Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 06/03/09 at 02:28 PM ET
Q. Talk about players, as Playoffs go on, having to do more and the competition becomes more key. Is that true for coaching? Do you have to do different things at this stage that maybe you didn’t have to do in the first round?
COACH BYLSMA: I think it often depends on your opponent. And there are coaches that like to make a lot of adjustments. There are coaches who, last night Zetterberg was definitely, obviously coming on the ice and off the ice at key moments trying to get different match?ups. That poses a different situation than some of the other things early on. I don’t think it would be ?? I don’t think it’s just because it’s the Finals. I think it’s because it’s Mike Babcock and the Red Wings.
So each series is a little bit different. And this one is presenting different situations.
Q. Do you think it was important for Marc?Andre to have almost a statement period interest in the second period where you guys were considerably outplayed. They had a lot of scoring chances and he kept you at 2?2. Just for his confidence level?
COACH BYLSMA: Well, I think it gives everyone in this room something to write about. You know, our room has not wavered on our goaltender. He’s answered questions that have been asked about him from the media for a long time. And we’re here because of the way our team has played. And your goaltender is always a big part of that.
At times he’s had to make huge saves to keep us in games, and he did that in round one. He did that in round two. He did it in round three as well. He may have not been the focal point for our team. But in that second period we needed saves, and he gave a couple of big ones with traffic. And that’s what he’s done. Our room is confident that’s what he’s going to continue to do for us going forward.
Q. There are a lot of physical dissimilarities between Evgeni Malkin and Wayne Gretzky. But there are certain elements of their game, like the on?ice vision, being on the half courts at the power play that are similar. And I know you played with Wayne earlier in your career. Is there a parallel of what they do and what they bring to the team offensively?
COACH BYLSMA: Well, Geno has a size difference and a physical aspect to his game that’s different. Wayne was tremendous. We don’t need me to say that Wayne was tremendous in vision and anticipation of the game that made him special.
But there are things that each guy can do that only a few can do. It’s a gift offensively, anticipation?wise, the ability to seem to know the time and space that they have and even don’t have at times. And even better yet, they know when other people have that time and space to deliver the puck to them. So they’re gifted players, for sure. I was a Wayne Gretzky fan growing up. So I’m not ready to say Geno or anybody at this point in time is as good as he was.
But certainly I didn’t have the fortunate seat to watch Wayne in his heyday with the Oilers. But now, certainly, I have a great seat to watch what Geno and Sid, and these players can do in a unique way on the ice.
Q. You talked so much about getting to the offensive zone and the way your team wants to play. How do you explain what happens in the second period? It just seemed to go the other way and maybe revert back to some things that you would prefer that they not do?
COACH BYLSMA: Well, if you take a still photo of us getting to the red line and blue line in most of the times we’ve had the puck at that area, you’re going to see four Red Wings around the puck. And if you think that you’re going to create an offensive opportunity out of that situation, then you’re probably better about going to Vegas and betting there, because it’s not a real good bet.
They’re back. They have great sticks, and they do it over and over again. So we needed to make better decisions with the puck, puck management. Again, force those four guys to turn and go back and get that puck, and a lot of times we didn’t. And that created a scenario where they now have the puck. They have an offensive gap against our defensemen, and now they can turn it back on us.
We’ve done - good teams do that. They get those pucks, they turn the other way, and now they’re in a good offensive position to get with speed to the other end. We needed to do a better job of recognizing those situations and supporting the puck so we can get it behind their D and get to that offensive zone. It’s not going to happen very often on the rush against these guys. And we need to recognize those situations better.
We have at times in this series, but we got away from it there. It’s not the fault of not wanting to try to create something, but we have to understand what the still photo is, and get it behind their “D”.
Q. With Sidney seeing so much of Zetterberg and Lidstrom and that pairing, can you maybe just address the importance of Evgeni’s line contributing offensively with Sid stuck in that match-up? And how that could potentially change that dynamic if they get that seat back?
COACH BYLSMA: I’d be interested to see how it would change the dynamic. Last game was a unique game where Zetterberg was on the ice for a lot of hockey. He was out there in a couple different instances where he was double shifting after long shifts. So he was really chasing that match?up. He was getting them on the ice in those situations. And there’s a lot of focus on that. As a result Sid still had to fight that numerous times.
But it does leave the onus on our other guys to play our game and get to the offensive zone to take some pressure off just one guy scoring and one line scoring. So it was an interesting dynamic. Different than the first two games in how they approached the game, and how much Zetterberg had to play to try to get that match?up. And I think you’ve seen Geno be on the board each game here and helping us out in that regard.
But I think as a team, we need to do a better job playing in the offensive zone and winning face?offs and keeping pressure on them that doesn’t allow them to get that change that they did get numerous times last night with a guy jumping on the ice, Zetterberg getting out there. Better play in the offensive zone by everybody would make those match?ups better, even better for us.
Q. You’ve played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs before. But as a coach, are you finding that the Playoffs don’t give you much of time to take a breath. For instance, as critical as it was to win last night’s game, there can’t be any let-up because you still face the prospect of going into Detroit and facing elimination on Saturday. Can you take a breath, can you enjoy it at all, or is it looking right ahead all the time?
COACH BYLSMA: Well, that’s an interesting question. I think the English language doesn’t do a very good job of wrapping up the emotions that you can have at this period of time. Do I enjoy this? Absolutely. Is it kick my feet up, have a cool drink with a fruit in it? It’s not that kind of enjoyment. But as a competitor, as a coach, this is exactly where I want to be enjoying my time.
Is it strenuous? Is it gut wrenching? Is it continually focusing on the next thing and what we need to do and what the players and the team need? Yeah, there’s a lot of that going on. But that’s an absolutely wonderful situation to be in. And I don’t want to trade places with any of the other 28 NHL head coaches right now.
Q. What makes Max Talbot such a clutch player? He’s had some huge goals for you guys last year and this year in the postseason. And as a coach, can you look at a player before he does that and say that he has that potential? You know what I mean? Can you almost identify those guys before they do what they do?
COACH BYLSMA: You know, Max, one of the great attributes that Max had, and I heard Geno comment on eloquently on them earlier (smiling), is he’s a determined guy who lays it on the line. He will scrap and claw and continue to do that over and over again. Doesn’t get deterred by the situation. Doesn’t get deterred by how much ice time he does or doesn’t get. He’s out there, scratching and clawing for opportunities.
And that means he’s going to the dirty areas. That means he’s battling the guy next to him who is trying to prevent him from doing that. I think that’s why, in situations like this, he gets in those opportunities that allow him to get the big goal.
That’s his strength. It may not be his hands, but it’s his determination, and his will, and his willingness to battle the guy that is across from him and gets him in those spots.
You know, quote of the movie yesterday, winners want the ball. He wants to go there. He wants to be it. And a lot of guys do. A lot of guys do. But the work ethic and determination, that’s his strength. That’s his NHL skill, and he shows it over and over again. And I hope he keeps getting the chance.
Q. You just talked about Evgeni and he had this room breaking up. I imagine there is a personality in there that we don’t all get a chance to see. Can you talk about since you’ve come in the personality that you’ve seen in him and how it plays in the room?
COACH BYLSMA: Yeah, I think it’s tough to see from the outside. But it doesn’t take long when you are in the room and you see him. That’s not odd for him to crack up the room or say something that gets a laugh or a joke. Of all the guys in that room he probably likes a joke more than the next guy.
I’ve been asked the question or alluded to the fact that maybe he doesn’t understand. He’s the first guy to laugh at my jokes. That’s why I like him (smiling). And he understands perfectly.
But he’s a great teammate. He’s in that room. He laughs and jokes. And he’s very serious about being a hockey player. It’s a tough situation. There’s a lot of hurdles coming from his culture and being a young kid. But that’s who he is. That’s who Evgeni is. And he’s a fiery competitor. He’s passionate. He wants desperately to win. And at the same time you’ll get the Max Talbot joke pretty regularly out of that guy. So it certainly adds to our room not only with his skill level, obviously, on the ice, but he’s a well?liked teammate because of the way he is in that room.
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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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