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)

Blues extend Hitchcock, part ways with Agnew and Hirsch

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The St. Louis Blues have given head coach Ken Hitchcock a one-year contract extension, the club announced on Wednesday.

Hitchcock, who led the team to a franchise-best 52 wins last season but suffered a second consecutive opening-round playoff loss, will be back behind the bench next year along with assistant Ray Bennett and associate coach Brad Shaw.

The Blues did make a couple of changes following their disappointing defeat to Chicago, however, opting to part ways with assistant coach Gary Agnew — who had been with the club since 2012 — and goalie coach Corey Hirsch.

“I would like to thank Gary and Corey for their diligence and dedication as members of our organization, and wish them nothing but success in their future endeavors,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said in a statement.

Hitchcock’s one-year extension is interesting, as it seems pretty clear his future in St. Louis will be decided by what the team does in next year’s playoffs. The Blues have enjoyed tremendous success over the last three regular seasons but have faltered in the postseason, advancing to the second round just once while getting dumped in consecutive years by the two defending Stanley Cup champions, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Hitchcock: Blues can shape ‘our own legacy’

Ken Hitchcock
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As we previously reported, the St. Louis Blues’ first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks looks eerily similar to their 2013 battle against the Los Angeles Kings.

In both series, St. Louis claimed the first two contests courtesy of Alexander Steen and then Barret Jackman game-winning goals and went on to lose the following three contests. The Blues also lost Game 6 in 2013, which means that they have one more chance to change the script.

“We have a chance to write our own legacy,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Everybody is probably writing, ‘Here they go again. They’re challenging the top teams, but can they get through the top teams?’ Everybody is going to write that stuff. But we have a chance to write the message that you guys have to print, so it’s in our control.

“I want to see us embrace this.”

To make St. Louis’ task harder, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook will return from a three-game suspension this afternoon. He was punished for his high hit on Blues forward David Backes, who was injured on the play but has since returned.

The contest will start at 3:00 p.m. ET and air on NBC.

‘Everybody is a little discouraged,’ says Blues coach Hitchcock

Chicago Blackhawks v St. Louis Blues -  Game Five
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For the second consecutive year, the St. Louis Blues are facing elimination in their first-round playoff series against the defending Stanley Cup champions after jumping out to a 2-0 series lead.

On Friday, Jonathan Toews scored in overtime to lift the Blackhawks to a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 5, giving Chicago a 3-2 series lead and putting the Blues on the brink of elimination yet again.

“We’ve done it all year. We’ve gotta do everything in our power to bring this thing back for Game 7. Everybody is a little discouraged, a little down, but (Sunday) we’ll get ourselves ready. I don’t see anything changing,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, as per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

However, there appears to be some history repeating itself for the Blues.

There are some striking similarities between their first-round series loss to the L.A. Kings last year, and to this current point in their first-round series this year with Chicago.

(And we’re sure you’ve seen the photo circulating on Twitter, but we’ll break it down here, too.)

2013 Playoffs versus L.A. Kings:

Game 1: 2-1 overtime win for St. Louis Blues, Alexander Steen scored the winning goal.

Game 2: 2-1 regulation win for St. Louis Blues, Barret Jackman scored the winning goal.

Game 3: 1-0 shutout regulation loss for St. Louis Blues.

Game 4: 4-3 regulation loss for the St. Louis Blues.

Game 5: 3-2 overtime loss for the St. Louis Blues.

Game 6: 2-1 regulation loss for the St. Louis Blues.

2014 Playoffs versus Chicago Blackhawks:

Game 1: 4-3 triple-overtime win for the St. Louis Blues, Alexander Steen scored the winning goal.

Game 2: 4-3 overtime victory for the St. Louis Blues, Barret Jackman scored the winning goal.

Game 3: 2-0 shutout regulation loss for the St. Louis Blues.

Game 4: 4-3 overtime loss for the St. Louis Blues.

Game 5: 3-2 overtime loss for the St. Louis Blues.

Again, striking similarities. Now, can the Blues alter this, or will history repeat itself in Game 6?

Hitchcock knows how Quenneville felt as Blues take their own tough losses

St Louis Blues v Nashville Predators
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Right down to the 4-3 overtime score, the Chicago Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 in a way that seemingly mirrored how St. Louis won Game 1 and 2. It’s something that Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock admitted to noticing.

The series is now tied 2-2 with a Game 5 in St. Louis approaching. The two teams are so tightly matched that the goals total only favors Chicago by one.

It’s probably not surprising that Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville admitted that this was a big win and also acknowledged just how hard-fought this first-round bout has been so far.

The Blues hold home-ice advantage while the Blackhawks have two recent Stanley Cup victories and some more name recognition, so it’s difficult to handicap what’s become a best-of-three series. If the first four games are any indication, the margin of victory might be slim and there could be a few more twists and turns.

Hitchcock thinks Backes will return ‘in the next two or three games’

Ken Hitchcock
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The St. Louis Blues played a valiant Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks without captain David Backes.

Losing 2-0 and surrendering an empty-net goal in the closing seconds is nothing to get down about, but Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has all faith they won’t be without Backes for much longer.

Following the loss, Hitchcock told reporters he believes Backes will be back for them soon, and when he does things will pick up for his team in a big way.

“We get (David) Backes back in the next two or three games, we’re going to even go higher,” Hitchcock said.

There hasn’t been a timetable set for when Backes might return from the injury he suffered when he was charged by Chicago’s Brent Seabrook in Game 2. As you know, Seabrook received a three-game suspension for the hit and Backes was knocked out of the game and did not play on Sunday night.

There’s no doubt the Blues are a better team with Backes on the ice, but if he’s dealing with a head injury playing it cool while he gets better is for the best.