No rift: Hitchcock loves Tarasenko’s passion for the game

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If you thought Ken Hitchcock would be upset about Vladimir Tarasenko telling him off on Saturday, guess again.

If you missed it, the Blues had a power play opportunity during the game and Tarasenko only played nine seconds on the man-advantage. As the Blues were going back to the locker room for the intermission, Hitchcock tried to explain himself to Tarasenko, but the Blues forward blew him off (top).

After the game, Hitchcock explained what happened during the sequence.

“They just came off a long shift, and they were tired,” Hitchcock said of Tarasenko’s line, per ESPN. “I was trying to cheat to get time, to give them a rest, but the referee wouldn’t let us cheat. So he wanted our players out there right away.

“That’s what happens when you’ve got a guy like that that wants to make a difference. I love it. I love it in him.”

Will St. Louis be able to overcome the mental hurdles that have popped up this year and in years past? The Blues had an opportunity to close the series out in Game 5, but Patrick Kane scored in double OT to force Game 6. In Game 6, the Blues blew a 3-1 lead and ended up losing 6-3.

“We’ve got Game 7 at home,” Hitchcock said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s the best-case scenario we could have hoped for, we could have dreamed for getting this matchup and getting home-ice advantage.”

Best-case scenario might seem like a bit of stretch, but the Blues can still make their fans forget about all the mistakes they’ve made in this opening round.

Related:

Is there a rift between Tarasenko and Hitchcock

Hitchcock on his team’s defending in Game 3: ‘We looked like the Washington Generals a few times’

St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, back, directs his team as players Steve Ott, front left, and Ryan Reaves look on against the Colorado Avalanche in the third period of an NHL hockey game on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, in Denver. The Blues won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Associated Press
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The St. Louis Blues got a much-needed win in Game 3 of their best-of-seven series against the Chicago Blackhawks, but that doesn’t mean their coach was satisfied with everything they did.

During his post-game press conference, Ken Hitchcock compared his team’s defending (at times) to the Washington Generals basketball team. That, of course, isn’t a good thing. The Generals were “famous” for losing thousands of games to the Harlem Globetrotters.

Hitchcock may have been referring to his team’s performance in the second period when they allowed the ‘Hawks to take 24 shots on goal.

Their defending may not have been up to Hitch’s standards, but they did enough to win. The Blues benefited from a hot power play and some lucky bounces. Two of St. Louis’ goals were scored on the man-advantage, including Jaden Schwartz‘s game-winner.

The Blues also got a favorable bounce when Patrik Berglund‘s shot went off Michal Rozsival, off the ice and in the net.

Game 4 goes Tuesday night in Chicago.

Now Hitchcock says Blues ‘need to move on’ from goal review

A Chicago Blackhawks fan celebrates after a goal by St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko was waved off on an offsides call, to the dismay of Blues fans, in the third period of Game 2 of a first-round series in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs, Friday, April 15, 2016, in St. Louis. The Blackhawks won 3-2 to even the series at a game apiece. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
AP
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Let out a sigh of relief: Ken Hitchcock is going to stop milking that goal review controversy. For now.

He urged his St. Louis Blues to move on as Game 3 rapidly approaches in Chicago on Sunday, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

“That’s probably for summer time conversation,” Hitchcock said. “I’m sure there’ll be lots of discussion. That (offside call) will be a video that will get played over and over again, but for right now, all I know is it’s a call that went against us and we need to move on and get ready for (Sunday) afternoon.”

It’s amusing to see Hitchcock basically follow the coach’s blueprint for situations like these.

Step 1: Plead for make-up calls either implicitly or explicitly (Hitch was pretty close to outright demanding them).

Step 2: Change course and act like you’re above the fray.

Step 3: ?

Step 4: Profit

Well, the process goes something like that.

In all seriousness, it would be silly for Hitchcock to leave any stone un-turned, particularly with patience for a Blues’ first-round exit likely at an all-time low. If his reactions inspire a ref not to blow a whistle with the fear of looking “one-sided” even once during the rest of the series, it’s worth every word Hitchcock uttered in reaction to that memorable fiasco.

It might be beneficial for those comments to stick in the mind of officials, but Hitchcock’s justified in hoping that the Blues focus on their world-class opponent in the Blackhawks.

Hitchcock: ‘Calls aren’t going to go your way, you’re not going to get the officiating you want’

St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, back, directs his team as players Steve Ott, front left, and Ryan Reaves look on against the Colorado Avalanche in the third period of an NHL hockey game on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, in Denver. The Blues won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP
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Everybody was curious to hear Ken Hitchcock’s remarks in the wake of Friday’s wild Game 2 loss to Chicago.

And Hitchcock, to his credit, responded like you’d expect a seasoned bench boss to respond.

“We’re upset, but we can’t let it get in the way of what we’re going to have to do,” Hitchcock said after Vladimir Tarasenko‘s would-be goal was wiped out after Joel Quenneville’s successful coach’s challenge, paving the way for a 3-2 Chicago win. “Calls aren’t going to go your way, you’re not going to get the officiating you want.

“It’s going to seem like it’s one-sided.”

Quenneville’s successful challenge — easily the biggest in a brief Stanley Cup playoff history — turned the game on its head. Jori Lehtera was correctly deemed to have entered the attacking zone offside prior to Tarasenko scoring, but that play itself wasn’t the only story.

There was the aftermath.

A visibly frustrated Tarasenko took a slashing penalty after the challenge, which in turn led to Andrew Shaw‘s power-play goal.

Which, in turn, led to another challenge.

Hitchcock alleged Shaw interfered with Brian Elliott on the play, and officials were forced to go back to the monitor. This time, though, there would be no overturning — Shaw’s goal held up, sending the Scottrade crowd into a chorus of boos.

Under normal circumstances, Friday’s game would be seen as a potential momentum swinger.

But in the case of St. Louis, it could be seen as much more — this is a club that, for the last three years, has faced major hurdles getting out of Round 1. After an emotional 1-0 OT win in the series opener, things looked to be going the Blues’ way… only for Friday night to happen.

Hitchcock, it seemed, was well aware of this being a potential  turning point.

But he sounded determined not to let it be.

“When you play the defending Cup champions, you’re going to have to fight through a lot of stuff,” he said. “That’s the way it is.”

Hitchcock raves about Paajarvi, who’s ‘playing the best hockey for us right now’

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 10:  Magnus Paajarvi #56 of the St. Louis Blues celebrates his goal in the third period against the New Jersey Devils on November 10, 2015 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.The St. Louis Blues defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-0.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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On a St. Louis team loaded with talented players, one has stood out above the rest in recent weeks — but it’s probably not the one you’d expect.

“The guy that’s gone unnoticed here is probably the guy that’s playing the best hockey for us right now is [ Magnus] Paajarvi,” Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said, per the Post-Dispatch. “Never mind the best I’ve seen him play.

“He looks like a heck of a hockey player in the National Hockey League right now.”

Having skated recently on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Paul Stastny, Paajarvi has gone from an afterthought — he opened the year in AHL Chicago, and spent seven games there — to an integral part of the St. Louis lineup.

He has five points in 23 contests, but two of those have come in his last two games. He assisted on Tarasenko’s game-winning goal against Boston on Tuesday and, against Calgary last week, played a season-high 16:35.

Considering Paajarvi’s career path, what’s happening is a bit of a surprise.

Taken 10th overall by the Oilers in 2009, Paajarvi spent three largely ineffective years in Edmonton (and AHL Oklahoma City) before getting flipped to St. Louis in ’13 for David Perron.

Paajarvi started reasonably well with the Blues — 12 points in 55 games in ’13-14 — but, the following year, was subjected to waivers, cleared, and spent most of his time with the Wolves.

He was waived again at the start of this season and, like the first time, there were no takers.

So it was off to Chicago. Again.

But when injuries ravaged the Blues’ forward group, Paajarvi — who, it has to be said, is still only 24 years old — took advantage of his opportunity, and made himself a lineup regular.

And now it sounds like he’ll be in St. Louis for a while.

“If this is the tempo and the pace and the game that he’s going to bring forward,” Hitchcock said, “he’s going to be a valuable player for us the rest of this year.”