Everybody lies in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s a tradition older than playoff beards and booing Gary Bettman.
Injuries, player availability, the opponent, strategy -- you name it. Everybody lies.
If you didn’t know that Al Franken was writing about politics, you’d think his book “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,’’ was about NHL teams in the postseason.
And so, in advance of Blackhawks-Blues on Thursday night, St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock had some things to say, and while he’s espousing a truism, there’s a whiff of untruthfulness about the way he wants his team to start the series.
OK, maybe more than a whiff.
The Hawks are a skilled team. They’re all about finesse. They don’t hit much, but they have won two Stanley Cups by absorbing them and displaying the discipline not to do something stupid.
Then there are the Blues, a big roughousing bunch. They have some skill, but it’s born of a desire to hit. They want to pound opponents. They want to deliver punishment, especially when it comes to the Hawks. They also can go stupid on you just like that.
But no, Hitchcock said, the Blues won’t go out of their way to try to beat up the Hawks.
“We have a design to our play, and when we get outside our play, we get beat,’’ Hitchcock said. “I think winning in the playoffs is about playing within yourself, but it’s also about playing within yourself as far as the system of play you play. When you start searching out body contact, or you start to think you can intimidate people with body contact, you’re wrong.’’
Wait, Hitchcock wants us to believe the Blues will back off, even though Patrick Kane has a sore knee and Jonathan Toews has a bad arm or shoulder?
Even though Marian Hossa always has something wrong?
Even though the Blues don’t have near the number of game-breaking players as the Hawks?
Sorry, not buying it.
The Blues always play as if they can’t beat the Hawks without beating them up. The Blues don’t score off the rush as much as they forecheck deep and create chances by winning board battles. But you can get caught if you miss the hit, and there go the Hawks with a home-run pass or an odd-man break.
Teams that have success against the Hawks rely less on forechecking than on clogging up the neutral zone to slow them down and disrupt their puck-possession game.
That takes precision and discipline, and here are the Blues, built to hit and built to hit in the Hawks’ end with whatever’s handy -- shoulder, fist, stick.
But Hitchcock wants the world to believe the Blues won’t pound and pummel and try to ruin every Hawks skill player. Yeah, right.
“From our standpoint, we have to play the right way and hope for good results,’’ Hitchcock said. “But going out and thinking we’re going to intimidate the Chicago Blackhawks is nuts. They’ve seen all of that before and they just play right through it.’’
Yep, the Hawks have played through that style. Played through all the talk, too.
Wear Kevlar just the same.