Entering the NHL’s 48-game shortened season, Ken Hitchcock’s Blues and Darryl Sutter’s Kings looked to be heading towards the same place – a meeting in the 2013 Western Conference Final. Thought to once be two of the best teams outside the Eastern Conference, perhaps even in the league, they now might be headed in different directions.
St. Louis opened the year a perfect 6-0, while the Kings went just 2-2-2 in the same stretch. However, following Monday’s loss to the Kings, those same Blues have now dropped five straight games – while the Kings just played their best two games of the year on back-to-back nights.
The high-level point wasn’t lost on coach Hitchcock, who understandably wasn’t happy with his teams’s performance vs. Los Angeles. Here’s what he had to say at his presser after the Blues 4-1 loss…
– On the overall game: “It’s an easy time to beat everybody up. We’re not playing with the sense of urgency effectively throughout our lineup for the 60 minutes that’s necessary to win in the National Hockey League. We’re playing in spurts – forty minutes, thirty minutes. But, we’re not playing over 60 minutes with that necessary ‘paying the price’ that you have to to win. And even then, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But when you don’t pay the price on a consistent basis and you lose as many board battles as we lost tonight, you’re not going to win the hockey game.”
– On having to change starting goalies at the last minute: “It just happened so quick. It happened right after the warm-up. So, it’s not just like ‘we’re going to play.’ I think everybody was in a little bit of shock. But it is what it is. He had three really good days of practice and then I don’t know. Somewhere in the warm-up he pulled (his groin) again. It’s not a good time for us right now. It’s not good for the team right now. And we’re just going to have to learn to battle through it.”
– On the team not having what’s needed to win right now: “I don’t think you lose it. I think you have to regain it. I think just assuming that it happens every year, that isn’t what it is. You have to go to work to regain it and we worked really hard to gain that accountability. But, we’re only part in. We’re not all the way in. We’re not in on a consistent basis. It was easy at the start, but we’re not all-in. And the guys know that. We (need) to be at a much higher level of an all-in mentality on a consistent basis to win hockey games. All our scoring chances against good teams come on the power play, they don’t come five on five. You have to really dig in five-on-five against good hockey clubs to create scoring opportunities – and we don’t get those…we certainly didn’t get them tonight. This is the homestand from Hell.”
– More on what’s missing: “You look at our second periods and they’re soft. They’re soft second periods. You know we’re getting beat on face-offs, we’re getting beat on the boards, we’re getting beat on loose pucks, and then we recover; but you can’t win like that. And that’s the big difference. That needs to change. There’s no cavalry coming, there’s no rescuing party coming to take care of us. We’ve got to do it ourselves. And the guys are going to have to find from within, a much higher level of compete for each other. And that’s going to have to change.”
– On his captain, David Backes, saying too many guys are worried about their stats: “This is not the team that collected all the points last year [ed. note: with 109 points last season, the Blues missed out on the President’s Trophy by just two points] This is the team that played in the playoffs. This is not the team that collected the points. Players were missing. The team that collected all the points was a worker bee team – so an easier sell. This is a team that has to find itself. And this is a team that’s going to have to dig in for each other, but this is a team that has played about twelve games with each other and needs to find its rhythm, and we’re not finding it right now and we’re paying the price because of it. Sometimes a goalie can get you through while you find yourself. Well that hasn’t happened. You know sometimes we give up 23 shots and allow four goals, and Detroit gives up 47 and allows 1 or 2? Those things happen throughout the course of a year, but we gotta find a higher competitive level with this group because we do have more skill.”
– On the play of Brian Elliott: “I don’t want to evaluate. We lost as a team tonight.”
If you missed Backes calling out his teammates following their loss to the Kings, read this.
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