Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 05/30/08 at 03:45 PM ET
Q. Holmstrom may or may not play. What does that change, if he’s not in the lineup?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: They still have a lot of quality players. And it’s not going to change anything for us. It might change something for them, but for us our focus will remain the same.
Q. The numbers with Fleury on home ice are pretty staggering. Is there something that you’ve noticed, something in his play, like is there something that changes for him in this building?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: Some players feel really comfortable in different buildings. Obviously Marc-Andre still has a lot of confidence, the kind of confidence that he has here. It’s tough to say why the reason we play at home. It’s a little bit different than the way we play on the road.
We’re a young team, so the feel from the crowd. Their focus is a little bit better. And that’s one of the reasons why we’ve got such a good success here in this building.
But the Red Wings got a lot of success, too, in their building as well. So that’s the way it is. And if you want to be successful, you’ve got to play well in your building. And you’ve got to play well during the regular season, and even more important, in the playoffs.
Q. How long did it take Marc-Andre to regain his form after the injury?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: When he was ready to play, and we sent him to Wilkes-Barre, he played really well there. We didn’t want to rush anything with him. The number one reason we sent him down, because we want to make sure his timing was right. Because just before the injuries, he was playing well.
For four games in a row he was solid like we see him playing right now. And what was important for us, because he had a tough start. We didn’t want to hurt his confidence. So if you put him out there too quick and the timing’s not right, you can hurt the confidence of a player, especially a goalie. Confidence is a big part of it.
So that was the number one reason why we sent him down, worked on his timing. He was playing really well. When he came back, we gave him one game almost every week. And not only was it about his performance, it was more about I want him to fight for that net, because that was - Ty Conklin was playing fantastic for us at that time and helped us to win the division and during the regular season.
So inside competition is always good.
Q. You mentioned his confidence. Did his confidence waiver at all after Games 1 and 2 in Detroit in the series?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: No, he was nervous like the rest of our team. And for players who are 19, 20, 21, 22 years old, to play in the Stanley Cup Final, it’s pretty big. And I’m glad that the way that we played in Game 3 - one thing I could see with our team, we’re getting better every game.
From Game 1 to Game 2, even if the result was not there in Game 2, I thought their effort was there. Concentration was a little bit better. And there’s no comparison between Game 1, 2, and 3. And that’s why. On every game, I’m expecting we’re going to be better. So that’s a good sign for a young team.
It’s a good sign. In the meantime, it’s normal. I’m expecting tomorrow will be better in Game 3.
Q. You mentioned the fight with Conklin when Fleury was coming back from the injury. Did you actually have that conversation with Fleury at all, about you’ve got to re-earn this job? And how much of a factor do you think that was, that battle with Ty?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: First of all, Marc-Andre knew - he knows we’ve got a lot of confidence in him. The way we treated him since he turned pro, he knows he’s our guy.
And I didn’t have to have that one-on-one talk meeting with him. The reason why, because we saw Conklin play. And you have to respect the performance.
It’s always about performance. Whether you’re a first-year guy or five-year guy or 10-year guy, we base our decision around performance. And Ty was phenomenal. And I have no reason to take him out of the lineup. And you’ve got to respect performance.
And players were at that time playing with a lot of confidence with Conklin in the net, with good reason. So you can’t change that. You can’t say to a guy that: Okay, thank you very much. What you did for us. And the number one guy is going to come in. That’s not the way it works.
And I had the conversation with Conklin when Fleury was getting ready to play, and I said: Keep playing like this, it’s up to you. I go with performance.
I said the same thing with Fleury. We’re going to take our decision on the performance. And that was fair for both of them. And both of them said: That’s fair.
And at the end of the day, Fleury - Ty slipped a little bit. And Marc-Andre really picked it up. And we got fortunate this year to get quality performance from our goaltending.
Q. When you’re standing on the bench and you’re watching the battles in front of your net, what do you want specifically your defensemen to be doing? What do you consider winning those battles? And do you think you have been winning enough of them?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: Well, you wish that you’re going to win all those battles. And I’m sure they want to win all the battles. You’ve got to battle to the puck. There’s times you have to be physical to win the battle to the puck. You’ve got to hold your ground.
It’s a fine line to be really aggressive and take guys away, boxing them out and try to make sure that you’re going to do that and not taking any penalties, because you’ve got to be disciplined.
I thought Hal Gill did a good job making sure he was a presence. Brooks Orpik making sure he was a good presence. But in the meantime, you don’t want to take a penalty. I think the first penalty he took, you deserve it. You don’t want to crosscheck to the net. That’s not the right way. That’s not the way we wanted to do it.
The second penalty it was kind of borderline. The reason I’m saying that is because his stick was down, and the guys are - they fight for position. And we’re fighting for position too as well. So the line, leave the judgment to the referee, and there’s nothing you can do.
Q. You mentioned before the nervousness of 19- and 20-year-olds in the Stanley Cup Final. Do you think your team maybe gets more of a boost by the crowd here than maybe Detroit does at home?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: It’s tough to say. It’s tough to say. It seems like we skate well. The last game, before the game I was complaining about the obstruction. And for good reason. For good reason.
I can’t sit here and say there’s no obstruction. I’m not going to lie. If there’s obstruction, there’s obstruction. If there’s no obstruction, there’s no obstruction.
When I see this about 13, 14 clips that I’ve seen that I could tell there should be a penalty regarding the book, I’m expecting - I know how it is. I’m not expecting they’re going to call 14.
The last game was a little bit better. But there’s still places to improve. But that’s the truth. It’s not something that I’m preaching. It’s something that we base our team with speed. And if we can allow us to use our speed, we’re going to get effect. And that’s normal.
I’m expecting next game the obstruction call, they’re going to call it. I still believe there’s some space to improve again. Because I saw when you break down the game, I know it’s a fast game. When you break down the game, you’ll see that there’s a few times that they should have been called. And calls are important. You need those calls.
If you don’t get those calls at the right time, it could change the momentum of the game. And you could send a power play at the right time. If the right call is made and you could get that big goal, get some momentum to your team.
When you don’t have it, it could be tough. And that’s why it’s crucial. You need breaks to win hockey games. Obviously you need effort and all those types of things. But in the meantime, you need to get the right calls.
Q. I appreciate that answer. I was asking more about do you think your team, being as young as they are, get a boost from the crowd here at Mellon arena as opposed to maybe Detroit feeding off that at home?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: I understand your question, but I want to say my point, too. (Laughter.)
We like our crowd. (Laughter.)
Q. I don’t want to interrupt your stand-up act here, but tomorrow is such a swing game. There’s a big difference between 3-1 and 2-2. Does that favor a team like yours because you’re so young and the bounce-back factor is there physically? Will be easier for them to come back maybe than an older, more experienced team like Detroit or does it favor them because they’ve been in situations like this before, they’ve had a lot of guys play key games like this?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: It’s the way that you approach every game. You need to have the right attitude. And for us, tomorrow, it’s the same challenge for us tomorrow that we will have in Game 3. Game 3 we’re saying this is a challenge for us. It was an important game. Tomorrow night we’re in the same position.
So we’re going to take this as a challenge, as a team, because I like the way we respond to the challenge.
And challenge is important. Good athletes like the challenge. They’re at their best when the challenge is there. Good teams, it’s there. They’re capable to bring their game to another level when the challenge is there.
We’ve been facing a lot of challenges this year, and I really like the way that we always respond when the challenge is there, because we’ve got the right attitude when we approach a game with a good challenge.
Q. Tomorrow is Sydor staying in the lineup and Letang?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: Yeah, same lineup.
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