After a depressing performance in game one of the Western Conference Quarter-Finals between the Blues and Wild, we caught up with Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock and talked about the strange line combinations we saw.
Hitchcock told us: “I wanted to balance out our team, you know, spread the talent around so that there isn’t one great line, but a whole bunch of mediocre lines.”
“Doug Armstrong gave me a book about mean averages for my anniversary, for example: My wife is 20, I’m 60. That makes us both 40! It’s great being 20 years younger. I thought I’d apply that to the Blues lineups as well. Shattenkirk is a Norris Trophy contender, and Jackman has one skate in the grave, so of course they go together on the 3rd line and balance each other out. Gunnarson has been in an awful slump lately, and Pietrangelo is our top Defenseman, so they are paired on the 1st line together. Backes centered the best line in the league late in the season with Oshie and Steen, so naturally I’d split all them up and put Backes with Berglund, the ‘Big Swede’ whom fans have perpetually demanded be traded ever since his rookie season.”
We asked Ken if this philosophy also applied to the Blues goaltending.
“Of course!” Hitchcock replied enthusiastically. “We’ve got Brian Elliott, a 2-time All-Star, who posted a .919 Save Percentage and a 1.90 GAA in his last Playoff series; and then we’ve got Jake Allen, with one minute of NHL Playoff experience. Jake played good the last few games of the season, so naturally that trumps Elliott’s stats and history with the team.”
Is it really a good idea to mix up your entire team just before the Playoffs though? Wouldn’t that destroy the chemistry that players had spent all season building?
“What is this ‘chemistry’ that you speak of?” Asked a befuddled Hitchcock.
Pack your bags Hitch, we hear Toronto is looking for a new head coach next season.