Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 06/11/09 at 03:35 PM ET
Q. What is the mood of the team today?
COACH BYLSMA: Yeah, you know, loose is an indication that they have to refocus. You know, they’re enjoying it. They enjoy what this team is about, has been about three, four months of coming to the rink, working, focused on how we need to play and enjoying that process. You know, you don’t ?? there are bumps and there are difficulties, and it’s a struggle. You know, there’s sacrifice, but it’s also there is enjoyment in that room. There was enjoyment in the guys today, for sure.
Q. If you talk to some of your ex?teammates, and we have, about the way you were as a player, versus the way you are as a coach, the one thing that seems to strike them is you’re so calm on the bench. Like they say you’re always chirping and had something to say as a player. To see you that calm, can you talk about that difference in your approach to the game?
COACH BYLSMA: Well, I’ve - I think even coaches that have coached with me, as you try to get better as a coach you have interactions with your coaching staff, whether I’m the assistant and they’re the head or you work or you talk about things you can get better as a staff, a team, as coaches. I’m an emotional guy, and there’s a lot of emotion there.
And I laugh, and I say if you think I’m calm behind the bench, that’s great. But I don’t think my players think there’s not emotion there or I’m emotionless.
I think if you ask them, I show emotion by talking on the bench. And maybe not as much as I was in my first year of coaching. But I do think that in certain circumstances and certain teams you have to act differently than with other teams and other players. The situation I came into, I made a conscious effort to make sure that we were going to go about our business and play a certain way no matter what. No matter what the situation, the score, the way we won the game or lost the previous game. And that’s kind of how I decided I was going to go about that. So that’s what you see behind the bench.
But I have about three hours after the game, that I get all the emotion out of. I’m bouncing off the walls in the coaches’ room. But you try to certainly stand back there and keep the ship pointed in the right direction, say the right things. Hopefully that’s the impression I give.
Q. The team went through exactly the same versus the Capitals in Washington for a Game 7. Does it feel the same right now for you guys, two hours before that game?
COACH BYLSMA: Again, I don’t think you can define one moment with one set of words or one feeling here. You have different emotions, you have different thoughts. This is the Stanley Cup Finals. We’re playing the Red Wings. We won Game 6 in this series, and we lost Game 6 in that series. It’s different. But I don’t deny all the thought that’s go through your head.
Do I know exactly how our team’s feeling or if the guys are too focused or too loose? You know, we try to do the same things and act the same way and talk about the game the same way, and that our approach is the same, and we’ll be ready to play our best game for Game 7. We certainly did that for Game 6. We played a good game, which we needed to play. And you try to cut Game 6 loose, and try to get ready and focus for Game 7 as if it was another game against the Red Wings.
So I think we know what we have to do. We know what the challenge is. We know the team we’re facing and where we’re playing the game, and we know the stakes. The challenge is make sure we’re focused. Get the right thoughts. Thoughts about how we need to play as individuals and as a team and be ready to play the best game we can.
Q. I was just doing a quick poll in your locker room with your guys on whether or not they’re big on the positive visualization. Holding the actual mental image of holding the Cup and whether or not that’s something they enjoy or something that gets in the way of the preparation. At least one of them said you actually sort of addressed that today in the locker room. What was your advice and/or suggestion to them in that regard?
COACH BYLSMA: I’m not sure if it was good advice. But this is my second time to the Finals. And the first time, you can’t not think about the Stanley Cup. You can’t not think about what you’re playing for and what it means, and the fact that you’ve played for it since you were 5, 6 years old in the backyards and on the driveway, and on the rinks and after practice. And you’ve played for this trophy and now you have a chance to be one of the last two teams.
So I think the thoughts go through everyone’s brain. I would be surprised if the thoughts hadn’t gone through everyone’s brain in this room about what it will look like afterwards. I think those thoughts are natural. I don’t think they’re to be dismissed and put away. I don’t think it’s possible.
So we talked about it a little bit to, again, get our thoughts focused on the right things. Don’t worry yourself that you’re thinking about it or not thinking about it or put it out of your brain. It’s about our team playing the best game we can. It’s about playing the way we know we have to and coming up with the effort that we have to, and the determination that we have to to play the Detroit Red Wings in their building in Game 7.
That’s what you need to do. You want to put your best game out there on the ice. You want to lay it out there and do that in a smart way. You don’t want to run around. You don’t want to think one person has to do it by themselves. You want your team and you as an individual to go out and play your best game as a part of that team.
That’s what we’re looking to do for one game, one match for the trophy that we’ve all thought about at least one, two or twenty times in the last two weeks.
Q. Just two very quick ones. I guess the official update on Petr Sykora, and how tough that would be if he can’t go in Game 7, just given he finally got back in the lineup in Game 6?
COACH BYLSMA: We’re still treating Petr like we’re evaluating him day?to?day. He got a shot off the foot, and he has an injury, and we’re kind of hoping he gets better today and better again tomorrow, and we’ll see where he’s at in that regard.
I think it shows you a little bit about what playoffs is all about. This is a guy the team counts on to score goals and put it in the net. He gets a chance to be in there for a Game 6. What he does is block a shot, blocks the shot, and gets the puck out from his knees. You know, he went in there to score a goal, but he went in there to battle and lay it on the line. He goes down and blocks the shot.
It was certainly - we had a chuckle about the fact that he blocked the shot but I think it was a huge lift to our team. Our bench was up. They were cheering, and you know, I think just to see him where he’s at right now. The guys enjoy that situation where a guy goes in a situation and makes a big play defensively. It adds to what we’re doing.
Q. Where does the idea come from for just switching up the hotel in Detroit? Is that one of those superstitious kind of things that you just hope that it breaks the trend in Detroit?
COACH BYLSMA: It’s tough getting hotels on short notice. So I’m sure it has something to do with availability.
Q. Do you think the Cup is symbolic of the Championship of the sport you’re in? Is it something about the Cup yourself? Is there something about it that appeals to you or just being number one?
COACH BYLSMA: Oh, there is something special about the Stanley Cup, I think. I’m sure if you’re an athlete in another sport you may feel differently about that. But there’s symbolism there. It’s certainly about being the best. But I think, you know, the sacrifice and the difficulty. Then I think every kid’s image, every player’s image, they have an image of someone with the Stanley Cup.
I have several images, not just one person or one player. You know, I remember Scotty Bowman when he went out with his skates on and grabbed the Cup. I remember Ray Bourque grabbing the Cup, and that kind of culmination of his career and the trade in that situation. It was something I remember.
You know, there are other ones, other ones to remember. Certainly the one in ‘03 when we had to watch another team do it is certainly a memory that I’d like to but I won’t forget.
So I think there is something about that handing the Cup, the picture with the Cup, that’s special about our sport.
Q. It’s pretty clear from watching your practices that once practice starts to the time it ends, it’s all business. But can you talk about the first ten minutes when you first go on the ice? And the last ten minutes after the whistle goes, how you just like to be out there with teams. You like to be playing with pucks and talking to players and doing all those things. Then with that sort of chunk at each end of the practice means to you and why you like to do that?
COACH BYLSMA: Well, first of all, I like the game. I joke around I still think I’m getting better as a player. So I’ll still shoot the pucks to the guy. If he’s doing a drill I like to do it with them.
But I think that you need to have the idea that you’re going on the ice for a purpose. I have played the game and been in practices where practice was something you did because it passed time to the next game. And that’s the way the players thought.
But I think it’s extremely important to have purpose when you practice, and to have the idea that you’re going to get better if it’s a certain skill or practice, and we’re doing this drill so we can apply it to the game. This is an area of the game that we need to get better at. This is why we’re doing the drill. It’s not just the passage of time. And that’s the way I approach practice.
So if the 15 minutes before practice is a chance to work on individual skill or net-front situation or shooting or wall play, then that’s the time where you get to work on that individual skill with a player.
As a head coach I don’t think that falls just on the assistant coaches, their plate. I think that we all can be involved in that. I think it adds to the atmosphere that, hey, we’ve got to get better. You’ve got a skill, let’s get out there early. It’s been, and I can tell you story after story of guys that are very good players in the league that went out and shot 50 pucks from each dot every practice.
You know, Sergei Gonchar when he got in the league it was you’ve got to shoot 100 pucks from the point in practice every day before we start. And you build skills that way. You approach the game differently when you’re there to prepare and get ready to get better at your skill, and you bring it to the game.
And that’s an atmosphere that I think is imperative to have your team grow and get better, and players continually get better. Doesn’t matter age or nationality. Doesn’t matter that they’ve been in the National Hockey League eight years. There’s still ways to do that. That’s to me what that first before and after practice is about. And that’s exciting to me, so you may see that put a jump in my step.
Q. We talked the day after you came to Pittsburgh, and you talked about how your life had changed at that moment. Can you talk about how your life has changed since then? And about what you’re about ?? you’re about to play Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and do you have to pinch yourself sometimes to realize how much has happened to you in the last several months?
COACH BYLSMA: I thought my life had changed a lot when I got here. It’s a completely different level now. And then in some respects my family’s here now with me and I get to be a dad and husband again. That gives me a little bit of normalcy.
I still pinch myself. Head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I walk back from the rink after a day and shake my head. Even more so now, the playoffs, the success we’ve had. Where we’re at going into Game 7. But at the same time, this is what I - when I set out to be a coach, this is what I set out to do and be a part of. And so while there are some things that go along with it that make it kind of weird, you know, walking into a restaurant and being a part of the city the way it treats its teams and treats its coaches and players is amazing. But wouldn’t want to be in any other spot. You know, Game 7, heading to Detroit with a chance. The whole city behind us, I love it.
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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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