Ken Hitchcock has a reputation for being hard on his players, for nagging them, for never letting them forget the right way to play.
In a lot of ways, it’s what makes him a great head coach. He knows the game, and he knows exactly what he wants from his players.
But sometimes, instead of being told over and over, the best way for people to learn the right way is by doing it the wrong way, and finding out what happens.
“We wanted to play this funky, slow way,” Hitchcock told reporters today. “Rather than battle them on it all the time, I just let them bury [themselves]. Then they started to grab it on their own.”
Of course, a depleted lineup also helped — or, forced — the Blues to buy in.
“When we had all the injuries, the sense of urgency to play one way became paramount with everybody because we had no choice. We had to really dig in and play that way. Then they found even more success. They bought it themselves,” Hitchcock said.
“I’m not sure without the injuries that it wouldn’t have taken more time. Man, when we had all those people go down, we had no choice but to play one way. They bought in big-time.”
The style that Hitchcock demands is not an easy one to play on a consistent basis. It takes a lot of commitment, and sometimes during an 82-game regular season, a team is going to fall short.
Recall what Hitchcock said during a tough stretch back in December: “This is a league, the more you check, the more you have the puck. The more you stay on the hunt, the more you play on your toes, the more you close gaps, the more you have the puck. When you’re inconsistent in that level, you open it up. This has been an ongoing theme for a little while and we’ve got to get it solved.”
The Blues did get it solved eventually, and now they’re three wins from the Stanley Cup Final.