The St. Louis Blues did an excellent job of battling back from a 5-2 third period deficit to earn a single point in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.
However, there was some confusion over the Blues’ goaltending situation.
After allowing four goals on 21 shots, Jake Allen was pulled in favor of Brian Elliott. Elliott backstopped the Blues to a 2-1 win on Saturday and was supposed to have the night off.
Elliott allowed one goal on six shots before leaving the game early in the third period.
Allen returned and finished the game.
Elliott appeared agitated when leaving leading some to speculate the goaltender had pulled himself from the game.
Post-game Ken Hitchcock cleared the air.
The Blues’ coach said he pulled Elliott from the game.
“I was thinking, ‘All I’ve gotta do is get him hurt,'” said Hitchcock per Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Hitchcock was then asked if Elliott pulled himself.
“No, that was me,” Hitchcock said. “He was mad he was coming out. I just told him to relax.”
Allen didn’t seem thrilled about going back into the game.
With the point in the loss the Blues move four points back of the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators.
The St. Louis Blues held on to beat the Arizona Coyotes by a final score of 2-1, and Ken Hitchcock picked up another milestone victory in his coaching career, moving right alongside Dick Irvin Sr for fourth on the all-time list.
Dmitrij Jaskin scored the winning goal, and the seventh of this season, just past the midway point of the second period. He also had five hits. His backhand off the rush somehow found room and got by Mike Smith, just trickling over the goal line.
“I didn’t see it (go in) until I went behind the net. It was a good surprise to me,” said Jaskin, as per Lou Korac of NHL.com.
Tuesday night was a big one for two veteran coaches.
The Winnipeg Jets crushed the Florida Panthers 8-2 last night to provide bench boss Paul Maurice with his 500th career victory. He’s just the 20th head coach to ever reach that mark and it appropriately happened near the one-year anniversary of him taking over the Jets.
“I’ve been really fortunate,” said Maurice, per the Winnipeg Sun. “Mr. (Peter) Karmanos and Jim Rutherford are the two biggest influences on me, getting an opportunity to coach as young as I did and then staying with me. That’s really where my thoughts are now. An appreciation in the faith and the support and letting me learn in my job, on the job, which you just don’t get to do in the NHL. Those two guys are the reason I’m here at 500 today.
“I feel honored to be in this league that long.”
Since joining the Jets, Maurice has helped transform Winnipeg into a serious contender for a playoff spot. The franchise hasn’t earned a postseason berth since 2007 and Winnipeg hasn’t seen a playoff team since 1996.
There aren’t a lot of active coaches that have been behind the bench longer than Maurice, but St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock is one of them. The 63-year-old coach watched his squad earn a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, which tied Hitchcock with Pat Quinn for fifth place on the all-time wins list with 684.
For Hitchcock, this milestone is particularly significant because it’s Quinn that he tied. Quinn passed away on Nov. 23.
“Obviously we had a great friendship,” Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He was the best manager of people I’ve ever been with in my life. … He was amazing.”
There are some other major coaching milestones coming up. Joel Quenneville is just 16 wins away from becoming the third head coach to ever record 750 victories while Alain Vigneault should also reach the 500-win mark before the season’s over as he’s just nine shy.
After eight sometimes-tumultuous seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, Paul Stastny will enter the Pepsi Center wearing a St. Louis Blues uniform tonight.
Head coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that some positives might come from Stastny facing the Avalanche for the first time after being a member of the team for eight seasons.
“You just have to play,” Hitchcock said. “You know there’s going to be an emotional tug of war going on. You’re visiting with friends, you’ve got people that know you on the other side. He hasn’t played a hockey game against Colorado, we’re two months into the season. Just stay with it. I think the biggest thing is his two linemates have to pick him up a little here. There’s going to be some real emotion on his side, positive and negative. He’s going to play as well as he can play, we know that, but the other two guys have a responsibility to help him out a little bit here.”
The 28-year-old said that Colorado will “always be a piece of home for me,” as NHL.com’s Rick Sadowski notes.
Judging from his early stats, Stastny is still not quite at home in St. Louis.
He only has 12 points in 21 games while averaging less than 16 minutes per game for the first time in his NHL career (he never logged less than 18:10 per contest with the Avs). Stastny’s possession stats aren’t as strong as usual, either.
Could such an emotional evening help the expensive free agent forward start to turn things around with his new team? The already powerful Blues would certainly appreciate that.
Even if the St. Louis Blues players are growing weary of their demanding head coach, as the whispers around the league suggest may be the case, it doesn’t sound like GM Doug Armstrong has any inclination to get rid of Ken Hitchcock.
“Yeah, as I’ve said, I look where we were before he got here, and I look where we are now,” Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch. “We’re light years ahead of where we were. … Now, quite honestly, it’s basically up to the players to get the job done.”
Armstrong added that Hitchcock will be the one who determines when there’s a coaching change.
“When he feels that he doesn’t have the desire to do that, I have a job for him that’s going to keep him in the organization for many years,” said the GM.
Related: Risk Factors: St. Louis Blues edition