ST. LOUIS — Ken Hitchcock didn’t waste his time Thursday night.
The St. Louis Blues’ coach spoke to the media for just 88 seconds after his team’s 4-1 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Kings at Scottrade Center. That’s 88 seconds from the beginning of his first answer to the final syllable of his last one.
Hitchcock was asked first about the short-handed goal his team allowed early in the third period, but he wasn’t having any of that.
"This had nothing to do with a short-handed goal," Hitchcock said. "Their best players came to play today. Their best players were the best players on the ice. Their top players had to play today, from the goalie out. Their top defensemen had to play. Their top forwards had to play and they did. They came up big. It was a big game. It was a game that meant quite a bit. Both teams were full. Their goalie was back. Their best players were the best players. That’s what was the difference in the hockey game. They rose to the occasion. We didn’t."
Hitchcock didn’t raise his voice. He didn’t pound the podium or throw a chair. Instead, he was that fatherly figure who spoke about how he wasn’t mad at you but he was disappointed, which cuts way deeper.
Like much of the sellout crowd of 19,374 and those watching intently on television, Hitchcock wanted to see something. He wanted to see what his team was made of. And whether his team was ready to take on this challenge.
But what he saw was the Blues’ 13th loss in their last 16 games against the Kings dating to the 2012 playoffs. That includes two playoff series in which Los Angeles won eight of 10 meetings.
"They set the tone early," Hitchcock said. "They were much better than us. So it depends on what we do with it, but I’m kind of getting sick watching it. They come up big and if we’re going to figure this out, we’re going to have to get more people coming up a lot bigger. Otherwise, we’re going to be in the same boat against the same type of team. We’ll probably be in that boat on Saturday night unless we get a change of attitude."
The Blues (32-9-5, 69 points) beat the Kings (29-14-5, 63 points) exactly two weeks ago in St. Louis, but that was a Los Angeles team with Martin Jones and Ben Scrivens in goal. Jones is a rookie and Scrivens, after being traded Wednesday, is now an Edmonton Oiler.
The Kings with Jonathan Quick in net are a different animal — the kind of ferocious mythical beast that may not be stopped until it’s gnawing on the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons.
The Blues knew their 5-0 win against the Kings two weeks earlier was fool’s gold. It was nice. It looked good on the schedule. They’ll take every two points they can get.
But it wasn’t the real deal. It was a victory, but it wasn’t a victory against L.A. with Quick in net. Those are much harder to come by.
And on this night the fellas wearing the Blue Note weren’t up to it.
"It seems like every time we play these guys it’s a playoff game," said T.J. Oshie, whose second-period goal on a penalty shot tied the score at 1-1. "They play a heavy style of game, and we’ve been struggling with it in the past. If we want to get to where we want to get to I guess at the end of the year, we’ve got to be able to beat these guys."
The Blues showed plenty of fight. It was good to see youngster Vladimir Tarasenko go after Jake Muzzin after it looked like the Kings’ defender swung a hand that connected with Vladimir Sobotka’s face late in the third period.
Hitchcock was asked about that, too.
But like the question about the short-handed goal, the coach turned the query aside like one of Quick’s 28 saves.
"I don’t want to comment on that," Hitchcock said. "The game was the game. Whatever happens, happens. I’m not commenting on one incident. I’m more disappointed in our response. We needed to step up today. This was a really good challenge for us. We needed to step up. Nothing against some of the other teams that we’ve beat, but this was a significant opponent and I wanted to see us step up to another level. And we didn’t."
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