Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
“There are going to be some dynamite teams in our conference that don’t get in (the playoffs). A lot of it is based on the players’ ability to buy what the coaching staff is selling. We’ve accomplished that while transforming the team,” he said. “But what’s invigorated me is coaching a different group of guys. There have been four or five changes and we’ve still had a high level of success. I think the staff and players buying in is what drives me to coach a lot longer. I really want to do that.”
Still, by leaving his future open for question this season, it’s fair to wonder if the organization holds to its September position that the job is his as long as Hitchcock desires it.
Four years is an eternity in the NHL. The Blues have advanced past the first round only once under Hitchcock and have yet to win a second-round game. Forward T.J. Oshie cited information overload after Monday’s unsightly loss to Vancouver. Hitchcock assumes assurances offered in September remain in force today. Others in the organization suggest less tolerance for another first-round playoff exit given the previous three years’ 8-13 postseason record.
“There’s always going to be a question for players and coaches until we win a first round. But it’s a question I’m not afraid to answer,” Hitchcock said. “I don’t know the answer right now but this team is built to go long in series, long in games. We’ve won a lot of games late. We’ve been at our best in the second and third periods. We know we can go the distance. Like everyone else I won’t know until it plays out but I’m looking forward to answering the questions.”
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Looks like that Chicago Blackhawks-St. Louis Blues playoff rematch is on.
When the Blues took over top spot in the Central Division while the Nashville Predators were going sideways for much of March it, looked like the Blues were going to be the team to beat in the ultra-competitive Central Divison, masters of their own destiny. Not so much now.
The Blues were dumped by Vancouver at home on Monday night by a 4-1 count, and St. Louis has now managed just one win in its last six games. Coupled with the Blackhawks' impressive win over the Los Angeles Kings, the loss puts the Blues just one point ahead of Chicago. So, not only could the two teams face each other in the first round for the second straight year, but the Blues are in danger of giving up home ice advantage as they bumble down the stretch.
Both teams have six games remaining, but the Blues' closing schedule is murderous with five of the six against teams currently in playoff positions. Best of all? The Blues and the Blackhawks play twice before the end of the regular season. Not sure that's good news for the slumping boys from St. Louis.
read on for more hockey tak including LeBrun on the Canadiens, Custance on the Blues and Strang on the Kings...
The playoffs have been an eternal, unsolved mystery for this franchise. But you have to like where the Blues are standing right now.
-Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where you can read more on the Blues.
from Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
“Did I see some improvements? For sure,” Johnston said “We were playing a top team, a little bit short-handed. Quite a few players actually had really good games, but we still had four or five guys who need to pick up their compete level.”
Oh. You mean 20 to 25 percent of the roster?
So, three weeks from the start of the NHL playoffs then, the Penguins have four or five guys who aren’t competing hard enough.
By the club’s own public admission.
I’m no expert, but the implications of that numerical sequence, the ol’ 3-4-5, can’t be good.
Chris Kunitz apparently can’t be good anymore, either.
In 12 games this month, he has no goals and two assists.
“I liked parts of his game,” Johnston insisted. “He was at least in the scoring areas.”
David Perron has at least found the net thrice this month, but his shots are so erratic he’s a danger to players of both teams as well as at least a portion of the audience.
via Seth Rorabaugh of Empty Netters,
Following his team's morning skate, Hitchcock was asked about the lack of scoring in the NHL this season:
"Well I think it's still a star-power driven league. I'd like to see guys get 100 points. I'd like to see 50-goal scorers again. I'd like to see all that stuff be brought in but one of the problems you have right now is there's just too much mobility in the game. Too many teams have four lines that can skate. They have four [defensemen] that are mobile. When the mobility in the game is at the level it's at now, they can recover ice. You don't get the odd-man rushes that you did before. I think this is the way the game is going to be played now. It really hard to get open offensively because people can recover ice so much.
You had, even three, four years ago, you had five, six guys on the team that were great skaters. Now, you've got a dozen on every team. You go look at junior hockey, you look at college hockey, it is really, really fast right now. Just the mobility is the key thing. Kids are being taught skating at a prime age and the mobility in the game has just changed so much right now. I just think this is the way it's going to be for the next 20 years."
Watch the goal below...
from Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press,
If this is what Stanley Cup playoff hockey would look, sound and smell like, the Winnipeg Jets and their long-suffering faithful have one message/plea to the gods of hockey:
The Jets and St. Louis Blues served up a dandy Thursday night in front of an even-more-raucous-than-usual MTS Centre crowd with the home side emerging from a heavyweight bout with a 2-1 shootout victory that just oozed playoff intensity from the opening puck drop to the final horn.
The victory extends the Jets win streak to three games, keeps them above the playoff line in the Western Conference playoff race and -- almost as important -- ends a seven-game winless streak (0-5-2) against their Central Division rivals in the Blues.
"I'm not worried about our team playing over the edge with energy," said Jets coach Paul Maurice. "We spent everything we had and we needed the fans to be as great as they were in that building tonight because they had a lot to do with us playing that hard for that long."
Watch the highlights below...
from Jeremy P. Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
The win over Calgary allowed the Blues to leapfrog Nashville into first place in the division with 95 points, one more than the Predators. But more important to the team, its second straight shutout and third in four games is proof that everything seems to be clicking on cue.
“The timing of the season, things are amping up,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Our checking is starting to get back to the level that it was at previously. We’ve got some firepower to score goals. When we’re on top of things, it’s hard to shut down three lines.
“We seem to have the right mix offensively, somebody is coming through for us and then defensively we’re all pretty much committed right now. (And) our goaltending has been the story the last 10 days or so. These guys have given us a chance to win every night.”
The Blues have 12 games remaining in the regular season, including the next four on the road. They are 12-2-1 in their last 15 road games, averaging 3.46 goals per game and allowing 1.93.
The puck did go in the net, but not between the goal posts.
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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