Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 06/10/09 at 12:28 PM ET
Q. You mentioned last night after the game about telling the guys for Game 7 to go out, concentrate on trying to win, not to lose. When you got here in mid February, was that something overall you had to convince these guys? Because I know talking to a lot of them, they were saying how they felt like they were just trying to stay afloat, the difference between staying afloat and trying to win?
COACH BYLSMA: It wasn’t hard convincing them, I don’t think. The game by nature is aggressive, and in?your?face and confrontational. And if you’re not playing it that way, you know it. You know when another team’s taking it to you. You know when you’re waiting or letting the play come to you.
As players, every player in that room has had success at some point in time due to their skill level or the teams they’ve played on of being aggressive and taking the play to the other team. That’s the way the game should be played and needs to be played to tip the scales in your favor.
So it wasn’t a hard thing to do to say let’s get on our toes and let’s go after this thing and play the right way and get to the offensive zone, and play at a pace that makes it tough for other teams to play with us.
I think the biggest thing about what happened since February is how quickly the guys said that’s the way we need to play.
Q. Do you ever allow yourself to think about the journey from that point to the point now where you have one game to win a championship? Do you want players to think about that journey or ignore it?
COACH BYLSMA: I do think about it pretty much daily. I mean, my family has come to see me and it’s like can you believe what’s happening? Can you believe? And I’m like not really, I can’t believe it. I’m not a person, I’ve said this many times, I’m not a person who likes to deny my thoughts or what I’m going through or ignore everything around me. It’s a unique opportunity. 15 times there’s been a Game 7. To play for the Stanley Cup, it’s a unique and great opportunity.
And where we’ve come since last year at this time, since the start of the season, since February 15, wherever you want to pick up the story line from, it’s an amazing thing to have accomplished and earned. Max Talbot said it last night, win or lose that game, we should be proud of where we’ve come from and how we’ve played in that game. That’s the way they should feel, and they should understand exactly how precious this opportunity is coming for Game 7.
Q. Do you look for people in the dressing room who have been through this experience before? For instance, Ruslan Fedotenko had a marvelous Game 7 and won a Cup for Tampa with some unexpected performances. Do you expect somebody like that to go to the young players in the room and talk about that before this game to give them a sense of what this is?
COACH BYLSMA: It’s pretty common for our team to talk about the upcoming game where we’re at and what the next game is about where our mindset needs to be. And I think at different times different guys have stood up and offered words of advice on what they think.
You know, Ruslan was one that started the playoffs and Billy Guerin, lot of guys have been guys that stepped up and said certain things at the right time and offered their expertise or their experiences. Saying hey, this is what we need to focus on, or this happens in playoffs. You lose a game, you’ve got to rebound.
You know, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ruslan say a few words just shoot the puck on net, because that’s what he did in that Game 7 when he got those two big goals. He was able to get the game winner in Game 7 for Tampa. And that’s what it’s going to take.
Q. Speaking of Game 7s, the Game 7 that you played with Anaheim, did you have any chances yourself in the game? I think it was a 3-0 game, and it was 1-0 for a while. Do you remember any chances you had as you look back that, oh, if you get this chance maybe it’s a different game?
COACH BYLSMA: The USA Today the following morning had a picture of me and Marty Brodeur with the puck in the air. That was my chance when it was 0?0, and I do remember it very vividly. That’s going to happen this next game. There’s going to be a chance. There’s going to be a play, a blocked shot to score a goal. That’s where we put ourselves, one game, one?chance scenario, the play’s going to be on a lot of guys sticking that game. And there will be a picture the next morning.
Q. What is your favorite Crosby leadership moment on during the Final?
COACH BYLSMA: I’m not sure I’m ready to say that. And I’m not sure I’m ready to tell you what my favorite one is, but there have been a couple.
Q. Can you discuss how he’s been effective even though he hasn’t put up points the way that people are accustomed? And, do you think at times people forget how young he still is?
COACH BYLSMA: Yes to the latter, for sure. I forget. There’s a couple of those guys in the dressing room that you forget. There’s at least one that can’t drink, and he’s played a lot of playoff games.
As a coach you put Sidney Crosby on the ice to win a face?off late in the game, on a penalty kill, because he’s your best guy in that spot. That says something about the player. He’s just not out there to put his name on the score sheet. He does a lot of other things.
When he’s making a great defensive play in the third period down low, makes a great read and we get it out of the zone, those are plays that maybe we didn’t take a picture of, but they are duly noted. And that’s the game he’s brought the last 35 games. He’s played the game the right way. He’s paid attention to the details. He plays defense. He’s won face?offs. He can be out in those situations and that’s a great luxury to have when that’s one of the best players in the world.
I think that’s why he’s one of the best players in the world, because he can not just make a pass or score a goal, he can win a face?off at a key time. That’s a huge asset to have, and it’s also a great way to lead.
Q. Last night, every time Henrik Zetterberg was on the ice, Jordan Staal was standing up. He walks out there and it seemed he embraced that challenge and that opportunity. Can you talk about the way he went after that, and how important he’ll be in Game 7 to keep engaged on that level?
COACH BYLSMA: Well, I think, we’ve had a few movie quotes on our board throughout the playoffs. Winners want the ball from “The Replacements,” and Jordan wanted the assignment. And when he was out there, he was ready to go.
The last shift of the game he had come off and was tired and red?faced and probably shouldn’t have gone back out there, but he stood up on the end of the bench and said he wanted to go out there, so we put him out there. And that’s what you want from players. You want them to want the scenario, to want the situation, to want the opportunity and then go after it. That’s the way his game was last night for sure.
Q. What can you bring as a coach in a Game 7 from your experiences as a player in a Game 7? Is it just that sense that you were talking about before, the moment? Don’t waste the moment? You may not get another one?
COACH BYLSMA: I think we faced an elimination game in Game 6. And the same message about going out to win the game and playing our game and playing on our toes the way we’ve played to get here that make us a good team is the way we need to play. Sitting back, you know, playing a chess match and feeling each other out, you see that happen occasionally in elimination games or Game 7 situations, and you got to go out, play aggressively, play our style, execute the way we play and try to take the play to the on opposition, and try to get lots of shots and pucks to that net and capitalize.
That’s the way we’re going to talk about approaching the game, on our toes, aggressive, playing our style.
Q. You have two goals in the three games in Detroit. How do you explain the trouble scoring there and how do you go about trying to rectify that for Game 7?
COACH BYLSMA: Don’t have a good answer for you on why that is. But, again, this is a situation much like last night where we have to make an effort to get pucks there. In Game 5 in Detroit we played a good first ten minutes, came out, played well, but we passed up opportunities to shoot the puck and looked for an extra pass to get the goal.
This is a scenario where we need to be focused on getting as many pucks to the net as we can. Forty?plus shots would be a great recipe to figure out how to get more goals there. It’s pucks and bodies to the net, not passing up opportunities on getting pucks there, going there as hard as we can. Trying to manufacture any dirty goal we can get.
Q. Detroit’s only lost once at home in a playoffs and they’ve beaten you three times in this series. What are the odds that you give your team heading into a Game 7 and why?
COACH BYLSMA: I’m not a very good odds maker, so I’m not going to give you any odds. But we said it last night, said it before Game 6, that February 15 we all would have signed up for whatever odds we’ve got going into Game 6 against Detroit. That is an opportunity we’ll gladly take. And we’ve given ourselves an opportunity to do it in Game 7.
Whatever the odds are, we’re going to take them. We’re going to go in there and be determined and play our game. We’ve given ourselves a chance to do what only one other team has, and that’s Detroit and us. We get one match for the Cup.
Q. Is there anything that you can see from Marc-Andre at the beginning of a game that shows you he’s going to be playing more like he did in Game 6 than Game 5, for example?
COACH BYLSMA: Marc has a unique ability to refocus after pretty much any scenario that he’s been given. Whether he has a good morning skate or a bad morning skate, it’s not an indication of how he’s going to play the game, where some goalies may be that way. He’s been tested, he’s been talked about. He’s been scrutinized. And he’s answered a lot of questions.
There were questions about him after Game 5, and we acted out of confidence, and said the things we said as a team because of the way he’s played, and played in the past, and the way he’s responded in the past. So I wasn’t surprised at all to see him play that way in Game 6.
Q. There are players last night who told us that they know what it is finishing second, not finishing first. They’ve said that it’s the worst feeling ever. Do you think it’s going to help them to prepare for that next game knowing what happened maybe last year but sometimes in their career?
COACH BYLSMA: I read not too long ago that experience is what you get when you don’t get the result you want. I don’t want that experience again. I had it in ‘03. I know these guys had it last year. I don’t think they want to gain that experience again.
Q. The end of such a long season after playing so many games over the past two years, do you think there’s almost a sense of relief for your players knowing that it’s only one game?
COACH BYLSMA: I think that the relief comes from getting the opportunity to play the one game. They’d play another five getting to the last game and with a chance. So I don’t sense that this has been a lot of hockey for these guys. I don’t sense in the way we’ve battled.
If there’s any quit in this team or man, if we didn’t have to play so many games, they battled pretty darn hard last night to get that one more game, and that’s what we’ve given ourselves a chance to throw it all on the table for Game 7 in Detroit. They’re glad about the number of games. I don’t think they wanted any less than this.
Q. Obviously, the Pens have had great success at Mellon, and the Red Wings have had great success at Joe Louis in the series. Looking at game film, have you been able to ascertain what the difference has been in the play in Mellon, and the play at Joe Louis?
COACH BYLSMA: Not really. In the Final in ‘03 there was a clear difference in New Jersey versus in Anaheim. And I think when you looked at it, you could figure out what that reason was. And here, Games 1 and 2, Detroit was better in and around the net. And being at home maybe gives you a little more energy, and a little more focus and a little more jump about bringing that to your game, that determination. But they were better around the net than we were in those two games. That doesn’t matter what rink you’re in.
Our power play was effective, and got some goals here at home, and propelled us to some wins. But it’s really not about the home ice. It’s about playing the game and dictating. The home crowd gives you the momentum a lot of times and makes it hard to get the momentum back because the building keeps going and going and going. That’s the tough part about the road, and with two teams that are so close, that can be the edge.
But we have to be better in Detroit around the goalie. We have to get more pucks there, and we have to win those battles, and that is something they’ve done better at home than we’ve been able to do at their arena.
So the difference in the margin is going to be slim, and we’re going to have to come up with something extra than we’ve been able to come up with in the first three games there.
Q. The picture in USA Today with you, Brodeur and the puck in the air. Had you gone to the net, was that a rebound you didn’t get to? A shot you stopped? Did you save the picture? And if so, why?
COACH BYLSMA: It was a shot from the point, and I tipped him in the shoulder, went in the air. I had one more swing at it, that I failed to make contact with. I don’t know if I saved the picture, but I think it’s probably somewhere. I don’t look at it, I don’t pick it up. It’s not something that I like to think about. It’s pretty much emblazed in my memory.
But that’s the agony and the beautiful thing of sport, that we play a game, and we play it for some great reasons to win a Cup, to win a trophy, to be the best. When you don’t get it, it’s painful. And when you get it, it’s glorious, and you get a lot of good pictures. You take the bad ones if you don’t win and you put them in a basement in a box somewhere. And we’re looking for one we can hang on the wall.
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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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