Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 06/06/07 at 03:37 PM ET
Q. First off, here you are one game away from laying claim to the Cup. What do you expect from the Sens? They played some great hockey and they’ve played some not so great hockey. Is there a sense if they played their best hockey for three periods that you would have to match their intensity?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Again, your expectations are that when you play in the Stanley Cup Final, your opposition is going to be desperate. And we know that we’re going to have to play our best game.
We respect the opposition. They’re an excellent hockey club. We know that they’re quite capable, and they’ve proven to us in this series, for stretches, that they can dominate us.
So it’s important that we don’t lose the focus and we have to even create more focus for our group. We think that we have a certain style that we have to play to that we can be effective. But we know that they’re a hockey club that will play their best game in the series.
Q. Have you seen much improvement with Kunitz over the past 24 hours, and what’s his status?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: He’s a game-time decision. As far as seeing any improvement, that’s what the player and the medical staff deal with. They report to me on where he’s at and if there’s any remarkable improvement, I would say it would be more of a word that you’re looking for in these situations, and with him, he’ll take the warmup and we’ll make a decision after the warmup.
Q. Assuming Ottawa keeps its top line together, will you try to recreate the same matchups you had in Game 1 and Game 2?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: I don’t know. We’ll make that decision. Obviously, we feel we have a checking unit in Pahlsson, Niedermayer, and Moen, and we’ll utilize those players up against who we think is performing at the highest level for the opposition. That’s been no secret for us.
And I don’t know if you’ll be able to get the matchups you like all the time; obviously, the other coach will have some implication in that. They change their rotation, change up certain combinations. They can throw two out or one out and change on the fly.
So all those things come into it. So it will be status quo for us. We think that we can - if we can continue to get the right people out on the ice at the right time, it improves your chances. That’s all it does. That’s our game plan.
Q. What about Pronger and Niedermayer together, would you hesitate there?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: As you obviously saw the games, we won’t hesitate. Do they start there, do they finish there, do they play there, we’ll dictate that as the game goes on.
Q. Coach, when you see things like at times, “the champagne’s on ice,” that kind of comment, do you try to incubate your players from a day like this to try to keep their focus? It’s gotta be difficult. But what’s your expectations of that?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Well, we’ve talked about it. As I stated yesterday, we talk about it after the game. We talked about it yesterday when we met here, and we’ll talk about it again this morning after I leave you guys. The distractions that come in to play, that’s one of them we have to deal with.
Professional athletes have to deal with pressure. There’s an exclamation point when you’re in the Stanley Cup Finals. And we have to deal with it as we’ve dealt with everything else.
We have a focus, one goal in mind, and we have to be prepared to stay to the course, to not get thrown one side or the other. We’d like the pendulum to stay in the middle for our group.
Q. What are you personally feeling today that is different for you than any other day so far in the final?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Just nervous, like everybody. There’s always a nervous tension for coaches the day of the game. I don’t think it’s any more today than it was the last game, you know.
I think at times, depending what you do, we stay in a routine, we’re creatures of habit, do the same thing day in, day out, don’t try to alter your schedule. Sometimes people get very superstitious. By the end of the year, you’ve got so many you forget, which one you’re supposed to do, so I try to stay away from that.
Q. Did you get a good night of sleep?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Slept like a baby.
Q. Do you remember what the first examples this season have been when you realized how resilient this team was and how well they could handle pressure situations?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: I don’t know. I think that it’s one of those things that grows. I don’t think you can say that there’s one game or one instance. I think that resiliency is something that you have to prove on a day-to-day, game-to-game basis, and sometimes it’s a shift to shift. I think what happens is you’re always confronted with adversity in sports and sometimes it’s self-created. Sometimes it’s outside adversity. Sometimes it’s things that are out of your control.
The only thing we can control is how well we play and how much of an effort we can give. And I would expect our group to come out and try to play the best game we’ve played of the year.
Q. Does that include sticking to the game plan, Ottawa comes out in Game 4, 13 shots on goal, looked like they’re in control, then completely different game come the second period. Does it just remind the guys, hey, this is what we’re not doing right and let’s stick to the game plan we talked about going in?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Again, we always talk about it. And we’ve made the statement a thousand times, it’s easy to talk about, but it’s much harder to live. And we’re playing against a great hockey club in the Ottawa team, and we have to be prepared to play the best game that we’ve possibly played this year. And that’s a statement for our group. And that’s a challenge that we gotta put to ourselves. There’s no easy ones. This one will be the most difficult one.
And that’s just the way it goes in the playoffs. Every game becomes the next biggest one and that’s the biggest game of the year.
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