ST. LOUIS -- Cameras caught a brief exchange between Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and star winger Vladimir Tarasenko on the Blues' bench after the second period of Game 6. It was clear Tarasenko wasn't thrilled with his lack of time on the Blues' power play.
There was a heated exchange of words, and on Sunday, Hitchcock not only shrugged it off but also said he loved the passion from Tarasenko.
"That's what happens when you've got a guy like that that wants to make a difference," Hitchcock said. "I love it. I love it in him."
In the second period, Hitchcock sent the second power-play unit out to start because Tarasenko's line had just been on the ice, and the second unit controlled the puck enough that it was hard to get Tarasenko back out there. In the heat of the moment, the reasoning didn't console the star winger.
"They just came off a long shift, and they were tired," Hitchcock said of Tarasenko's line. "I was trying to cheat to get time, to give them a rest, but the referee wouldn't let us cheat. So he wanted our players out there right away."
The 40-goal scorer played 16:56 against the Blackhawks, a number that looks low now, considering the magnitude of the game and how badly the Blues needed a goal.
Hitchcock defended the ice time and said to instead look at the number of shifts Tarasenko plays in a game. He is the kind of guy who can't have extended shifts, Hitchcock said, so the strategy is to get him out there often in short bursts to maximize what he brings to the team.
In Game 6, Tarasenko had 27 shifts that averaged 37 seconds each. By comparison, Patrick Kane had 26 shifts that averaged 50 seconds each. If Tarasenko averaged Kane's shift length, he would've played more than 22 minutes.
"He's a big body that plays a lot, he gets leaned on, he leans on a lot of people. It's very wearing," Hitchcock said of Tarasenko. "The game he plays is a physical one."
Tarasenko is an emotional player, someone the Blues will need playing at a high level in Game 7. Blues center Paul Stastny doesn't foresee any residual impact of this flare-up between player and coach.
"The top guys want to be out there 60 minutes a game if they could," Stastny said. "If he feels anything, he never lets it linger ... little things like that don't bother him."