Blues coach Hitchcock – ‘Darryl is cheating’ and other comments

Following the Blues’ morning skate in advance of Game 6 vs. the Kings later tonight, here’s what coach Ken Hitchcock had to share…

On how his team has played:

“Except for Game 4, we’ve played awfully well.  I think it’s a different landscape when you’re playing a game.  I think the feeling with us is, that I think every player in that room knows that we can’t play the same.  We’re going to have to outplay them.  I think everybody knows that, but I think there’s a real high level of confidence that we can do that.  I know we’re going to get their best push because they don’t want to go back to St. Louis, but I also think that we have it in us to outplay them.”

On if the Blues are a better team than they were last year:

“Well I I don’t want to say that it’s like night and day, but it is.  It feels like night and day.  We were, a year ago, we were hoping they didn’t show up.  And if you look, we maybe got 10 scoring chances.  The scores were closer than the games were.  There wasn’t a feeling on the bench for me that we were gonna push through at times, but we’ve come a long ways.  I mean we’re pushing them to the limit.  They’re pushing us to the limit.  Both teams have had to put a lot of energy into every period to get through it.  Both teams are being pushed against the wall.  Like I’ve said, I think we’ve come a long, long ways.  But I think the reward, what we’re trying to convince the players is, if we win tonight and get it to Game 7. there’s even a bigger reward.  Convincing the players of that, and even getting us to do it, I think would even give us more confidence.  Because we’re in a position where both teams feel like they deserve to move on, but one’s going to, and I just want to see from a growth standpoint, us get that opportunity.”

On how much he considers juggling lines this far into a series:

“I think every day you’re trying to get more from people.  More and more, and more.  But you’ve got to be careful, because you can feed too much information down the pipe and freeze people.  I always find that you are what you are.  You find your level in series like this, and you just gotta get out…Like some guys’ roles change.  Like some guys end up negating each other, and it ends up being an advantage for you.  I think, do we need more scoring from more people?  Yes, we need that.  But I think we need more second and third opportunities to score.  That’s the difference for us.  It’s that rather at looking at say the end result in score, I think looking back on the first five games, if we could get more second and third opportunities and fight for space a little bit harder; some of those guys would get those opportunities that they want.  And I know we have a couple guys that finish, but we’ve got to get in and stay in the position to score more often.  If we’re guilty of anything, we’re a little bit one and done at times.”

On what he pulls from personal experiences going into a Game 6 down 3-2:

“You have to outplay the team.  You cannot play at the same level and win the hockey game.  It doesn’t happen.  And I’ve been in this situation a number of times and I’ve come through, and it’s been the same similar landscape.  We have to outplay them today.  If we play at the same level, it’s not going to be good enough.  We have to find ways in every aspect.  Our special teams have to be better than theirs.  We expect to win the hockey game.  Because when you’re the defending Cup champion, you have some experience in critical times and critical areas on the ice that you can really rely on, that’s familiar ground.  We’re not in that ground yet, and I think if we’re going to leave no doubt, we’re going to have to outplay them.”

On if his players who aren’t scoring are doing a good enough job on the defensive side to keep them in the line-up:

“Yeah, that’s a tough thing to answer.  We have…I think what you’re looking for, is if their compete level is up to par.  For example Sobotka’s line.  Their compete level last game is what we expect.  If they play with that level again, then we’re going to be held in good account, but if they drop that level…So if you’re competing, and you’re…The best way to describe it is, it’s more, can you get into the other team’s players.  If you just go, and you just play, and the other team doesn’t notice that you’re on the ice, then I think you negate any momentum you’ve got.  It’s all about momentum.  What’s happened with the Porter line is they get the other team’s attention.  Sobotka’s line last game got LA’s attention, and that’s what we need to get.  Yes, they got scoring chances.  Yes, they got a lot of shots on goal, but more importantly, they had more zone time in the offensive zone than they’ve had in any other games.”

On if ‘big and good’ teams are better than ‘small and good’ teams:

“No, big and quick is better than small and quick.  Big is irrelevant in today’s game if you can’t skate.  To me the difference that I’ve seen in the last three years, is all the big players can skate like the little guys.  They close fast.  There’s physical play to it, but this is the fastest I’ve ever seen the game at.  It’s just an absolute reckless pace, and it’s reckless because you’ve got big players that run into each other, but they close so fast.  There’s no space, there’s no time, and I think if we’re looking for the end result to be goals; it’s not happening.  And it’s not happening because these people just are more gifted as athletes.  I see it in junior.  I can’t believe how fast junior hockey is.  I see it in college.  It’s so fast, the game now, and I think that combination, it’s just bigger people that are playing the sport.  If you’re a smaller guy, and you expect to play in the National Hockey League, you better be really competitive.  Like you look at a guy like Brendan Gallagher.  He’s a really competitive guy.  You look at Matt Calvert, you look at Jaden Schwartz with us.  These are ultra-competitive guys hanging on, and trying to keep up with big people who can skate as well as they can.  It’s a hard game.”

On if goals should be the end result that the league seeks:

“Well if the goalies opened up their legs a little quicker, there would be a lot more.  I look at it from a scoring chances standpoint.  When you’re averaging 18-20 scoring chances a game, which is what’s happening in this series.  Somewhere in that neighborhood.  Those are good things.  They’re exciting chances.  But to me, the goalies are so good in this sport right now, they’re just lights out ahead of everyone else in the game.  That position has improved the most of any position in our sport the last 10 years.”

On if the fan in him is able to relish the tough series so far:

“Not so much the fan.  I was saying to the Edmonton gentleman, that the biggest difference…Like what I’m really impressed with is, if you’re a coach.  Like I get texts from coaches, from people, who are just admiring the way the game’s being played right now.  This is a highlight reel series for coaching.  If you want to see how to exit under pressure.  If you want to see how to counter under pressure.  If you want to see how to fight for space to create scoring opportunities, this is a series that really can teach you about those qualities.  And for me, from a tape standpoint, from looking at highlights…That’s why when I…I wasn’t positive just by trying to blow smoke the last two days.  I was very impressed with the way we played the game.  To me it was magnified even more when I watched the game back, because we are playing really well, but so are they.  But there’s a lot of good things from a coaching standpoint going on in this series.”

On if it frustrates him that outsiders who aren’t close to the series write about it being boring:

“Well, I think this guy (points to Mark Spector) should just come and stand on the bench for a period.  Try to first of all, get line changes going when you can barely keep up.  And stand there, and when the glass moves nine inches, or you get people on the other side of the glass that are scared because the hits are so hard.  Either stand on the bench or in the second row and see how they like the game.”

On how he thinks about rolling all four lines:

“Well Darryl’s cheating.  So, he goes down and plays three lines, and forces our hand a little bit.  I’ve got a different way to play that tonight.  So we’ll see if we can get an advantage, but he gets down and plays nine forwards pretty quickly, and it forces our hand into some situations where we’re going to have to rethink it for a game like tonight.”

RELATED CONTENT:   Sutter’s Game 6 morning skate comments

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