Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 04/02/08 at 02:20 PM ET
Today, the NHL’s Public Relations Department provided Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan for media teleconference. The Flames currently have 92 points and reside at 7th seed in the Western Conference. They trail Minnesota in the NW Division by three points and are one point the behind Colorado with one game in hand.
Here’s the transcript from the media’s Q&A time with ‘Iron Mike.’
Q. There’s so much parity in the league and so much has to be decided in the last five days here. Do you have any sort of theory on why it’s so close? We have seen it now in three straight years since the lockout. I have my own theory, it may have to do with the shootout point, but go ahead and answer that.
MIKE KEENAN: Well, I think I concur, and it’s definitely the three-point game, because I was just discussing that with David before we came on the call that here is a team, we are 12 wins above .500, and looking at the East with Philadelphia and Boston both 12 wins and Ottawa 12 wins over .500; and yet it doesn’t secure at this point in the season a playoff berth.
So it’s strictly related to the three-point game, and how that impacts the standings. It looks like it certainly is—well, it’s obviously changed the dynamics of the standings dramatically.
Q. If I’m adding this up right, you need one point to clinch a playoff spot, but if you happen to win twice and then if Colorado beats Minnesota on that final Sunday, and then it all happens in regulation, you still have a chance to finish first in the division. Do you think your players are aware of the math at this time of year, or do you just say, go out there and win the damn hockey game?
MIKE KEENAN: No, we’re aware of the math. We have an opportunity still ahead of us, because we’re playing Minnesota, that it’s in our control; and the tiebreaker goes to us even if they go into an overtime situation. So we are focusing on that.
A win, which is also controlling our own destiny tomorrow night puts us in the playoffs, which we would be in if Vancouver or Nashville lost, and we can control it and that’s what we’re going to tell our players and we continue to focus on that possibility.
Q. Your record against Minnesota was pretty good this year. What has been the difference?
MIKE KEENAN: Well, they have been all tight, really tight. I think we’ve played better defensively against this team than any other team in the league, and I have no explanation why. Maybe because we’ve got some explosive players, particularly Maverick (ph) that we are really aware of his skill set and we know he’s a shooter. So I think we’ve got a good handle on them and we’ve just been really tight defensively, and I think that’s why we’ve been able to have the success against them to this point.
Now, at the same time, I think you were there with Minnesota, they have artillery (ph) and we are able to at least match up to that, so that was probably another factor.
Q. Being such a competitive division where it’s such a dog fight ask going to the last day, do you feel that will help you in the playoffs, or is there concern it could leave you a bit worn out?
MIKE KEENAN: I don’t think it wears a team out. I think you get energized when you make the playoffs. I can recall some of the experiences, but in particular, one; the older people on the line would remember. One game in ‘80 in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs when I was coaching Chicago, and that really vaulted us into a playoff momentum because we had struggled and worked so hard just to get there. And when we did, we ended up going to a final four, and, in fact, Calgary beat us and won the Stanley Cup.
So I think if you’re in that mode already, you’re prepared for playoffs. But all of the teams are going to make the playoffs with the exception, I guess of Detroit and maybe San Jose. They have kind of eased into it, and are going to have a little bit of an edge because of the push that we’ve all had to put on here in the last three weeks.
Q. Have you ever in your 19 seasons experienced such a fight for playoff positions before in a week as you have this season?
MIKE KEENAN: Well, we have, personally as I said in terms of my coaching experience with a team in Chicago.
But overall looking at the standings and the impact that a lot of teams will have upon each other in this final weekend, I’ve never seen it quite like this.
Again, I made the comment, I don’t know if you were the line, I think it’s a complete reflection of the three-point game. You’ve got teams 12 games over .500 still aren’t in the playoffs at this point. That’s exactly the reason that we are not.
Q. Do you think there’s such a thing as gaining momentum for a team heading into the playoffs?
MIKE KEENAN: I think so, but if you finish strongly, it doesn’t guarantee any success in the playoff format. But I think you can build some momentum because you’ve had to play with a posture or an attitude or an awareness of how important each and every game is, and then in the case of those games and the impact of those games, if you’re successful, which you have to be to get in the playoffs, has you playoff-ready.
Q. And there’s been a lot of talk about Washington’s Ovechkin, but how valuable has Jarome Iginla been this season?
MIKE KEENAN: He’s a valuable player and has been for years here in Calgary. He’s hopefully going to be able to score 50 goals. He needs one more to set that record. He’s in the top scoring in the league, and he’s a contributor on and off the ice for us.
So he’s a real—we call him impact players, or game-breaking players, and I think he’s had a really strong season in that regard.
Q. The concept of playoff coaching, you have 91 career playoff coaching victories and I was just wondering if anything changes behind the bench in terms of a best of seven series against a single opponent, as opposed to Edmonton today and Minnesota tomorrow and then Vancouver on Saturday in terms of preparation and game plan and differences; what are the fundamental differences regular season vis-a-vis playoffs from a coach’s preparation point of view?
MIKE KEENAN: Well, the first thing that you have that I think plays into your hand or your advantage is that you are focused on one group only. Every other night we have to have a complete set of different strategies for each night that we are playing now.
We go into a series, and then you gain the familiarity of those series, and some of those series you get a better understanding and a feel for the bench management of the other coach, how he’s going to deploy his players in every situation.
Certainly, you get a real clear image of their goaltending, and I think it’s just the concentration of playing one team, it makes it easier than what we are doing right now for all teams.
Q. And as a professional coach, do you like that, sort of the game within the game?
MIKE KEENAN: Yeah, I think that’s the most exciting part about coaching. I think bench management, I’ve probably been around too long, but that’s the part of the game that is probably the most fun for a coach.
Q. No other sport rewards teams for losing; I think it’s false parity. Do you think there’s any appetite for changing this until we get a better read until what are the true top eight teams?
MIKE KEENAN: We probably are going to have that discussion. Again, I don’t know if the NHL is prepared to step back and go back and revisit the two-point game. They could have all the aspects that we have in the game now and still end up with a two-point game; one, if you’re tied after regulation, and one more if you win in overtime or shootouts.
So those are the things that are in place now, and quite frankly I think they should review it and get more clarity on the standings.
On the other hand, I guess if you’re a salesman and trying to promote the game, this is probably what advantage one would hope for is that it goes down to the last weekend, and at the same time, provides a great deal of excitement for the fans across the league.
Q. I know you didn’t play terribly well in Vancouver on Sunday; were you a lot better last night in Edmonton?
MIKE KEENAN: We were better, but we can better yet. I think we’ve had some fluctuations that every team has and we hit a little bit of a down cycle going into Vancouver, and I think you can’t be in that mold very long.
So we responded pretty well. It’s always a tough game to play when you’re in a situation where a team is going to be eliminated and to win a game like that, and particularly on the road, that’s a real tough win to come up with. So I’m pleased about our results last night, for sure.
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