Hitchcock calls Blues winger Oshie 'our conscience'

News-DemocratMay 9, 2013 

— When one of the St. Louis Blues' lines is struggling, coach Ken Hitchcock knows he can provide an instant jolt of energy by inserting winger T.J. Oshie.

"Wherever we put him, that line plays the right way," Hitchcock said of Oshie, who has been skating with Patrik Berglund and David Perron. "When it doesn't, he grabs it right away and gets it to play the right way.

"That's why I think Berglund's line was terrific in Game 2 and 3 and it wouldn't surprise me that they were good again (in Game 5).

Hitchcock called Oshie, who scored his first two career playoff goals Monday in a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4, "our conscience."

"He's the guy that sets the standard of performance," Hitchcock said, noting how Oshie took responsibility for being on the ice for all four Kings goals despite scoring two himself. "He was disturbed and disappointed they were on the ice for goals against and odd-man rushes against. He was disappointed by that."

Oshie and linemates Patrik Berglund and David Perron were on the ice for the Kings' final three goals. They also were on the ice for the Kings' first goal in Game 5.

"It wasn't like we had a bad entire game," Oshie said before Wednesday's game. "There were four major instances where our reloads weren't right, we were maybe a little aggressive and our routes weren't tight.

"It's little things, but I think it's just those little things that win you playoff games. It's the little things that L.A. is doing right now. That's why they got the last two wins against us."

Hitchcock basically agreed with that line of thinking.

"We were just way too aggressive with trying to keep pucks in and I think that's where Osh is disappointed," Hitchcock said. "They got swept up in the emotion of the game and we gave up the wrong chances to the wrong people."

Sobotka's special

In Game 4 against the Kings, Blues center Vladimir Sobotka racked up two assists and a team-leading and Blues playoff record 10 hits while also winning faceoffs at a 65-percent rate.

"He played so well here and so patient in his positioning that we couldn't help but keep him playing there," Hitchcock said when asked about moving Sobotka from wing to center. "When you watch him play ... any time we're doing highlight videos of how to play the position, he pops up on every video."

Tarasenko decision

Hitchcock also was asked about his decision to play rookie winger Vladimir Tarasenko instead of winger Adam Cracknell, thus breaking up the "CPR Line" for a game.

Tarasenko played only 5 minutes, 51 seconds, then was a healthy scratch for Game 5 with Cracknell rejoining the lineup.

"I probably should have pushed him up earlier in the game. ... he's a part of our team," Hitchcock said. "You start the game, but when you start the game and you're not sure on two or three guys that they're going to be able to finish the game, you've got to be careful.

"The last (time) I looked at it, the puck's still part of the game and he's good that way. We did it as a safety net for us, which I thought was really smart going in."

Hitchcock's decision drew criticism from some, but he defended the move.

"The difference in the game wasn't the CPR line," he said. "The difference was we gave up a bunch of odd-man rushes when we had no reason to. That was the difference, that's what let them back in the hockey game.

"We just gave up too many easy scoring chances against top players. We gave up the wrong odd-man rushes to the wrong people and they slammed it right in the net."

Battle within a battle

Numerous times throughout the series, Blues winger David Perron and Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick have become entangled either on their own accord or with the help of a Kings defenseman.

It's been fun to watch and Perron says he's not backing down.

"I love that," said Perron, who has been tackled by Quick and hammered by Drew Doughty while dishing out his own share of physicality in front. "I don't know what they think of me, but the more they come after me, the more it gets me in the game and I love it."

Perron felt that when the Kings swept the Blues last season, they didn't get enough traffic in front of the net.

"I'm just trying to do my job here," Perron said. "If he's going to take a penalty on me or whatever. ... We've got a power play or two this series already just on going to the net. I'm going to keep doing that.

"I felt last year in the playoffs (Quick) was probably their main player. We lost in four games and that's the reason. I'm just trying to get there and create some havoc and hopefully create some scoring chances and put a couple behind him."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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