Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Hitch Deserves Time for Blues to Come Together

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Hitch Deserves Time for Blues to Come Together

Article excerpt

After coach Ken Hitchcock drove the Blues within two victories of the Stanley Cup Finals in May, you would think he had earned quite a bit of slack.

Yet, some were calling for Hitchcock's job last week. Hopefully, the Blues' 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at Scottrade Center helps to quiet some of that silly talk.

If you doubted whether the Blues were still fighting for Hitchcock and each other, young Robby Fabbri removed all doubt by readily accepting a beating by the Sabres' Josh Gorges.

After the much bigger Gorges, 32, was done laughing at Fabbri's challenge, he got the best of the Blues' 20-year-old forward.

"He can fight," Hitchcock said of Fabbri. "He's a little guy. You don't want to see a guy get hurt, but a couple of guys were getting whacked around by that guy so he was the first guy to answer the bell.

"As long as they come out unscathed it's a good team bonding situation, and we need as much as we can of that."

You can question the Blues' play, but don't question their determination to fight for each other.

Fabbri, who also tied the score at 1 with 9 minutes, 2 seconds to play in the first period, showed the Blues' resolve with 5:52 to play in the second period. Almost three minutes after Gorges hammered Alexander Steen on the boards, Fabbri found himself in the middle of the ice with Gorges. The smart thing would have been to find Ryan Reaves and hide behind him or at least wait until Reaves could handle the situation later.

But if you love the Blues and want your players more invested than the fans, you had to appreciate Fabbri's willingness to absorb a beatdown.

If you want to see Hitchcock's motivational tools at work, consider that Fabbri has scored three goals in two games since Hitchcock scratched him last Thursday against Nashville.

Hitchcock issued a challenge. Fabbri responded. Cause. Effect.

There's no denying the Blues haven't played consistently as well as Hitchcock or the players had hoped. It's not surprising that they are still trying to find their identity. Heck, they're still trying to create an identity.

"We kind of lost our identity," new captain Alex Pietrangelo told me earlier this week. "Right now we're too easy to play against. There's going to be an adjustment."

If you were paying attention during the preseason, you would remember that it was clear it would take time before the Blues built the chemistry necessary to be a cohesive unit on the ice .

This was all part of the deal they made when general manager Doug Armstrong let captain David Backes and Troy Brouwer leave via free agency this summer. He also traded away goaltender Brian Elliott.

In letting Brouwer and Backes go, Armstrong set the course for a smaller roster that plays a faster and more up-tempo style. Armstrong also began a new leadership era inside the Blues' dressing room. …

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