ST. LOUIS -- With a plethora of in-season coaching changes around the NHL this season, the St. Louis Blues (42-18-7) have certainly reaped the benefits of bringing in the veteran Ken Hitchcock after a rough 6-7-0 start this season.
The Anaheim Ducks (29-28-10) were in a similar position when they made the change on Jan. 30 to Bruce Boudreau, who replaced Randy Carlyle (who's since taken over the resigns in Toronto).
The Ducks were 7-13-4 when the coaching change was made following a home win over Montreal. Things didn't start as well under Boudreau, who was 3-9-2 in his first 14 games.
"The new coaching staff came in and we were still losing games and we were pretty down on ourselves," Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa said. "I wouldn't say we stopped believing in ourselves, but we got pretty close to that. (The coaching staff) kept telling us to stay positive and it's going to turn around eventually and that's what we did. Games got closer and closer and we started winning games and just started building. It added up. It gives us confidence."
That confidence boost has turned into a 19-6-4 run since Jan. 6 and has the Ducks, who were laboring near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, just six points behind eighth-place San Jose going into tonight's clash with the Blues.
"They really are playing good," Hitchcock said of the Ducks. "They're playing about as well as anybody in the West right now. You can see what Bruce has done systems-wise. There's a change from when Randy was there. There's a different style, but I think it's like anything else ... when your best players are your best players, you're going to win a lot of hockey games. (Jonas) Hiller's been great in goal, they got (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Corey) Perry engaged, they're obviously good players.
"I just think sometimes as a team, you kick yourself for not starting the engine a little quicker. ... They look like they could win every game the way they're playing right now."
Boudreau, who was fired earlier this season in Washington and within a week hired in Anaheim, has taken a positive approach and turned it into a winning formula in Orange County.
"He approaches things positive," Sbisa said of Boudreau. "I was thinking he was more of an offensive-minded guy when he came in. In Washington, they were scoring a bunch of goals and stuff, but the defensive side of our game got way better since he came in. We used to be a team that got outshot every night. Now we keep teams to around 20 shots, which is great and we have to do that if you want a chance to win. If Hiller plays every night, you can't give up 40 shots a night."
With 15 games remaining on the schedule, the Ducks, even at the tough grind they've been on just to get themselves back in contention, believe they have their fate in their own hands.
"It's been a grind, but it's way more fun when you win," Sbisa said. "When we were on that losing streak early in the season on that long road trip, guys just got tired early, especially mentally just couldn't stay up. But on the one we had just this past month, the trip was even longer, but I felt I had more energy and most of the guys felt the same way because of the fact that we were winning. It makes everything better going to the rink, going to practice, wanting to practice and all that stuff. It's been a change in attitude."