Skip to main content

Hitchcock understands road Blues must travel

by Louie Korac

LOS ANGELES -- As coach of the Dallas Stars in 1999, when he led his team to the Stanley Cup, Ken Hitchcock was in this familiar position: down 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and facing elimination on the road.

Not only did Hitchcock's Stars go into Denver and defeat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals, they won Game 7 at home, and that run was culminated with a victory over the Buffalo Sabres in six games to win the Stanley Cup.

Fast forward 14 years, when Hitchcock's St. Louis Blues are down 3-2 against the defending champion Los Angeles Kings, on the road, in a tough building, needing a win to keep their season alive.

So what can these Blues draw from their veteran coach that they must apply against a Kings team that has won three straight in the series?

"You have to outplay the team," Hitchcock said after Friday's morning skate. "You can't expect to play at the same level and win the hockey game. It doesn't happen. I've been in this situation a number of times and 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've got to find ways in every aspect. Our special teams have to be better and our 5-on-5 play has to be better if 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 rely on that's familiar ground. We're not on that ground yet. If we're going to leave no doubt, we're going to have to outplay them."

Message delivered -- the Blues and Kings play Game 6 Friday at Staples Center (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

The Blues are the first team in the series to lose at home, a 3-2 overtime setback in Game 5 that has them on the brink of elimination. They hope to draw on the improved play they displayed in that game, aside from what has seemed to be the missing link between winning and losing: scoring.

"We've got to play another game like we did at home last game, but bury a few chances and limit a few of the mistakes that we made," Blues captain David Backes said. "Special teams battles are always a key. We need 20 guys in here that want it more and are more committed and put it all on the line.

"The character we've shown throughout the year should have prepared us for a situation like this. We'll see how it all comes out tonight. We've got a group of guys in here that's ready to get back on the ice and prove that Games 1 and 2 weren't flukes."

It's one reason the Blues seemed to have a loose, laid-back but focused attitude skating Friday.

"I think we're pretty confident in the games that we've been putting out there, the product that we're putting out there," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "They're an experienced team. They didn't get flustered by a 2-0 deficit [in the series]. They came home, they did what they needed to do, and then they came into our building and snuck one out last game. Now it's our turn to do it here.

"This is a tough building to win in. They feed off of their crowd and they play very well at home, so it's going to be important for us that we make sure we keep our emotions in check and really just be ready for anything that comes."

A year ago, when the Blues were swept by the Kings in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Kings overwhelmed them in a number of areas. It's not the sense that Hitchcock gets from this series, which is why he believes they can win here tonight.

"A year ago, we were hoping that they didn't show up, and if you look, we maybe got 10 scoring chances a game," Hitchcock said. "The scores were closer than the games were. There wasn't a feeling on the bench for me that we were going to push through at times.

"But we've come a long way. 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 in a lot of these games. From that standpoint, we've come a long, long way. 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 getting us to do it, I think, would even give us more and more confidence because we're in a position where both teams feel like they deserve to move on, but one's going to. I just want to see from a growth standpoint us get that opportunity."

The Blues won't make any lineup changes from Game 5.

Jaden Schwartz - David Backes - Alexander Steen

David Perron - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie

Andy McDonald - Vladimir Sobotka - Chris Stewart

Adam Cracknell - Chris Porter - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Jordan Leopold - Kevin Shattenkirk

Barret Jackman - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott

Jaroslav Halak

Scratched: Kris Russell, Ian Cole, Vladimir Tarasenko, Scott Nichol, Jake Allen, Dmitrij Jaskin

Injured: Jamie Langenbrunner (hip, IR)

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.