Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 06/07/09 at 02:29 PM ET
Q. Can you talk about the job that led to Pav coming back? That was the story, but he played pretty well especially in the early going there?
KRIS DRAPER: He was huge for us early on. They came out with a pretty great push, and Ozzie had to make some saves early. We had good battles that we had to win around the net. But after that, once Cleary scored, the team had to settle us down a little bit, and we were able to get into the way we want to play.
But our start, wasn’t nearly as good as it should have been from our team. And you give Pittsburgh credit, because they came in good.
Q. In what ways are Babcock and Bowman similar?
KRIS DRAPER: Similar? The passion to win. You know, Scotty at this time of the year was obviously the most successful coach of all time. And he always found ways to get the match-ups that he wanted.
I think Mike the last couple of years has done a great job bench coaching. But the one thing that you know from both coaches is that we always felt that we were prepared. That’s one thing that I know. Babs takes a lot of pride in just making sure that game?in and game?out that our hockey team is prepared and there aren’t any surprises.
You know, that’s exactly what he’s going to do over the next couple of days. He’s going to go over a ton of video to make sure that if there’s anything that we haven’t seen or that we need to do, that which make those changes and be prepared for Game 6.
Q. Can you give us insight into what the next day will be like clinching, and is it different now than it was for you in 1997 than going through it the first time?
KRIS DRAPER: The next couple of days, obviously, we have a day off today, which we’re certainly going to take. And tomorrow just get a good little skate in. But our mindset has just really been a game at a time. We haven’t gotten caught up in things that we’ve done well.
We struggled a bit in Pittsburgh with the way they respond in their home building, you know, we just kind of stayed within ourselves and made sure that we’re ready to play last night. But for us, it’s the best thing that you can do at this time of the year to be in the Stanley Cup Final.
So I think we know how important Game 6 is going to be. But with that, we’re just trying to enjoy the Stanley Cup Final. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or if you played in multiple Stanley Cups, this is the best thing a hockey player can go through. That’s the one thing that we’ve talked about is make sure that we’re ready to play, lay everything on the line, have no regrets, and just enjoy the moment. I think that’s what we’ve been doing.
When we played, the New Jersey Devils lost, and it was disappointing. But with that fact, it’s a great opportunity. It’s a great thrill. Doesn’t matter if you’re in your early 20s or if you’re getting older. It’s always a great experience, and it’s a lot of fun to be going through this with a team that we have and the teammates that we have.
Q. How are you feeling today a day after playing your first game in a while? And what did you do here today at the rink?
PAVEL DATSYUK: Just come to here with my friends. And feeling good and more confident. And just like try to come back into my shape, work out, and be ready for a very important game.
Q. This team’s had a lot of key injuries. The two of you, obviously, Lidstrom and Rafalski. Why do you think it’s been able to overcome lengthy injuries, too?
KRIS DRAPER: I think our depth has really come through this year. I think more than ever this is from the start of the playoffs to where we are right now, it’s been an unbelievable team effort.
You know, the one thing that we were saying last night, you know, you’re never going to get one player, one person replacing. Then we lost Nick, but the guys stepped up and did an unbelievable job. The same thing with Pav not being able to play. The guys have stepped up with playing the games of their lives.
You look at the guys that we’ve had scoring goals. Scoring game?winning goals, overtime goals. Helmer’s done an unbelievable job. Abdelkader came in and did a great job for us. We had Meech and Cheli playing with injuries in the Chicago series. From top to bottom it’s an unbelievable effort.
It was a huge boost when everyone found out that Pav was going to play. We’re getting to me the best two?way player in the game back, and it was just a huge boost. You could see it. The play that he made to Cleary was a simple play, but that’s what Pav does. Next thing you know, it’s in the back of the net. And Pav just started getting more confidence, and as he was getting more confidence, you could see that our team was, too.
So last night we needed that. We needed that boost after what went on in Pittsburgh, and we responded with a win. Same thing, we’re not going to get caught up in it. We’re happy with what we did last night, but we know that we’re going to go into a tough building and play a Pittsburgh team that’s certainly ready to go.
Q. Along the lines of what you’re talking about earlier, in Pittsburgh they have the Steelers. They spent a lot of years between the fourth Super Bowl and fifth Super Bowl. They talk about getting one for the thumb. You’ve got a handful of guys in this situation. Can you talk about how close you guys are, and what kind of legacy would it be to win five Stanley Cups?
KRIS DRAPER: You know what, I can’t even look to that right now. When you only think that you need one more win, certainly the imagination is going to wander. But right now you just have to keep everything in check. We haven’t accomplished anything. You know, when we lost the two games in Pittsburgh, we basically said we’re at a best two out of three now with having two games here at the Joe, and not getting caught up in anything.
That’s one thing this team has been good at is just staying even keeled. No matter how we play or what the circumstances are. And it’s something that we’re going to continue to do is not get caught up in it. I would love to talk about that in a couple of days, but I know how much work we have.
And like I said, how prepared Pittsburgh’s going to be for Game 6 going back into their building where they just beat us twice. That’s one thing. They feel with us going back into their building, they’re going to be a confident group, and it’s going to make for another great game.
Q. You talked a little about your first Stanley Cup losing and the disappointment of it, and in 2007 you guys lost to the Ducks in the Conference Finals. How much are you driven by the sense that I don’t want to feel that way again? I don’t want to lose and watch somebody else celebrate?
KRIS DRAPER: Yeah, to be honest, I love watching the game of hockey. But when we’re not in the Stanley Cup Finals I never watch the end. I watch the hockey, and as soon as I realize what’s going to happen I turn the TV off or change the channel.
Everything that we do as hockey players, all we want to do is get your name on that Stanley Cup. You know, you can never have it on enough. So when we lost in ‘95 to the Devils we didn’t want to experience that kind of bitterness, and that bad taste again.
We’ve had some success and we’ve had some disappointments, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen within a great organization. But you know, when you get here, you just want to lay everything on the line and have no regrets, you know. And I think we had that mindset last night, and we know we’re going to need it again. Everything that we do from here on in is certainly worthwhile to try to get that one more win.
Q. When you guys are getting slashed and hacked and whacked like you were in the second period yesterday, how much does it take to maintain that poise, that self control and not retaliate? Where does that come from? Is that just leadership experience? What is it that makes you not want to retaliate and get involved in that kind stuff?
KRIS DRAPER: You know what, we’ve said that’s not the kind of team we are. It doesn’t do us any good getting in scrums. We don’t have guys that are going to square off with people. Our mentality is to play whistle to whistle. Just do what we do and not really get caught up in anything else. I thought our discipline last night really came through. Except when Mule almost went in the penalty box that one time, he was obviously pretty mad. But besides that, we pretty well kept things together.
For us, if we can put our power play on the ice, three, four, five times in a night, we’ll take that to take a slash, take a crosscheck to take whatever it gets to take Pav and Z and the Mule, and those guys that do such a great job for us on the power play. If we can do whatever it takes to just kind of skate away and get the power play on the ice, we’re certainly going to do that.
Q. Do you feel that you’ll be playing on the same line with Hank in Game 6?
PAVEL DATSYUK: That is not my decision. It’s the coach’s decisions. I’m a hockey player, I’m not making decisions. The coach make the best for team. I play with this line.
Q. I wondered, Kris talked about the depth of players being able to replace players like you. Can you comment on that? And also the fact that, you know, in a couple of days and one more win you could be a Stanley Cup champion again?
PAVEL DATSYUK: Actually, I wanted to talk about your second part of the question. We’re looking forward to it. It’s a huge game and especially in Pittsburgh’s building. And the second one, I agree with Drapes, and he said it. Some guys have injuries like Cleary, and everybody did good stuff, and did good job and keep going to winning game. I totally agree with Drapes.
Q. Billy Guerin just said here he’s 38 years old and he’s been 14 years between Stanley Cups for him and he’s thinking you never know if you’ll get back. I don’t know if it’s different if you’re up 3?2 or down 3?2. But you’ve been around a long time and been to some Cups. Do you have that same voice in the back of your head that Billy Guerin would have where you just never know if this is the last one?
KRIS DRAPER: Absolutely. It’s so hard to get back to this point that I think the older you get, the more you appreciate everything that’s involved with the sacrifices from training camp through the 82 games, through the start of the playoffs to put yourself in that situation and try to get that opportunity to get back in the Stanley Cup Finals and to make yourself successful.
I know for me it’s something that I’ll never take for granted. I realize how fortunate that I am to be back here. How fortunate I am to be playing with the teammates that I have, and just really taking it all in.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll continue to say it, for a hockey player it just doesn’t get any better than this. And to be in the situation that we’re in right now and realizing how much more work that we have to do, everything we do from this point on, all the sacrifices, whatever it is, it’s absolutely worthwhile to try to get it done and get that one more win.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about what Pavel did yesterday? I mean, what was your expectations for him going into the game? And did he match them or exceed them? Where do you think his game was at?
DAN CLEARY: I thought he was really good. He handled the puck well. Was skating well. He’s physical. His ability to hang on to the puck and not panic and make good plays. You know, it is what it is. He’s a great player. And he sure proved that last night.
Q. Ozzie’s overall numbers speak for themselves. Does he get the recognition that he deserves, not just from the media, but from opposing players and players in general?
DAN CLEARY: I think he does from the players. I don’t think he has from the media. I think he will now. I think he’s proven himself to be a goalie you can count on and you can win with. He’s a real gamer, real competitive.
It’s not easy being a goalie in Detroit, and he has that demeanor about him in his ability to handle the pressure. He’s delivered for us last year, and he’s right back at it again this year.
Q. Can you just talk about what the time is like now leading up to a game where you can potentially clinch the Stanley Cup? Are there nerves or butterflies involved? And is it different for you this year because you went through it last year and maybe know better how to keep things normal as possible?
DAN CLEARY: You know, it’s a little different for me. You know what to expect going into Pittsburgh. They play great at home. It’s going to be a tough game. We’ve got to play even better than we did yesterday.
But last year going in there I didn’t really know what to expect. I just knew we had to play a good road game. This year we have to be even better. We have to be patient. It is going to be critical. Guys know who is up, who is going, lot of talk, it’s a loud building.
Q. Scotty Bowman always said there needed to be something to pull the team together. I think the first year they won the Cup it was the drought, and the next year was the limo accident, and the third time around it was to win one for Hasek and some of the guys that were trying to win their first Cup. Do you get a sense that there is an overriding theme with this team or something that’s pulling them together?
DAN CLEARY: I think the whole idea of repeating, the expectations we have on ourselves leading up to training camp, it’s hard to win it. It’s even harder to get back and win it again the in next year.
With the addition of Hossa, it’s really been a driving force for us. His determination and his will has rubbed off on us. He’s played hard the last game. He’s been hard every game in the series. For me personally, you know, I feel that the ability to try to repeat is something that you thrive on.
Q. You mentioned Marian Hossa; have you thought for a moment that the last ten days the pressure that he singularly must be under given the team that he left and the team that he went to and taking less money and all that stuff?
DAN CLEARY: Yeah, it can’t be easy. But when you’re an elite player, there is always pressure on you to perform. That’s what makes players elite is their ability to handle that, play through it. The hockey gods kind of smiled on everybody when this all happened, but he’s handled it well.
It’s not easy to go into Pittsburgh and play against your old team. He’s got good friends there. But he’s been really good. He’s hard on the puck and physical. He proved that last game.
I’m sure he’s excited. We feed off the whole atmosphere of Pittsburgh and try to ride them a little bit. It should be fun Tuesday.
Q. Can you talk about your team’s ability to play disciplined hockey—you gave up two power play chances—and how important would that be to stay out of the box in Game 6?
DAN CLEARY: It’s going to be very important. Discipline is key. Not only in penalties but with the puck, without the puck, making sure you manage the ice well. Put yourself in a good position to defend and create offense.
We pride ourselves in being very disciplined. We play between the whistles. We don’t do anything after. You’ve got to take a punch sometimes, take a hit to make a play, and our team is built on that.
Q. We always talk about how you guys respond to challenges and overcome adversity and stuff like that. You came here under humble circumstances having to tryout to make the team. And a lot of guys on the team are like that. Osgood had a rough regular season. Do you think that plays into why you guys seem to handle the situation?
DAN CLEARY: Obviously, it depends on the individual. But I think we’ve got a lot of pride in our locker room. We have guys that have character and know how hard it is to win, what you have to do and the sacrifice. It’s not really all about stats and personal stats and things like that. It’s really a team game. You win together, and I think that we’ve had some guys go through some trying times. And your ability to draw back on those and it just drives you to be better.
Q. There doesn’t seem to be much carryover from game to game. It’s been such a home ice series. Can you talk about how hard it is to play in that building, and how hard it is to close a team out especially when the Stanley Cup’s on the line?
DAN CLEARY: Well, it’s a hard building to play in in Pittsburgh. It’s loud, the fans are really excited, and the players are feeding off that. They played a good game, Game 3, even better in Game 4. For us, we have to go in there and play a good road game, patient, protect the puck very well. Make sure we don’t give them quality opportunities.
You know, when you close out a team it’s not easy. You’re taking away somebody’s dreams that they live for, and it’s not an easy thing to do. But it’s all will and determination and how badly you want it. You’ve just got to outwill the other player.
Q. Are you a believer in momentum and just because the way this series has really swung back and forth between 1 and 2, and then 3, and 4, and back to you in 5?
DAN CLEARY: Well, not really because momentum hasn’t really proved anything in this series. You know, we win 1 and 2, they respond and play well at home. Everyone’s counting us out, and then we come back to give a good effort. I expect them to come out with an even better effort.
You can’t let the last game play into effect whether for us to score or them to score. Both teams aren’t really concerned. They have to forget about it.
But momentum and stuff like that, I believe that occurs during the game not before or what happened previously. It’s all about a big kill here, a big hit or a good shift and those things turn the game.
Q. Could you talk about Zetterberg? When you guys see him do the job that he’s done against Crosby and then still produce at the other end offensively, just how uplifting is that for the rest of the team? And can you just speak to his abilities as a leader?
DAN CLEARY: Well, we’re very fortunate to have players like him and Pavel because they’re our best defensive players and our best offensive players and that’s pretty unique on our team. Not a lot of teams can say that.
So his ability to play head?to?head against the best players like he’s been doing all playoffs and all season just says a lot about him. He’s one of the best two?way players in the world. He can play any situation, any time, anywhere, face?offs, penalty kills, five?on?three power play.
It’s not easy to check a guy like Crosby. He’s a super talented player that has a lot of determination and he’s playing great in these playoffs. So I think he’s done a good job. He shows a lot of will. He’s not a very big guy, but he plays really strong. It’s just guys see that and they feed off it. He’s a real big leader for us.
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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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