Ken Hitchcock

Hitchcock raves about Blues’ performance vs. Wild

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The St. Louis Blues bottled up the Minnesota Wild in a 3-0 win on NBCSN Monday, prompting raving reviews from head coach Ken Hitchcock, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford reports.

“This was one of the best games we’ve played 5 on 5 for a long time,” Hitchcock said. “We really competed and I thought we created a lot of pressure.”

Vladimir Sobotka opened up scoring while Alexander Steen continues to stay within a stride or two of Alex Ovechkin for the goal-scoring lead (he scored twice to give him 19 on the season). Jaroslav Halak cruised to his second shutout of the season and third win in a row:

Hitchcock ties Martin for 10th in coaching all-time wins list

Head coach Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues leads his team against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on February 20, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Blues 1-0 in overtime.
(February 19, 2013 - Source: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America)
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The St. Louis Blues have been cruising this season with eight wins in 11 games, including their 4-0 victory against the Florida Panthers on Friday.

Each victory has significance, but this one might stand out to bench boss Ken Hitchcock. That’s because it put him into a tie for 10th place on the all-time wins list among head coaches.

He has won 613 career games to match the mark set by former Blues, Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, and Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Martin. Hitchcock is in a position to rapidly rise up the ranks as Jacques Lemaire holds ninth place with 617 victories and Bryan Murray is eighth overall with 620 wins. The only active coach who is higher on the list than Hitchcock is Joel Quenneville, who ranks sixth with 668.

Since he first ascended to the role of head coach with the Dallas Stars in 1995-96, Hitchcock has also enjoyed stints with the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets. He won the 1999 Stanley Cup with Dallas. His Blues are legitimate contenders to help him reclaim Lord Stanley’s Mug this season.

Related:

No fights, just saves: Bishop, Elliott post shutouts; Lehner stars in loss

TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend

Sidney Crosby Alex Edler Roberto Luongo
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Saturday: Vancouver at Pittsburgh (1 p.m. ET)

A solid afternoon affair to get you warmed up for the evening’s action. Sidney Crosby and the Penguins have only lost once in seven tries this season; Thursday night, they beat their biggest rivals, the Flyers, by a score of 4-1, thanks in part to another solid performance from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (6-0-0, .932 SV%). Against Vancouver, Fleury could be staring down a top line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler as new head coach John Tortorella continues to experiment with his forward combinations.

Saturday: NY Rangers at New Jersey (7 p.m. ET)

If only to see if the Devils can win a game. So far, all they’ve managed is three shootout/OT losses. Expect Cory Schneider to get the start for the only winless team in the NHL after Martin Brodeur surrendered four goals on 22 shots Thursday in a 5-2 loss in Ottawa. As for the Rangers (who will take on their cross-river rivals minus injured forwards Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin), they’ve still got three road games left before making their season debut at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 28. But hey, at least they got/will get to sleep in their own beds for a few nights following Wednesday’s 2-0 win in Washington that capped a tough, painful-in-many-ways six-game trip.

Saturday: Boston at Tampa Bay (7 p.m. ET)

Atlantic Division foes clash for the second time in 2013-14. The B’s won the first meeting, 3-1, in Boston on Oct. 3. Tampa Bay will no doubt want revenge for that, and the Lightning — with five wins in their last six — have been playing well enough to take it. Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis have been providing plenty of offense per usual, with 10 points each in seven games. But just as important to T-Bay’s success has been goalie Ben Bishop, he of the 5-0-0 record and .943 save percentage.

Saturday: Toronto at Chicago (7 p.m. ET)

The toughest test of the season for the 6-2-0 Maple Leafs. We’ve written plenty on Toronto’s struggles to gain consistent puck possession; in the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, the Leafs will face a team that loves a good game of keep-away. They may also face an angry team, given the ‘Hawks failed to take revenge on rival St. Louis Thursday night, falling 3-2 in a shootout at the United Center.

Sunday: Dallas at Anaheim (8 p.m. ET)

We already wrote about the red-hot Ducks here, so let’s talk a bit about their opponents. The Stars have had an inconsistent start to the season, but they got a huge 4-3 shootout win Thursday versus previously unbeaten San Jose. Bruins fans may be interested to know that Tyler Seguin leads all Dallas scorers with eight points in six games. The Stars also play Saturday in Los Angeles, so the Ducks (who get Saturday off after hosting the Coyotes Friday) should have the energy advantage in this one.

Hitchcock: Hybrid icing ‘disadvantage’ for fast forwards; Blues voted 20-3 against

Toronto Maple Leafs v St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues weren’t in favor of using hybrid icing this season and, after utilizing it for three games, don’t sound like they’ve changed their minds.

Ken Hitchcock — head coach of a Blues team that voted 20-3 against hybrid icing — isn’t a fan of the rule, saying it hurts teams with speedy skaters up front.

“I think teams with fast forwards are at a disadvantage for icing now,” Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You think about this … you’ve got quick forwards half a step behind a defenseman, you got to the puck every time.

“Now all it is, it’s a little race to the hash marks. But it’s another 25 feet that you could win the race to … that you don’t win any more.”

Hitchcock and the Blues aren’t alone in their distaste for hybrid icing. The Devils voted unanimously against it (and were surprised it passed), Kings head coach Darryl Sutter doesn’t like it (and also doesn’t like the manner in which it was implemented) while Caps forward Jason Chimera bluntly said he hated it.

Hitchcock also sees problems with how teams may adjust their styles of play.

“I think you’re going to see teams play a weakside defenseman further back now,” he explained. “You’re going to see teams really crunch the red line and you’re going to see a team play a defenseman further back because all he has to do is win a 20-foot race.”

Hitchcock on the ‘Hawks: ‘They just don’t give us the puck’

hitchcockgetty
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According to St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, his team has a slight “problem” when it plays the Chicago Blackhawks.

This “problem” is easy enough to understand, even for the most casual of hockey fans; however, it’s a bit more difficult to solve.

“They just don’t give us the puck,” Hitchcock said today, per the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc. “It’s an issue.”

Indeed, the Blackhawks are one of the best puck-possession teams in the NHL — a big reason they won the Stanley Cup a few months ago. (And also a big reason they rank in the bottom half of the league in things like blocked shots and hits, since those are things that teams without the puck do.)

For Hitchcock and the Blues, it’s a challenge that awaits tonight in St. Louis when the ‘Hawks come for a visit.

Granted, St. Louis has its own strengths. The Blues are big, they’re strong, and if they can catch you, they can hurt you.

Whoever ends up winning tonight is likely to be the team that’s able to dictate its preferred style the best.

“I don’t think they can play the way we play and I know we can’t play the way they play,” said Hitchcock, per Mark Lazerus of the Sun-Times.