ST. LOUIS – At this point of the Western Conference Final, San Jose Sharks coach Peter DeBoer seems tired of answering questions about the St. Louis Blues’ strategies and the moves of their coach Ken Hitchcock.
Since the Sharks lost Game 4 at home, anything St. Louis or Hitchcock related has been met with a short answer and a sense of unease.
“Who has a relationship in the Stanley Cup semifinals?” DeBoer pointed out when asked about the off-ice gamesmanship between the two coaches.
Hitchcock and DeBoer did have a relationship with Team Canada at the 2011 World Championships.
They still probably have a friendship of sorts, but Hitchcock has used the media this series to push DeBoer's buttons.
After Game 1, Hitchcock said DeBoer was “whining” for calls. This was following how DeBoer commented on the importance of power plays for the Sharks this series.
“St. Louis is one of the most penalized teams in the league, regular season and playoffs. They need to call the game accordingly,” DeBoer said, “Need to make them pay a price for being the most penalized team on the power play, which we didn't last night."
After Game 4, DeBoer abruptly ended news conference when asked about the Blues’ forechecking strategy.
Monday morning before Game 5 DeBoer was asked about some of the roster and game play changes the Blues had made and gave a curt answer.
"We spend most of our time on our game. If our game's in a good spot, I don't care what they do," he said.
Hitchcock said there’s no ill will from him toward DeBoer. In fact he likes the verbal joust of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It keeps him entertained and keeps the mood light during a serious time.
“Pete and I know each other very well. We were together in Slovakia. We survived Bratislava together. We know each other,” Hitchcock said. “Sending you folks on a wild goose chase is fun sometimes. We’ve got to enjoy it, too. It just can't be stress and pressure 24 hours a day. There's got to be some fun in it for us.”
This isn't much different than players jawing on the ice to a degree. In some respects talking through news conferences is the only way coaches can send messages to each other.
“It just shows both of them are very in tune with the feeling of the series,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “It shows they’re ready to impact the series in any way they can. It’s fun, it’s fun for fans to see that. You just assume it’s the players chirping back and forth with each other and when you see it back and forth from the coaches, it’s a fun thing to read.”
Some of Hitchcock’s banter with the opposing coach is strategic. If he’s the focal point then players will feel less pressure to perform.
“I think sometimes when there's so much discussion back and forth and there's so many outlets that need stories, it can become overwhelming to the players,” Hitchcock said. “Anytime I can get people chasing down a different path, I try to do it.”
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