Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 05/24/09 at 03:15 PM ET
Q. How do you try to keep the focus going when you’re up three games in this series without looking at the next one?
COACH BYLSMA: I think the task at hand is clear. You know the series is 3?0. We know this team’s not going to quit. We know that’s their trademark, they’re going to keep coming at us. They’ve proven that even though the games have ended up with lots of goals on the board. They’ve been fighting right to the end.
The building was loud last night. I just watched the first period. The 7:00 minute mark of the first period their fans were really into it. The building was loud. We were under some pressure, and we know that’s what’s going to happen again come Tuesday.
While we have a lead, we know we need to get one more win to get this thing done with. Right now is better than waiting. So we’ll be ready on Tuesday for what we need to do.
Q. One of the things you’re getting credit for is using Crosby or Malkin on the fourth line, and then putting Satan there. A couple of coaches have said now you have an extra tag line. Can you just go into the thought process of putting that one together?
COACH BYLSMA: Well, it’s not that difficult to come to, really. I think, you know, when their team puts a fourth line out, and you can put out your fourth line which has a guy like Crosby or Malkin, and Jordan Staal has been on there as well. While Satan can add offensively, and he has in the past four, five, six games, he’s been responsible, and played well defensively. Made the right plays with the puck. So that’s a dangerous line in itself. Miroslav Satan was a guy brought to Pittsburgh to add more offense on the top three line, top two line. We’re in had the situation now with Crosby or Malkin at center, and Satan, a responsible guy and face?off guy in Craig Adams, it’s a formidable line. A line you can put out in different situations and not worry too much about match?ups.
Q. Were you guys worried at all about Satan when he was sent down and how he would respond to it?
COACH BYLSMA: I think you worry about that in any situation where a guy that’s had as much success, and played as many games and scored as many goals as he did.
But I had some time with Miro in Long Island a couple years ago. He’s a quality guy, hard working guy. Kind of goes about his business without much fan fare, without much noise. I felt confident when we got to that situation, I really felt he was going to go down to Wilkes-Barre and be professional about it and work. When he went there, the words he said, the way he worked, how he treated the situation, and the people in Wilkes-Barre is just evident about Miroslav Satan. And to his credit, he worked hard there. He was pretty vocal and adamant that he was working and trying to work and get back to the NHL and prove he could play there again. To his credit, he did. And he’s been ready for just about anything. This playoff, said it before we started this playoffs, he’d be ready for anything. He’d be ready to get back in there. And to his credit, he has been and he’s played hard, he’s played responsible and he’s at work on the offensive as well.
Q. Putting Malkin and Crosby on the fourth line, are you paying much attention to their ice time? It you said last night maybe you left them on too long?
COACH BYLSMA: I didn’t say too long, just more than normal.
Q. But do you pay attention to that? Is it a concern right now?
COACH BYLSMA: It’s a concern in always watching their minutes in a playoff situation. And last night knowing we had two days in between games I was less concerned about the volume of ice time they got. The way they were playing in the first, you know, they’re playing the right way. They’re keeping their shifts short, and they’re getting out there. Doing their damage. They’re getting off, keeping fresh, and keeping their shifts under the 45?second mark for the majority of the time. That allows them to get back to the bench, get refocused and get back out there for the minute more ice time they got in the first.
Again, we keep a close eye on it. They played less and less, even though it was quite a bit as the game went on. But again, at the end of the last game, they didn’t play probably for the last three, four minutes as a result of the situation you’re in.
We monitor it. But when they’re going like they’re going now with the rest they had in two days, it wasn’t a concern getting them out there.
Q. Why do you think you’ve had so much success keeping Staal off the score sheet and you’ve been such a force? In your mind, what is it that you guys have done?
COACH BYLSMA: Well, I’m not sure that—you know, he’s been around the net, and he’s been driving the net. There have been times when he had a shot in the first period there, and had a great shot. You know, it’s not that we haven’t held our breath a few times when he’s had the puck, but when you can play in the offensive zone, and when you can wear teams down, it makes it harder for them to attack when they do get the puck.
When we’re playing our best, we’re playing in the offensive zone. They get the puck, and they force the bad dump or we force the bad dump because they don’t have enough energy to get back down the ice. That limits the skill players time and space with the puck. It limits their energy when they do have the puck.
That’s one of the keys when you force them to get to the offensive zone, that’s when you can play your best defense. And the best place to keep their good players is in the defensive zone.
Q. Do you have a feeling your team’s playing the best hockey?
COACH BYLSMA: I think the thing that we were concerned about is it usually takes 20, 25 games to build a foundation for your team. How we want to play. The nuisances and building the habits that you need to have to try to have success, to execute to have success. And we only had 25 games of the most other teams had the majority of the season if not the whole season to build that foundation.
So we kept talking in the regular season and even going into the playoffs that we knew we needed to get better. We could get better, and we needed to get better, because we were a little bit behind the other team’s progressions.
So I think that we felt that we were continually getting better, even though we were winning a lot of games in the regular season. We had room to improve. We still think we can get better, play better, manage the puck better, execute better. When you can continue to do that, you can get to the offensive zone more. Our success has been when we get there. And that’s execution going back for pucks. It’s puck management in the neutral zone. And it’s something that we’re still working on trying to get better. We’re going to try to do that again on Tuesday night.
Q. Last night you were having so many chances, and it’s still 3-2. Were you concerned at one point that they can turn it around really quick?
COACH BYLSMA: We expected that from the Canes. You know, we had a good second period. There was a lot of momentum in that period. Walking back to the dressing room was like boy, we’d like to have kept the Zamboni off the ice for another 20 minutes and just kept playing.
We felt we were playing the right way the last ten minutes there, and to their credit they came out hard again in the third. They get it to 3-2. Ward makes a couple of big saves right after that. And it was one of those situations you find yourself in. It’s a one-shot game at that point in a tough place to play. They get that goal, and the momentum would clearly be with them. It was a big goal by fed ten co, and when that one went in, we took a deep breath, and looked at the clock at 4-2, and up until that point it was a one-shot game and they were coming hard.
Q. How do you get your players to buy-in to your system?
COACH BYLSMA: Well, fortunately, coming in it felt like we wanted to play with the puck a little more. Wanted to be more aggressive with the type of players that we have. I think they easily were looking forward to being on the attack versus waiting for teams to come to us. So that wasn’t a tough sell. But I think a lot of it was done by the players. It wasn’t me coming in and saying this is how we’re going to play, this is how we’re going to do it. The players were a part of that. We talked about it at length with the team. We know how we want to play. We’ve come to that together. It’s something I think we think we’re good at. And how we want to play.
The best person who said it was Ruslan Fedotenko, and we call it Ruslan Fedotenko Hockey. And when we say that we know what that is. We know how we need to play, executing wise in the offensive zone, being on the attack. That’s an exciting way to play hockey. Hockey is an aggressive game. It’s a confrontational game. When you can take the play to the other team, that energizes your team, that’s how we think we need to play. That’s how we defend. We defend quickly and try to get the puck back as quickly as we can and get it back into the offensive zone. I don’t I think that’s too hard to sell.
Q. You talk about the message of closing out Carolina or is it talking about we have to continue to do what we’re doing this series?
COACH BYLSMA: Things won’t change. You know, there are still some things that we need to be sharper at. Things that Carolina has done that’s gotten success for them, and we need to be good in that area, we’ll talk about that.
But we talk about playing the right way, and doing the right things. And our bench is adamant about it through the game. We need to play the right way, manage the puck the right way, execute the right way, and that’s our focus. It’s all about the next game. It’s all about the next shift. While we’re up 3-0, we know we have a lot of work to do. We’re going to get it done by playing the right way, executing, getting to the offensive zone. Regardless of the score on the clock. Regardless of the game situation. We’re going to try to play that way over and over again.
We’ll see what the score says after 50 minutes.
Q. Bill Guerin’s seems to have found fresh legs and he’s got points in eight of his last 11 games. Is he doing anything different at this stage than maybe early in that Philly series? Is what are you seeing from him?
COACH BYLSMA: To make a backhand pass to Crosby like that, you’re doing the right things.
Q. Did you teach him that?
COACH BYLSMA: No, I didn’t teach him that, I would have taught him to dump it in (laughs). But I think we talk about the way our team needs to play, and when it does, it’s gives everyone a chance to have success. It’s not magical. You don’t need to have a huge amount of skill. You play the right way. You execute. You go into the offensive zone, and you get a chance to have success. He’s got great players on his line, obviously. 87 going to the net. Makes it easier.
Chris Kunitz, while there’s been a lot of focus on his goal scoring, you know, he continues to go straight lines. He’s a physical presence, knocking guys around going to the net, creating loose pucks.
Again, in that first period there were three or four different situations why just tenacity, in and around the blue paint, going to the net. There were loose pucks where we had chances to score. Billy’s a smart player. He’s an experienced player. To his credit, he’s worked hard at figuring out the right things to do to be on that line to help sit out where he wants the puck.
He’s a smart player, I’m not so sure about his fresh legs, but he’s certainly got a fresh brain. It’s all relative. He’s a smart player, makes smart plays with the puck. You know, he executes the right way whether it’s getting pucks in at the time, coming across, supporting his winger, or putting the puck to his net with the guys going there. It’s not the first time smart’s been used about his game. He’s a real veteran player.
Again, I think his presence is better felt on the ice. In and around the room, saying the right things and keeping our team focused.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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