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Hitch says killing penalties is more important than scoring on the power play

Mar 25, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT

Head coach Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues leads his team against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on February 20, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Blues 1-0 in overtime.
(February 19, 2013 - Source: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

Interesting comment below from Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, on the fact his team has scored just twice in its last three games while going a combined 0-for-11 on the power play.

“I’ve seen a lot of (teams) who have had bad power plays do really well in the playoffs, but I’ve never seen any team play worth a damn if you can’t kill penalties,” Hitchcock said, per the Canadian Press. “It’s more on can you kill the penalty at the right time because you can live with poor power plays and still win hockey games. But you can’t survive if you can’t kill penalties because your whole game falls apart, you’re nervous, you’re uptight, you panic and we’ve got to be great killing penalties.”

Interesting, because he’s right about teams with bad power plays doing well in the playoffs. In fact, the last three teams to win the Stanley Cup have all put up less-than-stellar power-play numbers in the postseason. Chicago converted at just 11.4 percent last year; Los Angeles was at 12.8 percent the year before; and Boston was at 11.4 percent they year before that.

Not that those three teams were happy about their lack of productivity with the man advantage, but Hitchcock’s right that it didn’t ultimately cost them.

Of course, what all three of those teams did well — in addition to killing penalties — was score considerably more goals than their opponent while five on five. Do that and converting on the power play becomes less of a necessity.

And all that said, there have certainly been Cup champions in the recent past, like the 2010 ‘Hawks and 2009 Penguins, that have relied on their time with the man advantage to score some big goals for them. We’re sure, if given a choice, Hitchcock would prefer a good power play to a bad one.

  1. nightfireop - Mar 25, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    i agree with hitch 100%! kings’s 2012 cup run was a perfect example, our powerplay was acceptable at best during the playoffs, but it was our penalty kill that became the gold standard (it was so rock-solid that we even scored short-handed goals in the process).

    offense is game, but defense wins championships.

    • comeonnowguys - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:14 PM

      2013 Blackhawks as well. Abysmal PP, superior PK.

  2. jpelle82 - Mar 25, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    it won them the game in pittsburgh, thats for sure. conveniently they are 1st in the nhl and 3rd on the pk so he’s got a point…they’re also still 9th on the pp so its not like they are in the basement there either though.

    • hockeydon10 - Mar 25, 2014 at 6:11 PM

      That is two interesting stats.

      While coaching the Red Wings Scotty Bowman once said that hitting the playoffs top 10 in both PK and PP was what he aimed for. Do that and it’s one step closer to playoff success. One can hardly argue with that man when it comes to hockey.

  3. blues1988 - Mar 25, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    you can tell this is a very recent picture of hitch…..

  4. grocerystick101 - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:01 PM

    Is it really even possible for either one to be more important than the other? Considering every penalty kill leads to a corresponding result on the power play and vice versa, what logic could really explain one being more important than the other? For example, if you were to say that killing a penalty gives you more momentum, then you would also be forced to admit that not scoring on the power play gives the other team more momentum. If you say the penalty kill is more important because your team is shorthanded more often, then that logic would say the powerplay is more important for the opponent.

    Maybe I’m over-thinking this.

  5. muckleflugga - Mar 25, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    tough to argue with anything hitchcock sees and says … had edmonton gone after and landed ken when he was available their fortunes would be more promising and likely involve cup potential

    but hey, why hire homegrown talent

    were the professional game called straight-up i’d say it was a saw-off … this while not factoring-in les canadiens from the seventies or red wings with the russian five …. goals with the power play were nearly automatic with those teams

    with blatant incompetency and favouritism apparent by officials in half the games every night in the current game, hitch is bang-on

    teams have to be able to overcome the hosing from the referees … when vancouver created a lethal power play, they reinvented the diving game so they could pour-in the goals

    no fault except to personal credibility … they took what the stooges in striped shirts gave them and nearly won a cup

    the only defence was reducing the penalty kill to science and discipline in counter … or maul them as the bruins were permitted

    the guilty referees and teams were eventually found out and the league was embarrassed into making correction to a point

    players adapt … flop near the boards with stick and body a clatter or go down on a breakaway with any hint of an intervening stick the arms go up … triggered by reaction rather than events

    curly larry and moe

    there is as much art in diving as there is in pure goal scoring these days so …

    the penalty kill is an absolute must

  6. 950003cups - Mar 25, 2014 at 9:34 PM

    Bull Spagnuolo!!!!! Devils are top in PK and close to top on the PP. Our season is over for 10 days already.

  7. storminator16 - Mar 25, 2014 at 9:45 PM

    Correct me if I’m wrong, wasn’t Boston’s special teams in their 2011 Cup run nothing to write home about?

    No, the name of the game is to put the puck in the net, not coach the game to death like guys like Hitch does.

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