By Ray Ratto in St. Louis
Hitchcock tried to define Game 2 of this Western Quarterfinal series as
a test of his team's ability to be a playoff team. Not a team that gets
into the playoffs, but one that survives, thrives and even exerts its
will in the postseason.
And though the St. Louis Blues coach and
his San Jose counterpart, Todd McLellan, will have differing and largely
acidic viewpoints on whose employees violated the spirit and letter of
the law more often, they did agree on that part.
In short, that
San Jose had positioned itself to be the better team in the first
period, but could not sustain it and as a result lost, 3-0.
gave us what a veteran team that knows how to win will do," Hitchcock
said. "They gave it to us in the first period. They tested our will, big
time, in the first period. We had no choice but to respond," he said.
"They pushed us hard, they have that experience of being a veteran team
and knowing what it's like at this time of year. They shoved us hard,
and I liked the way we responded.
"We grew up to the level of
what it takes to win against a team that knows how to do it. That part
feels good. We have some more knowledge that we need to compete at this
level at this time of year. There's a level out there. There's a
tenacity. Teams like San Jose, Chicago, Detroit - they play right
through you. And if you don't respond, you get pushed out the back door
Both teams pushed, though, enough to pile up 132 minutes
in penalties, 80 more than in the Ottawa-New York game that will likely
get more attention for contentiousness. Of those 132 minutes, only six
were of the nonviolent type, and 112 came after David Backes' clinching
goal at 13:49 of the second period.
Backes scored after winger
T.J. Oshie bull-rushed past Jason Demers, Patrick Marleau and Joe
Pavelski to find Backes alone to Antti Niemi's right, blind side. That
made it 2-0, after a weird own-goal by Marc-Edouard Vlasic (credited to
Vladimir Sobotka) had broken the scoring 91 seconds into the game.
most of the tale of the tape came after the Backes goal, with the
incendiary moment being T.J. Galiardi charging Andy McDonald and,
according to the oft-concussed McDonald, cracking his helmet. From that
moment on, as Hitchcock tried to dismiss it, "Boys will be boys."
And McLellan, who had less reason to be cheery, snapped when asked to talk about the game's events.
depends on what you want to talk about; the instigation, the sucker
punch, the blow to the head, the broken nose, all directed at Vladimir
Sobotka, who hammered Dominic Moore," he said. "Between that, Roman
Polak's beating of Justin Braun, and a second-period whipping of
Pavelski by Kris Russell, the Blues' 'boys' did most of the 'being'."
short, this wasn't about boys, but men who have discovered the central
truth of real rivalries. They are created not by geography, but by
circumstance, and the Blues and Sharks circumstanced the hell out of
each other Saturday night. Monday, San Jose will clearly respond,
because the back door in question will be in their building.
Ray Ratto reports for CSNBayArea.com. Follow him on Twitter @RattoCSN
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