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Hitchcock is an interested observer as playoffs begin

Wednesday, 04.09.2008 / 12:42 PM / NHL Insider

By Ken Hitchcock - Columbus Blue Jackets head coach


Blue Jackets head coach, Ken Hitchcock has been to the playoffs eight times throughout his career.
Ken Hitchcock has coached in the NHL for 12 seasons, with the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets. He's been to the playoffs eight times, winning the Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999 and going back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2000. Hitchcock gives his thoughts on the eight first-round playoff series exclusively to NHL.com

Eastern Conference

Boston vs. Montreal – Boston has to play physical. Than the question is, can Montreal make them pay by scoring on the power play?

Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh – The one thing you find when you're coaching, the team you coached in the regular season, in a seven-game series, that's what you have. If you've got holes in your game, they always come out at the most inopportune times. You are who you are, and the playoffs are not the time to find your game. A playoff series is not the time to find your game. You want to have a lot of things in place by then. I think a lot of people are curious to see if Ottawa can do it again. A lot of teams don't get back in the year after getting to the Final. Everyone knows what Pittsburgh has, we're all curious to see what Ottawa has.

Philadelphia vs. Washington – I think this whole series is going to be wild. Two teams that really get after it, lots of good young players. I think there's going to be lots of pressure on each team's goalie and each team's defense. They both have big forwards. It's going to be a very physical series. I think whoever can get the puck outside their blue line is going to have the advantage here.

I think the one thing Washington has going for them is it plays four lines. The Caps have played four lines deep into games, and you see the line with Donald Brashear coming out there. They're still playing with five minutes left in the game, and I think they play their bench, they play their roster long, and they really believe that their size and tenacity is going to wear you out.

I think that series is going to be determined by whoever can get the darned puck out of their zone because both teams forecheck like crazy. There's going to be huge ebbs and flows in that series because both teams get after each other so hard. I think it's going to be a big challenge for both teams' defense to see who can just get it outside the blue line.

New York Rangers vs. New Jersey –
The key to this series is going to be patience. Both teams play a patient style. Both teams make you crack late in games and late in shifts. At the end of the day, the team that wins the overtimes will win the series. It's so close; it wouldn't surprise me if there's going to be three or four overtime games.

Western Conference

Nashville vs. Detroit – It's going to be a little more interesting a series than people realize. Detroit has a great team, but the Wings are bringing four guys back into the lineup that didn't play at the end of the year. Nashville has a gritty group that plays really tight. The big challenge for Detroit is can it stay healthy? When the Wings are healthy, they're awesome. But they've been really banged up. During the course of a seven-game series can they stay healthy? Nashville has been a team that just keeps bumping along, and since their defense keeps moving, they don't spend a lot of time in their end.

Calgary vs. San Jose –  The Sharks are no more talented than five or six teams, but they play a great system. They really stay with their style of play and they wear you out. They come at you and at you. But I am curious. They lose their last two games and now they play back-to-back and this is like three games in 4-½ nights. I'm curious to see how this thing turns out. This thing can turn quickly on a dime. The way they played at the end, and how they won all those close game, you'd hate to see them lose momentum. They're as well-coached a team as any in the National Hockey League, and for me they've really followed the structure that Ron Wilson and his staff has put out there.

Having back-to-back games, I think it's a real advantage for the visiting team. I'm curious to see that series now, mostly on San Jose's part.

Calgary is the X factor. The Flames have the goalie that can win a series by himself and Iginla can carry them on his back if he has to.

Colorado vs. Minnesota – Both teams can score. Both teams can really light it up, but they play completely different. Colorado is one of the heaviest teams in the League, its cycle game is second to none. The Avs forwards either are heavy players or have heavy sticks. With Peter Forsberg and Ryan Smyth rounding into shape, they're going to be difficult.

Minnesota is this dynamic, rush attack, get everybody up and create problems. I feel like Minnesota is starting to get to that gritty level you need with young teams to do well in the playoffs. This series is going to be in one end or the other and that's how it's going to get played. Colorado can just dominate you down low. I think this will be a fun one to watch.

Dallas vs. Anaheim – I think with Dallas, it's got a team built for this type of series. They can play in this series and it'll be really interesting. I think it'll come down to Jean-Sebastien Giguere vs. Marty Turco. It doesn't look like Sergei Zubov is going to get back, so Dallas has those three young defenseman. They're going to be under a lot of physical pressure. If both teams are able to play their games and not end up in the penalty box, you'll see a lot of smash-mouth hockey and it'll be fun.




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