Last year, Ken Hitchcock’s future with the St. Louis Blues seemed very much up in the air following another first-round playoff exit.
Despite the disappointing end to last season, he signed a one-year contract extension to stay in St. Louis for the 2015-16 season.
Hitchcock is apparently just fine, however, with such short-term contracts for himself.
“I scare myself because I think if I take long-term deal, I’m gonna get sloppy,” Hitchcock told Hockey Central at Noon and Sportsnet. “I want to stay on one-year deals.
“I don’t want to be sitting ripping off a team and taking money when I’m not doing anything. I just feel comfortable taking one-year deals to be honest with you.”
Interesting comments to make considering he’s helped the Blues finally get over the threshold into the Western Conference Final after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks, the defending champions, and high-scoring Dallas Stars, the top team in the West during the regular season, in back-to-back seven-game series wins.
It’s also interesting given a number of his peers around the league — like Bruce Boudreau and his four-year agreement with the Minnesota Wild — are locking in to longer-term deals. (It’s also just been reported Thursday that Darryl Sutter and the L.A. Kings have agreed to terms on an extension.)
After previous playoff disappointments, the Blues are now only four wins away from the Stanley Cup Final. You’d think he’d want to leverage that into something beyond just one year.
When the Nashville Predators take to the ice on Thursday, they’ll play to make franchise history.
Never before have the Predators made it to the Western Conference final. That could change in San Jose, where they face the Sharks in a Game 7.
The Predators will, of course, have to buck the trend that has seen the home team win every game in this series. They have experience winning a Game 7 on the road already in these playoffs, having beaten the Anaheim Ducks in the exact situation in the opening round.
“I believe that this is our year, and you’ve got to take ownership,” Predators goalie Pekka Rinne told The Tennessean.
“You try to do everything you can to make it happen, and obviously we’re not even halfway yet, but we’ve been playing a lot of hockey. Hopefully it just continues.”
It continued Monday, as the Predators managed to come back in the third period, force overtime, and get the winner from Viktor Arvidsson in Game 6 to extend the series.
Now, it’s a one-game-winner-take-all scenario.
The Sharks last appeared in the conference final in 2011. The Predators have never been there before.
“I think based on how the series has been played, this should come down to Game 7. That’s what hockey is about,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area.
The Nashville Predators refuse to go away.
Just like the other Western Conference second-round series between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, there will be a Game 7 between the Predators and San Jose Sharks. It’s been a series that has boiled down to home ice advantage. Road teams have gone 0-6 so far.
After falling behind on a goal from Sharks forward Logan Couture, the Predators came back to force overtime as Colin Wilson finished off a pretty passing play to tie the game.
In the extra frame, Viktor Arvidsson scored on a wicked backhander over the glove of Martin Jones to push the Predators over the Sharks by a final score of 4-3 and extend the series. For the 23-year-old Arvidsson, that’s his first career Stanley Cup playoff goal.
The Predators rushed off the bench to celebrate the winner, which capped off a comeback that saw them fall behind two goals in the first period. The Couture power play goal just past the midway point of the third looked like it might be it for Nashville this season.
Just 2:40 later, Wilson struck again for his fifth goal of the playoffs. He scored six goals in 64 games during the entire regular season.
Brian Elliott has started every game in these playoffs for the St. Louis Blues. And, outside of Game 6 on Monday, he’s been pretty good with a .926 save percentage.
But could Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock be contemplating a change in goal for a series-deciding Game 7 between his team and the Dallas Stars? Elliott was pulled after giving up three goals on seven shots in the opening period and St. Louis lost 3-2, despite a furious comeback attempt.
Jake Allen entered into the game for the Blues.
“I want to sleep on what I’m going to do,” said Hitchcock on the subject of his starting goalie for Game 7, as per the Dallas Morning News.
Maybe he’s just being coy?
Allen’s only game action in these playoffs came Monday, after the Stars had opened up a three-goal lead and chased Elliott from the net. Allen made seven saves on seven shots in 42 minutes. Yes. Seven shots. The Stars didn’t necessarily keep pushing for any offence after the opening period, as the Blues just kept charging to try to tie the game.
“He’s the ultimate pro,” said Allen of Elliott. “He’ll definitely be ready. He’s been the best player on our team the whole playoffs and he’ll be ready to go again.”
Maybe it’s fitting that a playoff series between the two best teams in the West during the regular season needs seven games to decide a winner to play in the conference final.
Needing a win on the road to stave off elimination, the Dallas Stars could not have asked for a better start. Mattias Janmark and Vernon Fiddler scored just 20 seconds apart to give their team a quick two-goal lead. Up three goals before the end of the first period, the Stars chased St. Louis Blues starting goalie Brian Elliott from the crease.
For the remaining 40 minutes, however, the Stars just barely hung on to defeat a hard-charging Blues team that came close but couldn’t complete the comeback in a 3-2 final.
It wasn’t from a lack of opportunities.
Basically, from the start of the second period to the final buzzer in the third, it was all Blues. Alexander Steen gave them life, scoring in the second period, and Patrik Berglund brought them to within a goal with plenty of time remaining in the third. They couldn’t get the equalizer by Kari Lehtonen.
For all the concerns about the Stars’ goaltending in these playoffs, Lehtonen came up big with 35 saves on 37 shots.
The Stars? They had 14 shots on goal the entire game, seven of those coming after the first period.
Shot attempts? Puck possession? Those were just a little lopsided in favor of St. Louis.