In each of the last two years, the St. Louis Blues held 2-0 leads in their first-round playoff series against Los Angeles and Chicago, only to lose four straight each time.
It's a bothersome trend that Blues management, coaching staff and players would like to see discontinued immediately.
"There's a lot of really great pieces here that have really emerged as good players now, but we've got to help them along and find a way to push through when you're sitting in a series like that," Hitchcock said. "You just can't live on playing well, you've got to have time when it's the killer instinct and you've got to put your foot right on the throat.
"When it's time to put it on, you've got to put it on -- and we didn't. We let two really good teams ... we let them off the hook. And when they got off the hook, then they started to play and the people we had boxed out (earlier in the series) came into the game."
How does Hitchcock describe this killer instinct he'd like the Blues to have?
"When you've got your foot on their throat, step. I don't know any other way to describe it. The end result is you've to go further. Further in every aspect of your game: checking, special teams, scoring ...you've just got to go further. It's hard to do, but you've got to do it."
Why does Hitchcock feel the Blues have had trouble following up their regular-season success in the playoffs?
"I don't look at it as top players ... it's a push, it's a team push ... we win as a team and we lose as a team. We needed to open the wound, we opened the wound by the way we played. We played really well to start the playoffs and we had our foot on their throat with the way we played in Game 3 and we couldn't squeeze.
"We had done a great job, but we couldn't push through and get the goal or get the lead after playing well and they got more wind in their sails."
Hitchcock expressed concern about key defensive mistakes made at crucial times along with the power play (2-for-29 in the series):
"When you look at it on paper, you say well, gee, we could have scored here, we could have scored there. The game (6) was tied going into the third period on the road. I don't care what the score was, 1-1, 2-2, 4-4, it doesn't matter.
"We made mistakes with the game on the line, we made mistakes defensively ... we would have liked to score on the power play ... at the end of the day, we made two big errors to get it to 3-1. The fourth and fifth goals to me don't count, we were pressing and taking chances. We made two big errors when the game was on the line."
Hitchcock on another painful first-round loss:
"It hurts ... that's everybody's responsibility, mine, Doug's, players, other coaches, everybody, That's the part that hurts. We couldn't apply the killer instinct when we needed to in (Games) 3 and 4 in both years -- and that's something you've got to have a hard look at."
Were there any similarities between the playoff losses to the Blackhawks and Kings, other than an ability to build on 2-0 leads?
"When you get a couple teams in the prime of their career that know how to win, you really have to push them out. Because if you just push them up tot he wall and you don't get them through, they're going to come back on you - and that's what both teams did."
The Blues seem unable to execute as well offensively in the playoffs as they do during the regular season.
"Collectively, that's part of the job. We increased our scoring a lot this year, but we have to find a way to increase our scoring in significant games. Significant games mean you get checked harder, you get played harder, you get dealt with much harder. You've still got to find a way to do it."