Kukla's Korner Hockey
(May 31, 2016) - St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the Blues have signed Head Coach Ken Hitchcock to a one-year contract extension. Hitchcock was originally hired by the Blues on Nov. 7, 2011, becoming the 24th head coach in team history. The Edmonton, Alberta native will enter his sixth season behind the Blues bench in 2016-17.
from Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
During a locker clean-out that marked the transition from this season to next, Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko missed a chance to take out the trash.
The $60 million man declined to participate in the final media availability of the season on Saturday. The no-show was harder to explain than Tarasenko's disappearance in 17 of the Western Conference final's 18 periods. This time there wasn't San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to blame....
He could have told the doubters why they were wrong. He could have told those who defended him why things will be different next postseason. The new father could have explained what it was like, balancing the biggest moment of his personal life — he welcomed a son into the world before Game 2 — with the biggest moment of his professional career.
At least tell them something.
More importantly, Tarasenko's no comment closed the book on his season without addressing the elephant in the dressing room.
There is growing speculation of friction between Tarasenko and the Blues. Is there a rift between the star and his club?
from Jeremy Rutherford and Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post Dispatch,
There are many questions facing the club this summer, perhaps some that will have light shed on them Tuesday, when general manager Doug Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock meet with the media.
But on Saturday, it was the players' turn to look back and look ahead. Here's a collection of news and notes from those interviews:
• David Backes had an emotional post-game interview following the Blues' Game 6 loss. During part of it, describing the kind act of teammate Steve Ott giving him "something" to help the captain stay in the lineup, knowing that would mean Ott wouldn't play, Backes broke into tears.
"I think I'm getting a Visine endorsement after that interview," Backes joked. "I've seen a bit of it and quite a few people have referenced it. That was real, that was raw, that was my heart right on my face and coming right out of my tear ducts. It's one of the hardest things I've done as an athlete is emerge out that room and have to face these cameras with that sort of emotion all over the place. In hindsight, I'm glad I came out and I talked. I think people could see how much it meant — and I was speaking for the whole group — what that opportunity and this run meant to these guys and that we didn't get it done. The sting of that is with every guy in this room."...
• Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was at the center of much trade speculation last offseason and that expects to be the case again this summer. He will be entering the final season of a four-year contract that has a salary-cap hit of $4.25 million.
"It was a wild year with all the rumors going on, and it might plant the seed of doubt in your head," Shattenkirk said. "But that's not my decision. I'm happy to be coming back here next year. I have a year left and this is where I want to be next year. That's out of my hands unfortunately."
from Craig Custance of ESPN,
By Game No. 20, the Blues were done. That they took this run just about as far as they possibly could have wasn't much consolation because they saw the finish line.
Two more wins and they would have been playing for a Stanley Cup.
The Blues, unlike in postseasons past, didn't choke or disappoint this spring. They simply got beat by a Sharks team that was relentless in its tracking, completely eliminating the Blues' rush game. San Jose had more speed and more energy -- and the Blues could never get their punishing forechecking game going for long enough stretches to catch the Sharks.
"We thought we had a team ..." said Blues forward Troy Brouwer before correcting himself. "We do have a team that's a championship-caliber team."
He's right. They do. The Blues proved it by beating a championship-caliber team in round one. They just happened to run into another championship-caliber team in the Western Conference finals. That's why it's so hard to win a Stanley Cup.
Good teams go home earlier than they want in the Stanley Cup playoffs all the time. It doesn't make it any easier.
from Benjamin Hochman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
When it was over, the captain cried.
David Backes came into the media interview with puffy, saddened eyes — possibly like the eyes reading this column were Wednesday night — and he broke down again when describing his team’s character.
“He’ll kill me for telling you this story,” a lip-quivering, watery-eyed Backes said after the Game 6, season-ending loss. “But Game 5, I’m not feeling well, and Steve Ott brings me something to help me feel better. Knowing that he’s the guy not going in the lineup if I can play, that’s pretty selfless — that’s the kind of guys we have in here. Just stories like that. Guys blocking shots, sacrificing their bodies. It’s tough to swallow. You know that the heart’s in here, the ability’s in there, but we came up short.”
The story is a tear-jerker in itself. It reminds you how much goes into this. It also makes you wonder where that character was on ice in Game 6, when the Blues needed to play hockey with fire. The Blues were gassed, and their performance was exasperating.
Watch Backes post-game below along with Ken Hitcock meeting with the media....
St. Louis @ San Jose 9:00 PM ET NBCSN, CBC & TVAS
Blues need a win to extend this series to seven games, Sharks need a win for their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
Which will it be?
from Mark Spector of Sportsnet,
When you’ve been at it this long without success, talking about winning the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy at the morning skate is as taboo as touching it post-game. At least for some, anyhow.
“You look at your whole career,” began San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, who leads the Sharks with 21 playoff points in 17 games this spring. “When I was in high school in the state championship, that was my biggest game of my life at the time. In college, in junior – there’s games where the moments are so big. It’s your Stanley Cup.
“You work all those days to get in the position to hopefully play for it. Tonight those games are in the past, you draw from those experiences. As a kid, you grow up trying to be able to play for the Stanley Cup, and we have a game tonight (that could put them there). This is the most important one right now.”
In the St. Louis Blues’ room, watching the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ dominant Game 6 performance provided the template.
“That’s the way we have to play tonight,” said Kyle Brodziak with a nod. “Every player, every shift, you have to play as if it could be your last.”
from Mark Purdy of the Mercury News,
Hold your breath. Twenty-five years of teal-tinted angst and teasing torment could come to an end Wednesday night. The Sharks are on uncharted ice. And it feels ... pretty amazing, actually. Also odd and strange.
Hold your breath. The Sharks, with a defeat of the St. Louis Blues at SAP Center, will earn a trip to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since the team was born in 1991. Shark fans are not quite sure how to approach this. I can tell. One of my Twitter followers says she will spend Wednesday night hiding inside her closet because she won't be able to stand the tension.
Hold your breath. But try to enjoy it. For fans, this will definitely constitute three periods (or more) of apprehension and nerves. So many good Shark teams over the years have never gotten this far. Why not bask in the unease? Would you rather be a fan of the Arizona Coyotes this week?
The Shark players have done this so impressively, all through this six-week skate across nails to reach this point. They have done a good job of staying in the moment, as Joe Thornton says. And they know not to get ahead of themselves.
from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of NHL.com,
Through the years, as the San Jose Sharks kept falling short in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Joe Pavelski kept developing chemistry with teammate Joe Thornton.
Through the years, as the Sharks kept being called underachievers, Pavelski kept working at his craft.
The Sharks are one win from their first Stanley Cup Final, closer than ever before in their 25-year history, after defeating the St. Louis Blues 6-3 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Monday and taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Pavelski scored two key goals to put them on the cusp, giving him a League-leading 12 goals in the playoffs and 21 points, tied for first with teammate Logan Couture.
His goals were born amid all that disappointment. The first was a product of his longtime connection with Thornton. The second was a product of hours of practice that have made Pavelski, in the words of Couture, "the best in the world" at a certain hockey skill.
Watch Pavelski's two key goals in one video below...
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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