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May 17, 2016

Ken Hitchcock

St. Louis, Missouri: Game Two


Q. I'm wondering, can you remember when you realized that you could trust Robby Fabbri this season? He's such a young player. Traditionally they're hard to break into the lineup. You've counted on him for so long.
COACH HITCHCOCK: I think it was more last year than this year. I think with the way he played in exhibition games last year, he had made the team. Then in the last shift of the last exhibition game, he separated his shoulder pretty significantly. We had to send him back to junior.
He would have had a year under his belt probably already. He was really disappointed. We were disappointed.
But I think he's typical of this generation now, and that is because of all of the opportunities internationally, and exposure‑wise, they're not afraid of the moment. He's typical of a number of young players that don't seem to be afraid of the moment. So the growth is much quicker.
But it's really been a year with Rob, not just this year, but last year. He had our trust last year, too.

Q. Hitch, Kevin Shattenkirk was saying this morning that the players didn't fully buy into your system the way you wanted them to play really until this season. Did you sense that? What did it look like when they started to really do it?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Well, I'm not sure they didn't buy in. They bought in. I mean, we've had a few points the last five years. But I think as a coach, it's the way you start, that you know whether the buy‑in is there.
We wanted to play this funky, slow way. It wasn't going to work long‑term. I just let them bury themselves. Then when the game was on the line, we went back and played the right way all the time.
Rather than battle them on it all the time, I just let them bury it. Then they started to grab it on their own. When we had all the injuries, the sense of urgency to play one way became paramount with everybody because we had no choice. We had to really dig in and play that way. Then they found even more success. They bought it themselves.
Rather than fight them on it, I just let them bury themselves with it. They always grabbed it when the game was on the line. We were exceptional this year when the game was on the line. We played the right way almost 100%, which was really impressive.
But there were some times at the start of the games that we didn't know where the puck was going, south, north, east, west, we had no idea. They had a different way they wanted to play, a slow way. We knew at the end it wasn't going to work. We needed them to find that out on their own. We let them run with it until the injuries sped up the process.
I'm not sure without the injuries that it wouldn't have taken more time. Man, when we had all those people go down, we had no choice but to play one way, they bought in big‑time.

Q. When you have the line of Backes, Steen, Berglund, what does it mean when you have three guys that can play center or wing?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I think you just secure when the puck's in your zone. When you put a line like that together, you're putting it to play against top players. You have to feel comfortable that the line can do it. I would say 75% of the game, the line's going to be in your own zone. You're not going to play that line against Toews, you're not going to play it against Jamie Benn, you're not going to play it against Joe and not expect that you're going to have to defend. You're not going to have the puck. You're going to have to defend a lot more. And you're going to have to feel comfortable they're going to keep the play to the outside.
For two series now we've played that line against significant people. We'll probably change on the road to get a different matchup. But at home we've been able to play it.
They've done a good job, even though they spent an inordinate amount of time in their own zone. You got to feel comfortable.
When you have three centers, what it means is you goaltend three smart players. They're going to have to be really smart to play against good players like we've played against everybody.

Q. If they drop Marleau down, how does that change your team's approach, if any?
COACH HITCHCOCK: We don't like that match. He should stay on the second line (laughter). We don't like that one.
I'm not telling Pete how to coach. Nor am I telling him how to referee. Just telling him we don't like that match.

Q. Do you see a different maturity in Jori Lehtera in this post‑season compared to the last one?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I was very surprised when he started talking about some of his experiences in the KHL of things we take for granted: back‑to‑back games, three and four nights. He never experienced all that stuff. He'd hit the wall quite a bit.
I think he said that in the KHL, the playoffs were a continuation of the regular season. I think he was shocked and surprised by the difference of playoffs in the NHL.
He's more used to all of that stuff, the travel, the different rinks, the different styles home‑and‑away. But the proximity of games, I think he's learned to manage his time. There still were times this year where he hit the wall physically and mentally. But he's got through it a lot better.
I think he's more than ready to play in the playoffs now because he learned from last year how much more difficult and challenging it was than a regular‑season game.

Q. You have been a good faceoff team all season long and through the playoffs. You lost some offensive zone faceoffs in Game1. Would you like to see that improve, especially the Lehtera line?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Well, what we lost yesterday was the battle after the drop. We have to be better there. We lost the tenacity from the group that weren't taking the faceoff. We got beat on the 50/50s and lost possession because of it.
We talked about it. We'll be more ready for it today.

Q. With the morning that Tarasenko is having, will you have to calm him down before game time?
COACH HITCHCOCK: No, he'll be here.

Q. Pretty emotional day for him.
COACH HITCHCOCK: Yeah, he's pretty excited. Hockey's not a priority. But you know what, if something happened, he wasn't able to come here, the priority is to be with his family. We all understand that. We'll support him 100% on it.
But our assumption is that he'll be here ready for game.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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