Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 05/16/08 at 04:16 PM ET
More talk from the coaches today, this time from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Michel Therrien. Here’s the transcript.
Q. I was wondering if you could assess Evgeni Malkin’s play the last three games of this series? What have you seen in him the last three games?
COACH THERRIEN: Yeah, you know what, he hasn’t been productive like he was in the past. But he’s going to have to find a win next game to make sure he’s going to be productive like he used to be as soon as the playoffs start.
But, in the meantime, I think they did a good job about checking him. It’s not sometimes a matter of the players not being productive. Sometimes you’ve got to give credit to the other team. They’re doing a good job right now to contain him. It’s going to be up to Evgeni Malkin to make sure he’s going to be productive offensively.
But, in the meantime, you know, I think he’s playing good both places on the ice. He’s got to keep focused on those things and keep his concentration there.
Q. If I could ask a quick follow‑up, do you think he might be getting, not tired necessarily, but these are probably more games than he’s ever played. He’s only played in one NHL playoff. Do you think there might be an issue of, you know, it is a long season and maybe there is some fatigue for him, or do you see any of that?
COACH THERRIEN: Yes, it is a long season. He had been through that last year. I think he’s got more experience this year to play through the schedule that we’re facing in the NHL, plus the playoffs. But, in the meantime, I could understand of fatigue would be a factor if we would have played 7 games in every round. I think we had some quality time for rest. And because of the amount of games that we played in the playoffs, so I don’t think fatigue is a factor.
Q. That line has not played well, do you attribute that to the guys being able to shut down Malkin, where the other two players are also having difficulties of their own?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, I didn’t hear well the question. Which line are you talking about?
Q. The Malkin line.
COACH THERRIEN: You know what, you want all your lines to be productive. Yesterday, I thought we made some adjustments with the third line with Jordan Staal. We put Maxime Talbot in there yesterday to try to find some offense, and they certainly did a great job in the third period. But in the top two lines offensively we didn’t produce or we didn’t get results.
We did get some scoring chances, then beer roan made some key saves. At times, this is going to be like this sometimes. You can’t expect your top two lines. You wish it’s going to be like this to give you one or two goals a game. Because you’re not going to score four, five, six goals a game in the playoffs all the time.
They did a good job to contain that line so far the last few games. And it’s going to be a challenge for them to make sure they’re going to be able to get some results defensively, because this is ‑‑ offensively because this is what they’re supposed to do. Bring some offense to the team. But, in the meantime, you know, I’m not losing any faith in that line. They’ve been really good so far in the big picture.
Q. I’m wondering if you could, now that we’re a month into your playoffs with this team, obviously, a lot of the focus both on Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Could you kind of compare what you’ve seen from these two young stars day‑in and day‑out? And in these their biggest games in their young careers?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, they’ve been really good. Honestly, they’ve been pretty good. You’re looking at the big pictures. They receive the kinds of pressure regarding the team to get success. And you’re looking at the big picture about a record in the playoffs, and 11‑2. So I’ve got to be really pleased about the way that they’ve been performing since the beginning of the playoffs. That’s why we’re optimistic for the rest of the playoffs.
Q. Yeah, do you see the position that your team is in right now as being significantly different from where you were after four games against the Rangers?
COACH THERRIEN: I believe it’s the same way. You’ve got to look at the big pictures every single round. After four games, we’re optimistic. We’re really optimistic and positive about the record that we have. It’s demanding to win games in the playoffs on the road. We all know that.
We were capable to have a split in Philly. It was a good accomplishment for our team to win game number three. I liked the way we responded yesterday. I think we had the momentum on our side. We could have made a comeback, we were really close. We had some close scoring chances in the third and almost made that comeback. So we’re going to make sure we’re going to bring that momentum to the game at home that we’re going to play Sunday.
But you know what, we’re in the same situation against the Rangers and, again, another quality team against another team that was playing really well defensively. And that was a challenge for us to play game number 5 at home in front of the fans, and we did a great job of winning that game. This was going to be almost the same thing.
This is going to be a challenge. Every game is a challenge in the playoffs. And, obviously, we played some really solid hockey with the support of our fans, with the emotion that they bring. We’re a tough team to to play against at home there’s no doubt. We’ve proven it in the past, and we’ll be a tough team to play on Sunday afternoon.
Q. If I could ask you, did you have any second thoughts about having Crosby on the ice after it became 4‑2 last night?
COACH THERRIEN: When it became 4‑2 after the scrum, first of all, Crosby was not there at the scrum. They were there when we got that one goal. When they got the scrum, the referee came to the bench and told us they’re going to be five‑on‑three. They got two minors.
So on a five‑on‑three, you pull your goalie with 30 seconds left, and you could have a chance to go six‑on‑three. And we’re still feeling with a good rush and in ten seconds we could have scored a goal, and you’re still hoping.
When all the players were on the ice, he came to the bench and told us they don’t have two minors. They’ve got one minor. All players were there already. So that was a bad communication from the referee to the bench. They changed their mind. They changed their call and the call was there.
So at the beginning of the call he told us you’re going to be two men down. So as soon as the players are there for the face‑off, they changed their mind. It was bad communication against both referees.
But one thing for sure, if I would have been five‑on‑four, our top player would be on the ice. But on six‑on‑three, and with 30 seconds left, I still believe we’ve still got a chance on the quick rush. But, you know, they came to the bench and apologized and what are you going to do? What are you going to do? I was not pleased with the response, but what are you going to do?
Q. You mentioned the switch‑up on the third line with Staal, Talbot and Kennedy, is that something that you’re looking to keep together now for Game 5?
COACH THERRIEN: When you’re trailing by three goals, you’re trying to make a comeback, that is the number one thing. We take a lot of pride in playing well defensively. We take a lot of pride about trying to get the lead and we can concentrate really well about checking. Having a good checking game.
Obviously, you know, after the first period when you’re trailing by three goals, you know the game’s not about playing a great checking game. You’ve got to go to plan B and try to open up the game and try to get some offense from different lines.
We’re going to come back with the same recipe that we had success so far. That means we’re going to try to rotate four lines and try to get the lead early to get the pressure on them and concentrate on the way we’re supposed to play. That’s not something that I’m planning to do right from the start with Staal and Kennedy, because I like Maxime, first of all as a centerman. And I like to rotate four lines to the majority of the game. But we’re in position that we’ve got to go with plan B pretty quick.
Q. One other quick question. There’s a lot of talk yesterday about the third period bringing momentum. Can you, given momentum, can you bring momentum into a game 5 after a loss? Can momentum carry over after a loss like that?
COACH THERRIEN: Especially the way we played in the third period, I believe so. I thought we played very well. We started skating. We started to play the way we’re supposed to play, and that would give confidence to the players. Even if we’re a team that plays with a lot of confidence, but there’s no doubt we’ve got to take some positives from that game and try to bring it to the next game.
Q. You mentioned about how tough you guys are to play at Mellon Arena and this goes back a long way into the regular season. I wondered do you have an explanation for why you’ve played so well at home?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, first of all, we feed off of the crowd. We’ve got a great crowd. And, you know what, in the regular season, it is demanding to win on the road. And in the playoffs it’s demanding to win on the road as well, because, you know, the crowds are into it. Teams come for a big purpose. Like Philly ‑ it’s a tough place to play. We’ve got success on them as well, and that was a good accomplishment from our team to be able to win a lot of games over there. That was part of the plan.
The reason why we feed off of the crowd. We feel comfortable. The crowd brings us emotion. We’re a young team that we’ll feed from those emotions. We’ve got the confidence at home that we can accomplish good things.
We’re so confident, we’ve got the good routine. We’re not on the road. There are a lot of factors that could ‑‑ that we’d be able to play really, really solid at home. And there are a lot of factors. But there’s no doubt that the way that the crowd gets into the game and brings the emotion that we’re looking for for a young team.
Q. I’m wondering, even though you’d much rather be home and have a few more days off while Detroit and Dallas still played. Losing last night, does it help maybe reinforcing your message, maybe, a team that’s only lost one game? Maybe sometimes you cut the corners a bit the silver lining of losing last night is there will be some pretty attentive audience for you tomorrow at practice.
COACH THERRIEN: Well, we face exactly the same thing we did against the Rangers. We’re exactly in the same position. Like today, you know, we gave a day off to the players. They don’t have to show up to the rink. I think it’s important to get rested mentally and physically as well. Those are demanding games physically and mentally.
So tomorrow they’re going to come and be in a good frame of mind. We’re going to be really positive with our team. Just to make sure we’re back to what we’re supposed to do, to do the right thing.
There’s no doubt in the first period we took some penalties and especially teams were not sharp. There were a lot of things that our game was not sharp when we start losing our focus. I think the attention, when we start the game was really good. At times we were 11‑6, when they scored those two quick goals, we lost totally our focus. And you can’t afford to lose your focus on the playoffs.
After that we started to pick it up. We started controlling the game. We started skating a lot more in the second and third, and the third we got some results. Capable to score two goals. But in the meantime we understand that we’ve got to keep the focus for 60 minutes if we want to have success.
Q. The first two rounds, both the Senators and Rangers kind of complained about the officiating going towards the Penguins, and Stevens did the same thing early in this series. Do you feel kind of a backlash that maybe you’re not getting some of the calls that you would have been getting on the first two series because of that?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, I don’t know. It’s tough for me to say. The one thing I know, since the Flyers complained after Game 2 that they spent time in the penalty box. And it seems that since then they’re really disciplined. We only had two power plays a game. And that’s all I could say. That, yes, they’re disciplined. We’re having a hard time with our speed to be able to draw a penalty.
Q. Is that affecting your game plans at all? Or affecting your team that they’re not getting some of the of calls that they have come to expect to get?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, you know what, we’re not going to change our game plan. We’re going to use our speed. I think speed is important to this game. It’s just we try to sell the game with speed. We try to sell the game with the offense. Even if you have to play really well defensively, and it’s just we try to do it with our club.
We’re not going to change our game plan. We’ve still got to move. We’ve got to be really quick. Because speed usually brings scoring chances. Speed, usually, it’s tough to contain speed. And there are times that the other team has no choice to get obstruction, to get hooks and hopefully we’ll get some calls eventually. We’re not going to change our game plan, we’re going to use a lot of speed.
Q. Sort of a follow‑up, I’m wondering if you had a chance to take a look at the Jones hit on Malkin midway through the second period last night, hit from behind, behind the net. Just wondered if you had seen it and what your thoughts were on that?
COACH THERRIEN: Honestly, I didn’t look at the tapes so far. So I’m going to work on it tonight, and I have to make sure the teams are prepared tomorrow for the practice. So I wouldn’t make any comment, sorry.
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