Hitchcock: Blues ‘are fortunate’ series vs. Sharks is 1-1

1 Comment

This time, the St. Louis Blues didn’t get away with playing an uninspired home game against the San Jose Sharks.

That seems to be the takeaway from Ken Hitchcock after watching the Sharks beat his Blues 4-0 in Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.

“We seem to want to play a little different at home than we do on the road,” Hitchcock said. “We got away with it in Game 1 and didn’t get away with it today at all. They were much better than us probably in every aspect, especially on special teams.”

Hitchcock noted that the Blues “don’t have the foot-speed of other teams” and didn’t feel great about the way St. Louis managed the puck.

He believes they can “clean up” issues on the PK and, in general, “catch up.”

On the other end, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer bragged about a strength that might be on San Jose’s side rather than on the side of the Blues.

DeBoer says refs need to call the game ‘accordingly’; Hitchcock says Blues ‘won’t whine for calls’

16 Comments

In 2011, the last time the San Jose Sharks made the Western Conference Final, special teams played an enormous role in their demise, as the Canucks scored nine times on the power play and ended the series in five games.

Only a few Sharks are left from that 2011 squad, but the importance of special teams was on display again in Game 1 of the 2016 conference final. San Jose went 0-for-3 on the power play, the St. Louis Blues went 1-for-2, and the Sharks lost the game, 2-1.

“St. Louis’ penalty killing did nothing we haven’t seen before this season,” said Sharks coach Pete DeBoer. “When our power play doesn’t score, it’s either the goaltending is great or our execution is off. I think it was a little bit of both last night. But we’ve always managed to fix that. I have confidence we’re going to get that fixed for next game.”

According to forward Logan Couture, San Jose’s biggest problem in Game 1 was gaining the zone and getting set up. That’s when the Sharks are at their most dangerous, when they can throw the puck around and open shooting lanes for the likes of Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski.

“Last night our entries needed to be better,” Couture said. “I think we stalled on the left side entering the zone.”

While Couture, like his coach, is confident that the Sharks can “figure it out,” it’s worth noting that the Blues had the second-ranked PK during the regular season, and their stinginess has carried through into the playoffs. The Stars went just 2-for-20 with the man advantage in the second round.

The Sharks’ power play, unlike the Stars’, couldn’t be stopped in the second round. It converted eight times in seven games versus Nashville, and that was after scoring five times in five games versus the Kings.

And in a remark that may have been intended for the ears of the Game 2 referees, DeBoer said he expects the rule book to be called “accordingly” against the big-hitting, beard-tugging Blues.

“We’re relying on the officials to do their job,” he said. “St. Louis is one of the most penalized teams in the league, regular season and playoffs. They need to call the game accordingly. Need to make them pay a price for being the most penalized team on the power play, which we didn’t last night.”

That, predictably, got a response from Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.

“We’re told not to whine for calls, so we’re not going to whine for calls,” he said. “If Pete wants to do it, that’s up to him, but we’re not doing it.”

All that gamesmanship underscored one main point — special teams could very well decide which of these teams gets to the Stanley Cup Final.

‘I don’t want to be ripping off a team’: Blues’ coach Hitchcock is just fine with taking one-year deals

AP Photo
5 Comments

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.

‘I want to sleep on what I’m going to do,’ says Hitchcock of Blues goalie situation for Game 7

Getty Images
9 Comments

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?

Maybe not?

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.”

 

 

Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?

AP
4 Comments

The Dallas Stars only beat the St. Louis Blues by one goal (2-1) in Game 1, but the feeling is that the score was deceptively close.

Blame it on fatigue from that epic series against the Chicago Blackhawks or not; the Blues looked out of rhythm and out of breath against the hard-charging Stars.

At least they’re not in denial about that, though.

“We’re not going to beat anybody giving up 40 shots on goal,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after their Game 1 loss on Friday. “We’re not going to beat anybody giving up the scoring chances we did today.”

Hitchcock added “we’ve got to find the energy to play our game, and we’ve got to find it quickly in the next 48 hours.”

Allowing 40 shots on goal might not be that common for the Blues, yet they leaned heavily on Brian Elliott against the Blackhawks in that series.

Just look at the SOG comparison in that series and in Game 1 vs. Dallas:

Game 1: Blues – 18 SOG, Blackhawks – 35
Game 2: Blues – 31, Blackhawks – 29
Game 3: Blues – 36, Blackhawks – 46
Game 4: Blues – 20, Blackhawks – 42
Game 5: Blues – 46, Blackhawks – 35
Game 6: Blues – 28, Blachawks – 36
Game 7: Blues – 26, Blackhawks – 33

Game 1: Blues – 32, Stars – 42

Such shot comparisons make you wonder if Game 1 provided evidence of a rest advantage or if this might just be the state of affairs for the Blues (at least against two electric offenses).

One area to watch is the transition game. The Stars seemed to tear through the neutral zone while the Blues sometimes struggled to get things going.

“They’re a team that wants to play real fast up the ice and through the neutral zone,” Jay Bouwmeester said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Yeah, we didn’t do a very good job of slowing them down. A lot of their chances were off the rush. That’s what you want to take away from them.”

File that under “easier said than done.”