(HockeyStL) -- The Blues gave the city of St. Louis a taste of playoff victory on Saturday, knocking the Sharks out of the playoffs, and advancing to the second round for the first time in ten years.
It was a sweet taste for Blues fans, and the Blues are now able to prep for the next round, and look to repeat the same feat against their next opponent. Head coach Ken Hitchcock was pleased with his team’s performance in their four games to one series win over the Sharks of San Jose, but attributed the team’s success to what he called a “buy-in.”
The buy-in occurred immediately after Davis Payne was replaced by the man known as “Hitch.” Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong elected to go with the experience of Hitchcock to lead the team after a disappointing 6-7 start under Payne. The result was astounding as the Blues went on to boast a 49-22-11 record, accumulating 109 points along the way, and securing the second seed in the Western Conference. The results of the coaching change continue to surprise as the Blues advance to the second round of the playoffs, but Hitchcock says it is more than just a new face that is leading to the Blues’ success.
“We have a buy-in going right now, we’ve had a buy in going since the day the coach arrived, I don’t know why, I have no idea why, but the buy-in is right there,” said Hitchcock.
After the coaching change the Blues immediately jumped on bard, and came together as a team, something they had been unable and unwilling to do before Hitchcock took over. Something about Hitchcock gave the Blues a boost, allowing them to gain confidence in him as a coach, and in their own abilities.
“You can see it, you can see the way we play, you can see the way we compete, you can see the way we grabbed it,” said Hitchcock.
The tenacity of the Blues, as Hitchcock pointed out, is very noticeable. The Blues were down a goal late in game five on Saturday, but a “common sense” discussion was all they needed to come right back, and forge on to victory.
“It wasn’t a big speech it was just a common sense discussion (at) the end of the second period with the players, this is who we are, this is how we play, the buy-in went right back in again and we won.”
This is just one of the countless examples of the Blues “buying in” to Hitch’s philosophy on how the game should be played. It has worked all season long for the Blues, but it is much more rewarding when it leads to a playoff victory. The Blues must stay the path for the remainder of the playoffs if they hope to remain successful.
“I think we will be a tough opponent, if they buy-in continues at this pace, win or lose, we will be a tough opponent.”
Obviously the Blues and Ken Hitchcock are expecting wins, but it is clear that if they continue to buy-in as a team, they will become a top playoff team.
The most important buy-in was on the power play, because, according to Ken Hitchcock, it was the difference maker in the series.
“I think the difference in the series was our power play. I thought our power play was successful. We earned the penalties based on our work. I thought the way we went about our business on the power play was excellent”.
Excellent is an understatement as the Blues successfully converted on six of their eighteen power play opportunities, boasting a success rate of 33.3 percent.
The power play was just one example of the Blues buying in, as it was often their implementing Hitch’s defense first mentality that led to their power play opportunities. One thing rings true: if the Blues continue to buy in to the system that Hitch has proven is tried and true, they will be a force to be reckoned with for the remainder of the playoffs.