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May 22, 2016

Ken Hitchcock

St. Louis, Missouri: Practice Day

THE MODERATOR: Questions for coach.

Q. Troy mentioned something yesterday about you guys being able to create better offense below the goal line as opposed to off the rush. Do you feel you're better equipped to play that way?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I think it's all connected. We played a better game. We played to our strengths. We've gotten better as the series has gone on. We were a lot better than people thought in Game3. We did a lot of good things in Game3.
So we took what we did well in Game3 and tried to build it into 4. We got better in 4.
Now we're in a best‑of‑three. We want to keep getting better. Hopefully we can build on Game4 and play better even in Game5.
The game in Game4 was a buildup from 3, not just an isolated game. We started to do some really good things in the second half of that game. We wanted to show the players.
I just think it's all connected. It's playing to our strengths, playing to our identity. Hopefully we can get more of that tomorrow.

Q. The change of goalies, did that really light the fire?
COACH HITCHCOCK: What I was trying to explain to people, you need a good goalie. We had a really good goalie playing, but we were relying on the good goalie all the time. We weren't playing for Ells. We were relying on him. There's a big difference.
We needed to play harder for a goalie. Didn't matter if it was Ells or Jake or whatever. Ells was standing on his head and we were giving up too many quality scoring chances, too many easy chances, too many odd‑man rushes. We were getting comfortable thinking that, in my opinion, the goalie could stop everything.
We just needed to compete a lot harder for whoever was in goal. That was why I made the change. Had nothing to do with Brian. His play has been unbelievable since the start of playoffs. In my opinion, we needed to jolt ourselves into playing a lot harder for who was in the net.

Q. Jake tomorrow then?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Yeah, Jake's going to play tomorrow.

Q. Why haven't things worked out for you coming back for Game5 the last few times you've done it?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I don't think you can include anything past this year. I'm not going into last year or anything like that. This is a different team, different season.
If you want to judge it on this year, quite frankly, the best game in a long time we played was in the Chicago game, and we lost it. We played unbelievable in that game. That's how close the series is.
As long as we keep getting better, I'm going to be happy. It's going to be a very difficult series. It's now a best‑of‑three. Who knows how this thing goes. If we keep getting better, we give ourselves a chance.
I just thought one of the best games we played all playoffs was in Game5 against Chicago in this building. It was one of those games where we didn't win it but, man, did we ever play good.

Q. How critical is tomorrow?
COACH HITCHCOCK: It's one of the three games that's left. I mean, 'must‑win' is the worst phrase in sports.
You count to four, and however you get there. Both teams have won on the road. They're comfortable playing there. We've won on the road all year. Comfortable playing there.
We just want to play better. We want to play our best game. Of our tournament so far and of the series so far, we just want to play our best game. That's all you can ask.
If you start talking about wins, must‑wins, you're in a race to get to the end of the game, you're not even playing the game.
We just need to play the game and play our best game.

Q. Do you believe in a playoff wall, maybe your guys hit a wall, now they're reenergized? Is there such a thing where you get fatigued and got to get over it?
COACH HITCHCOCK: No, I think fatigue is a non‑issue. If you're fatigued, you can rest in the summer. It's a non‑issue. It's all about sacrifice, how deep and how far you're going to go.
As the series gets amped up, as it gets closer and closer, the sacrifice becomes greater and greater. That's the push is how far are you willing to push it, take it, what sacrifices are you going to put yourself through to win.
We did a lot of that yesterday. We blocked shots. We did a lot of things that you have to do to win games, especially on the road. We did it yesterday. We want to continue to do it tomorrow.

Q. Sticking with Jake, is that just going with what worked?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Yeah. I'm comfortable with either guy. I woke up this morning, talked to the coaches again and decided to go with Jake.

Q. Backes, do you expect him to play tomorrow?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I'll let you guys know on all our health tomorrow.

Q. Could be controversial, but because of how the goalies get along...
COACH HITCHCOCK: This is why as a coach you don't read the newspaper, you don't watch TV, you don't listen to people. You stay in your bubble, do what's best for the team.
This had nothing to do with performances. This was not performance‑based. This was, Hey, we need to play harder for our goalie. Doesn't matter who it is.

Q. Seemed pretty confident after Game3 that your team would be able to get back up to speed.
COACH HITCHCOCK: Yeah, because I saw a lot of good things in Game3. I know the score was what it was, but I saw a lot of really good things.
We didn't capitalize on the turnovers that we created and the mistakes that we caused. We didn't capitalize on them. I knew if we took it to another level as far as capitalizing, we would have more success.
I felt confident after Game3 that if we continued to build on that performance, we would be okay, yeah.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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