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May 16, 2016
St. Louis, Missouri: Practice Day
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You have now played more playoff games than anybody else. Do you appreciate these days where you opt for meetings over practice?
PATRIK BERGLUND: Yeah, I think it's always nice with a day off kind of. Today we obviously did have some meetings, optional skates. I think most of the guys just can stay off the ice, I assume, just take care of the body and prepare for tomorrow.
Q. Patrik, the way you guys finished up last night says a lot about this team moving forward. May not have been the greatest game, but you're able to pull out a win.
PATRIK BERGLUND: Yeah, I agree with that. I think last night was probably one of the worst we played this playoffs. We had a really hard time to exit the zone in our own end to get on offense.
Obviously something we got to clean up and create more chances and get down in their own end and try to wear them out that way.
We for sure are spending too much time in our own end. Moose obviously, again, came out big for us.
Q. Patrik, when you look back at the disallowed goal, do you agree with the call?
PATRIK BERGLUND: No, I was pissed. I wanted it to be a goal obviously (laughter).
No, I thought they would call it off. I did not at the time see how the puck went in, but I obviously felt that I slid into the goalie. I figured it would be goalie interference.
Q. Jaden, do you get a sense that this has the feel of playing like the Kings, a big, heavy, physical team? Did it take you a little bit to get emotionally invested into what the series could become after playing Chicago and Dallas?
JADEN SCHWARTZ: Yeah, they're a pretty structured team. Big bodies that can take away time and space. That's something that obviously they're focused on.
We kind of knew coming in it was going to be a battle in front of both nets, through the neutral zone. Some adjustments need to be made. But it was nothing that we weren't prepared for. We had a feeling for how they play, some of the personnel that they have.
We'll probably see a little bit more intensity tomorrow, and that will ramp up a bit as the series goes on.
Q. Carl, can you take any positive out of the fact that you didn't play well, they felt like one slipped away from your hands, yet you won the game? Do you forget about Game1 and move on?
CARL GUNNARSSON: No, I think just the fact that we won it, we got a whole lot more to give, I think that's a big positive thing that we can bring on. Everyone knows this was kind of like a heavyweight fight, round one, just jabbing a little bit. Now we know how they play. We'll make some adjustments and off we go.
But we got that positive feeling. We got a whole lot more to give and we're up 1‑0.
Q. Jaden, challenging year with the injuries.
JADEN SCHWARTZ: It was the longest injury that I had to go through. Seems like we've had a lot of them this year. Came back with enough time to get my speed back a little bit, get up to what I was doing before, get used to playing with my ankle not being 100%.
It's a lot better than when I first came back. I feel a little bit more comfortable, able to do more. Even guys on the team just say that my skating and agility has gotten a lot better.
It's an exciting time obviously. We're all pretty pumped to be here. We all got healthy at the right time.
Q. Patrik, what has it been like to have Jaden back at full speed here?
PATRIK BERGLUND: Really big for us, obviously. Great player. I don't like to talk about Schwartz that much (laughter).
No, he's a very important piece in our team. I agree with what he said. He started off a little slow, I think. But he looks much more confident out there now. I think he skates way better. Obviously good to have him back.
Q. Patrik, can you talk to the comfort level you have playing with Backes and Steen?
PATRIK BERGLUND: I think we've been doing a good job so far throughout this whole playoffs. I think yesterday we gave them still a bit too much. They had some really good scoring chances on us, where we can clean some things up in our own end.
Again, Moose did do some really good saves when we were out there, helped us out.
Overall we've been doing a good job. It's something that we got to keep doing. We also have to find a way to get better every day.
Q. What has been different since you came back from the injury?
PATRIK BERGLUND: I don't know. I'm excited to play. It's the playoffs. Just been working hard and finding ways. Like I said, yeah, so far it's been good. But I still feel like I got to, you know, try to get better every day. That's something that I'm planning on doing.
Q. For all three of you, how different is it now to be this deep into the playoffs with all the media attention and everything else that comes your way? Usually it's a handful of people that ask questions. Now all eyes are on you guys at this point.
CARL GUNNARSSON: I guess it's tough on some guys that take all the questions, all the interviews. At the same time this is something you deal with. Everyone is looking at you.
It's fun one way. You get the attention. All the fans, the whole city is buzzing. It's all kind of focused on us guys here.
I think if you can deal with it, it can be a positive thing. I think no one on the team feels that it's a burden. It's something that's kind of fun at the same time.
Q. Patrik, you mentioned having to do a better job against the Thornton line, getting the puck out of the zone. What's the key to making that happen?
PATRIK BERGLUND: Overall I think just kind of better exits for us. I think a bunch of times we did have the puck, but kind of turned the puck over, a little bit helped them create their chances.
If we exit our own end a little better, I think we'll be fine.
Q. Jaden, so much talk about the depth of your forward group. What does it mean that you have so many guys that can balance in the lineup?
JADEN SCHWARTZ: It's big. It's a big reason why we've gotten this far. I think that's common in any team that makes a run in the playoffs. You got to have scoring and contributions from everybody. We feel confident with whoever's on the ice. Throughout the whole series we've had kind of new heroes every night, different guys stepping up. That's important.
We know that's a big part of our team. That's obviously a big reason why we're here right now.
Q. Patrik, what was Hitch's message to you guys today?
PATRIK BERGLUND: Obviously kind of started off with saying that we have much more in us than how we played yesterday. I think we all agree on that.
We just kind of went through some video, obviously talked about the adjustments we have to make for tomorrow.
Q. As a guy who relies on his speed, what was the biggest challenge from coming back from that injury?
JADEN SCHWARTZ: I mean, ankle mobility is a big part of‑‑ a big thing I had to work on was trying to get the movement back that I had in my other ankle, which affects the stride a little bit.
Pain was kind of a factor, too, in that it's something that got better as time went on.
But I think just trying to get my stride back as good as I could. Obviously, I wasn't in the best shape when I first came back, because I had to sit around for a little while. That was an adjustment, as well.
It's just different when you come back from training all summer, you're able to do a lot of plyometrics, leg workouts, you can't do that coming back from an ankle injury, you don't have that strength in your legs and ankle. That was probably one of the biggest things I had to learn to adjust with on the fly.
Q. When did you feel like you got back to 100%?
JADEN SCHWARTZ: Probably close to before the playoffs. That first month was just trying to get used to the speed and the tempo again. As we got closer to the playoffs, I started feeling a little bit more comfortable, was able to try different things that helped me along the way.
I don't know if there's an exact date or timeframe, but probably towards the end of the regular season.
Q. Patrik, following up on having a good post‑season, we're asking your coach and teammates about how things are going so well for you. Ken Hitchcock said, I don't know if it's maturity, David Backes, maybe because he's refreshed. What do you attribute this to? Do you think it's a combination of things?
PATRIK BERGLUND: I think it's hard to say. Maybe I think it's for sure maybe I missed the first 40 or whatever games it was, played half a season. In the playoffs, I should be feeling a little fresher than some other bodies.
I don't know. Maybe it's this time of year, I don't know. Like I said earlier, it's still a lot of hockey to play. I try to get better every day.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.
Questions for coach.
Q. Hitch, when you said the emotional level needs to go up for you guys, are we talking smaller margin, a large margin?
COACH HITCHCOCK: No, we got a whole other gear in us execution‑wise. Same debris left over from Game 7 in Chicago, back into Game1 versus Dallas. Same debris.
We got through it, though. So there's a good feeling that we won a hockey game where we were not close to our best. We know we've got a whole other level in us. We know we can meet that level.
Guys are excited today to put a much better game out there tomorrow. We think we're capable of it. Few adjustments and go from there.
But I know every guy in that room knows we got another gear we can play at, and we'll start putting that in place tomorrow.
Q. Hitch, what precisely does David Backes do with Ray Bennett to on deflecting pucks? Can you put into context how good he is at it.
COACH HITCHCOCK: First of all, he's a baseball player. Hand‑eye coordination is a little bit different than other people. He's good at it.
I think it's just a feel part for him that he really wants to‑‑ he knows how important it is to his game. He just wants to be able to feel it all the time.
As he said to us, it's like taking batting practice. That's what he did as a kid. He was obviously a good ballplayer. He feels that the more he does that, the more confident he is.
I think the other thing, quite frankly, and I said this to people in the series against Dallas, I haven't coached many players that hang in there on the shot. Most of them jump out of the way and try to put the stick in there.
You look at the goal he scored yesterday, he hung in there and was ready to absorb the shot. If it would have hit him, it would have hit him. He's a very unique player that way.
There's net‑front presences, but not many that hang right in there until the shot comes through, and then turns around and tries to find the puck. That's what he does.
Q. Ted Williams said the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball. The batter is standing in one spot. Do you think it's harder than hitting a baseball to deflect a puck?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I talked to Ted about that a little while ago. He never played hockey (laughter).
Q. Ken, given his skating ability, what has it meant to have Jaden back to 100% or as close as he can be in the playoffs?
COACH HITCHCOCK: It's huge for us. He was playing at 70% for most of the season. It started to come around the last five games.
He uses his speed as a checking mechanism, which puts a lot of pressure on people, which it did yesterday. And you feel like you're never out of a contest because he can really control the game by his tenacity. When he can arrive and get there quickly and create turnovers, it's very effective for us.
So when we feel like a line needs a boost, we put him there. Or when we feel like a line's getting stalled out, we put him there. We move him around a lot. Like last night, he played with three different lines.
But his speed is not so much with the puck, he's still got acceleration issues he has to get through. He's going to take the summer to get back up to that level. But without the puck, he's back up to speed where he was before, which is good for us.
Q. What has been the biggest element of growth in his game over the past few seasons here?
COACH HITCHCOCK: He's an attack player more than he was before. He was a play‑maker before. He's an attack player now. I think that's the National Hockey League. He's always deferred. Since the day he came here in training camp, he's deferred. He's always passed off to somebody. Now he's starting to shoot the puck.
He has the second best shot on the team, but we never see it. The last couple years, really last year in the playoffs and then this year, we started to see the shot.
I think at the end of the day, he's going to have to become multi‑dimensional, he's going to have to have that as a weapon, or people will know he's a passer only. He still does it. He did it again yesterday on two‑on‑ones, odd‑man rushes. He's always a passer. We're always trying to get him to shoot as much as he can.
Q. When a line is composed of three centers, Thornton‑Pavelski‑Hertl, then Backes and that line, Berglund, what advantage is that? And in stopping it, what are the challenges?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Well, I don't think it's just stopping Thornton. I think it's stopping the five‑man unit. So you have to have really smart players. Centers for the most part are smart players. They're supposed to be the smartest players on your team.
I think what it does for us, it allows us flexibility. We weren't great on it last night on the faceoffs. But it allows us flexibility on each side of the ice, who's going well.
With Berglund and Steen, whichever guy is going well on the left side gets to take the draws.
The biggest asset for us is we're not afraid for either of three guys to play down low, have to stay down low. That's pretty unique. You don't get that.
It's tougher for wingers to play down low. They're not used to it. There isn't the patience. They end up checking and rechecking, whereas a center knows how to stick on people and stay with it. Well, we've got three guys that know how to stick and check and have great sticks.
So it's a real advantage for us. We use it in different ways. Sometimes we take that line and we put them in the offensive zone and start them there. Yesterday they were in the D zone a lot, so...
When you have three smart players, it's pretty easy to put them together.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH HITCHCOCK: I think they got to take away more options. It's a multi‑option offense they run. They got to take away more options.
We took away some options yesterday, but they still had their licks in. What's interesting is when you play against a line like Joe's and you're up a goal, that's when they're most dangerous because that allows Joe the freedom to leave the zone early. He stays out in the neutral zone. It's very difficult to have a gap or defense.
That's what happened in the third period, Joe was allowed to stay in the neutral zone, our Ds couldn't gap up. When he had possession, he had time to make plays because of it.
That's when they're most dangerous for me. They play a normal way when they're leading. When they're down a goal or the game's tied, they have the freedom of Joe being able to move around. That's when it's really dangerous.
Q. You coached against Joe Thornton a lot in your career. You got to coach him a little bit on the international stage. When you had those interactions, was there anything you learned about him as a player that maybe you didn't know that you appreciate a little bit more?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I had him in three competitions. He was our best player in all three. He was head and shoulders the best player in the World Cup in '04 by a mile.
I think what you find out in working with him is how competitive he is and how smart he is. He might be one of the smartest players in the league, and maybe in the history of the league. He's been at it a long time. He's still an impact player every night.
I think him and Marleau never get enough credit for how competitive they are. I mean, both guys, in every competition, Joe in '04 started as the fourth‑line center, by the third game was the first‑line center. He was our best player in the '06 Olympics. He always started kind of down the line and ended up working his way up, the same as Patty did. Same thing.
Q. It was sort of tough to tell on replay. On Backes' tip, was that going to hit him in the head? Was that one of his better tips?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I think he ducked at the right time (laughter).
I don't know. To me it looked like a knuckle ball coming in, to be honest with you. He just got out of the way at the right time.
There's no way the goalie could have seen anything. All he saw was a number. Just anything, redirection.
After a while, you think those are flukes, but they're not. He just gets wood on a lot of pucks. He had two more tips yesterday that almost went in, too, so...
He's good at it.
Q. Game1, the lack of intensity you've talked about, is there a feeling‑out process for what might be a long series?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I think that's misleading. I think it's really misleading.
I don't think our players played in a harder game than there was yesterday from a compete‑on‑the‑puck side of things. That was the hardest game we played in.
We haven't played in a game like that. We played against Chicago. We played against Dallas. There was a lot of flow, a lot of speed in the game. There was a lot of quickness in the game.
Yesterday there was a lot of board play, a ton of board play, a ton of battles. I found watching our players, it was exhausting. If that's what the games are going to be like, these are going to be physically demanding, not from a hit standpoint, but from a compete‑on‑the‑puck standpoint. These are draining games.
Our players were tired last night. It was more mentally getting used to having to play this type of team. They're not a lot different than L.A. They're big, they're strong, they're determined. They check well.
I think any time you play a team that checks as well as they do, we're playing a mirror image of ourselves. It's going to take some getting used to because we frustrated a lot of teams all year. They're able to do that, too.
Their game, they are committed. They are 100% all‑in committed. We're just going to have to learn to play through it to beat them.
Q. There's a lot of talk about being better tomorrow night. Seems like you got it back in the third period. The things that you saw that you didn't like last night, what have you done in the past to get back on track? What are some of the things you're saying today?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I'm not going to tell you what they are. But the players had already, before we even went into the meeting here at noon, the players had already discussed some things. They're ahead of the curve.
They have a great feel for what needs to get better. They had already talked about what needed to get better. All we did was duplicate it with video. We showed video today.
It's all about our identity. We didn't show anything other than, This is how we play, this is what it looks like, this is how successful we are. When we don't play this way, this is what it looks like when we don't.
But our players were ahead of that already. They'd all got in by 10:00 or 10:30 this morning. Already met on their own and were ready for what we needed to change.
For me it's getting back to our identity. Yesterday was some good signs. Great first period identity‑wise, a great 15 minutes in the third. The second wasn't us, though.
We looked at it today, why we did what we did. We'll make that adjustment for tomorrow.
Q. Twice in the last two days, Pete has said that the Blues are one of the most penalized teams in the league. The refs need to do their job. Do you feel last night was called evenly?
COACH HITCHCOCK: What are you saying? Is he whining for calls?
Q. Whatever you want to make of it.
COACH HITCHCOCK: We're told not to whine for calls, so we're not going to whine for calls. If Pete wants to do it, that's his, but we're not doing it.
Q. Do you see it as an advantage that that's what he's talking about this morning instead of getting his team ready for Game2?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Well, I'm not sure why he's doing it. You got to ask him that question. We're just not doing it.
We'll play the game. We'll play it the right way. We'll play it honest, but we'll play it hard. Let the refs decide. They got to do their job, too. I'm not going to tell the referees how to do their job, nor am I going to tell Gary Bettman or Colie Campbell how to do their job. They have a tough enough job as it is. I can barely do my job.
I'm going to do my job. If other guys want to whine and get other people that have to work for them, that's up to them.
Q. Do you think it's an advantage their players are thinking about that, they're thinking more about calls than they are maybe the game? Is that an advantage for you guys?
COACH HITCHCOCK: No. Our advantage, we're going to have to earn it tomorrow because they're not going to give us anything. We know that now.
I said to you before, they're committed. They're all in. At this time of the year, sometimes you can see teams that have had enough. I knew when I watched Game 7 against Nashville that they were all in, and that wasn't going to change.
We were 70% yesterday. We're going to have to get to be 100% if we expect to win the next game. We're going to have to dig deeper for us to win the next game.
I told the players this morning, Their team is all in, and we have to get back to the level we were at before.
Q. (Question regarding Joe being the same player since the Olympics.)
COACH HITCHCOCK: I think he's in a different way like Backes. Not having to play center ice as a full‑time position has allowed him the freedom to move on the ice and create numerical advantages for his line. That's what happened.
He's a part‑time center. Pavelski takes a lot of faceoffs, plays down low. Joe is down there, too. Because they read off each other so well, he's able to leave early, he's able to have the freedom to move into the neutral zone where he's so dangerous. It makes it very, very difficult for opponents to know where he is on the ice now.
Whereas when you're a full‑time center, you're a predictable player. You're always coming from underneath. I think as an older player, when you're allowed to have this type of freedom, now your hockey sense and smarts takes over.
He's always been one of the guys with the highest IQ in the league. Now he's got that freedom.
You saw him in the third period yesterday, every shift he was in the neutral zone, even if it was in his end. He was in the neutral zone. That's hard to defend because there's a lot of space. You got to back up and respect that.
He's really learned to take advantage of that. It's made him, to me, a more dangerous player now than he's ever been in his career. That's hard for opposition teams now.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports