirk to be the offensive, puck-moving guy.

It just didn’t go to plan in Round 1.

Jackman finished with a team-worst minus-2 rating while Shattenkirk recorded just a single assist. But numbers don’t tell the whole story — Hitch wasn’t all that pleased with their defensive work, either. It’s why he gave more minutes to the Roman Polak-Kris Russell pairing, which ended up being a pleasant surprise.

“It forced us to play that pair more, and then we found out the more we played them in significant roles and checking roles, the better they played,” Hitch said of Polak/Russell. “Once we narrowed their focus and they became checking pair of defensemen, they had a big impact in the games.”

In explaining why Polak and Russell are successful, Hitchcock might’ve been providing a solution for Jackman and Shattenkirk’s recent woes.

“When they play together, they keep it simple and basic,” Hitchcock said. “When you’re in a series, those types of players have a big impact.”

Memorial Cup champion goalie Appleby signs with Devils

Ken Appleby
The Canadian Press via AP
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Ken Appleby never got drafted, but his efforts during the New Jersey Devils’ training camp have earned him an entry-level contract, per the Bergen Record.

Although no team saw it fit to take him before the preseason, the 20-year-old is coming off of a very strong season. He had a 2.08 GAA and .924 save percentage in 50 games with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. He went on to lead them to a Memorial Cup championship and earned the the Hap Emms Memorial Trophy as the tournament’s top goalie.

Appleby is the fifth goaltender the Devils have under contract after Cory Schneider, Keith Kinkaid, Scott Wedgewood, and Yann Danis. He’ll likely begin the season in the ECHL.

Alexandre Goulet and Jacob Sweeney also participated in the Devils’ training camp on an amateur tryout basis, but both of them have been released.

PHT Morning Skate: NHL stars weigh in on McDavid

Connor McDavid
The Canadian Press via AP
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Some of the NHL’s top players discuss Connor McDavid‘s potential and the hype surrounding him. (Toronto Sun)

While we’re on the subject, Wayne Gretzky recalls what it was like for him going into the NHL and what’s in store for McDavid. (Edmonton Sun)

Sam Gagner is about to start a key season in his career. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

It’s time for the Washington Capitals to make some tough calls, particularly when it comes to Derek Roy. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

With Raffi Torres hearing scheduled for today, here’s a look back at his suspension history. (San Jose Mercury News)

The Chicago Blackhawks have gotten their championship rings. (