Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 05/25/09 at 04:40 PM ET
Q. You said your biggest challenge is going to be telling your players it’s possible to come back.
PAUL MAURICE: It will be stronger than yesterday. We have to get these guys back out there, so they can get on the ice. And that’s part of what’s supposed to happen, instead of each mistake being part of what’s supposed to happen. Getting across that mental divide is a challenge.
We’ve done it before. Not in conference finals circumstances this year. But that’s what counts.
Q. Statistically, right now people are making a comparison of Crosby and Malkin To Whitney and Staal. When I asked Eric if that was fair, and maybe he’d say no. He said, ‘yes, I’ve earned that comparison with my work through the years’ and he’s not offended by it. What are your thoughts?
COACH MAURICE: That’s why he is who he is. He wants to play better. You go back to the start of this season and his struggles offensively, and he’s front and center with that. I’ve got to be better, I’ve got to score more. You’re seeing it. Then he got himself to a point that he understood there is a lot on Eric Staal. But he can’t get outside the confines of what one person’s able to do. Because when you do that as a hockey player, you’re far less effective.
So both of them feel the same way. Both very, very competitive guys. Very competitive guys. As with most people in all walks of life, more is less at a lot of times and in critical times. I think with Eric that’s the case.
Q. Talking to some of the guys seem kind of baffled and angry at the same time with some of the mistakes they’ve made saying it’s not us. When you look at the tape, what do you think?
COACH MAURICE: I think it’s more systematic than that. You need to watch a Game three and four times sometimes to realize it’s not just breaks. I’m not going to give you a number. We gave up an awful lot in that last game on home ice.
When you look at the goals you look at we’ve got to get a piece of that, and get a piece of that. There’s more than that. We did a reasonable job off the rushing game in one and two. But a very important job in our own end. It’s not a very good job on the rushing end, so, big time, this is what we need to win this game.
Q. What you’ve seen on tape with Pittsburgh in the rest of their lineup, is it a particularly faster team that maybe some of your players may have thought, or is that basically just Crosby and Malkin?
COACH MAURICE: No, those guys have speed. But Pittsburgh, right now, is a quick team. And that has to do with nonverbal communication. It has to do with everybody moving around and having a general idea where that puck’s going. So they all get into that motion first. So further than that, they work hard back to the puck, so their transition game is easier, it makes it faster. It makes it go faster so we talk about speed.
Yeah, they’ve got a lot of fast guys. If you listen to how the game is called and you think about both teams with speed. We’ve got some litmus based on moving in the direction we know the puck is going.
With the exception of a few guys we’re actually not going fast. But that’s our strength. When you look at our teams, they transition quick, they do things. It’s the same with Pitts, but they’ve got three or four guys that can just fly, as do we. But their strength is their quickness as a group.
Look at the four-on-two’s, I’m a huge Hal Gill fan, but I’m not sure I want him up on the ice on the four-on-three two’s. He’s moving with the group. That was a compliment.
Q. Cam Ward was saying today maybe in your own end sometimes it may not be the flashiest thing to do, but maybe the game has to be simplified, and that, you know, just Chipping it off the glass. I mean, you said that hasn’t been the way that we’ve done it all year, but maybe that’s something to look at. Do you concur with that?
COACH MAURICE: I’m sure he’d like to see that a little bit more. The challenge for us was early on in the effort. We need to control more pucks on our on end of the ice. It’s not a turnover or just ?? I think if you kick the puck back into the neutral zone sometimes with these guys, they’re going to tear you apart. I think there are times you have to control the puck. I think it sits on teams that skate like this, you’re coming off and you like to sit back. Usually it’s just taking the puck from your own end, and take it from the neutral zone, and allow them to regroup. And you wait for that to come out. I think it’s a difficult thing to do. But after Game 2, there were three pretty disappointing video clips of us at the half wall with the puck turning back, and they just saw it Chipping on off the glass. And more coming into our net. So I’m sure that’s what he’s referencing.
If I’m the goaltender on that team, I want the puck as far away from the other team as possible, I think that would make some sense.
Q. A further point about turnovers or unforced errors or whatever you want to call them, to what extent do you think your team is making them?
COACH MAURICE: We would say more than actual. We all watch the hockey games. The Boston Bruins decided they were playing their worst hockey at the worst time of year to be playing their worst hockey. That is the way they viewed their game. New Jersey decided the same thing Chicago will tell you the same thing that Vancouver did. The teams that got eliminated or got themselves in trouble will say “We’re not playing our game.” The other team gets paid, too. Pittsburgh’s played very well.
We are actually the underdog in this series. Clearly we believe in ourselves, so we think there are things that we can do better. You have to have that belief. It would be a tough, tough day for me to sit here and think that we couldn’t play better with the results that we’ve had. There wouldn’t be much point coming to the rink.
I think there are a lot of things we can do better in our series.
Q. You talked to Cam at all? Is he any different mentally going in this game than going into any other playoff game? Do you sense anything different?
COACH MAURICE: No, I don’t know how much time you spent with him, he is about as evenly-keeled as it gets. When you say even keeled, that doesn’t mean he’s not intense. Or for anybody, I like to see even keeled on all our players with that level being right up here. But he is one of four. He’s one of the guys with the weight that will fall on. In this series more so than in the previous two with the offense that he’s asked to stop.
So we’ve got a conversation about three, four months ago, under 5-0, and he was a little down. And I said simple, you just stop all five of them. I don’t see what the big deal is. I happen to think he’s that good.
So clearly we’ve got to be a better defensive team against Pittsburgh. But I happen to think the guy’s capable. If he needs to take three, that’s how good I think he is. I think he is absolutely spectacular.
Is it fair that we’ve asked him to do what we asked him to do in Game 3? No, it’s not. We’ve got to be better to give him a chance. But I think he’s outstanding.
Q. You’ve changed lines in the series quite a bit in an effort to try to get things going. I just wonder, and it’s probably too late to change covers as far as your system. But would you entertain the thought of the style that you’re playing right now against Pittsburgh on or a game you’ve got to win at all? Or can you do that?
COACH MAURICE: So we’ll talk about two different things. The answer to your question, is yes. I view the game as two?part systems. The systematic part of our game, our neutral zone is actually more defensive than the trap when it’s done well in my opinion. We run a little bit more of an aggressive forecheck, but not any less aggressive than Pittsburgh or more aggressive than Pittsburgh does.
But in terms of the style of game we’re playing, absolutely. It’s not going to be for us a different game. It’s the one we want to play. It’s the one where we beat Boston and beat New Jersey, that was a game we played. It’s not easy to play. The other team has an affect on your style. But you can’t defend well when the puck’s turned over in the neutral zone. It doesn’t sort itself out.
You can’t chase this team back to your end of the ice, and expect something. They only take away time and space that we need at our own net. It all has to be a lot more easily sorted back to the zone coverage. I believe we can pull back and wait on this team, they’re coming to get you.
So, do we want to play a different style of game, yes. We want to play the style of game we won with. Do we want to play a little different system? What is the phrase, switching horses midstream.
Our system can be very on offensive or very defensive based on the style or the approach to the game we have. So our style has to change. We’ve turned many pucks over. We’re late on a lot of our back-checks. Because of that, we’re giving up way too much ice.
It all flows together. We’re not on the bench saying hey, cheat him behind. The opposite is true.
Q. Walker, Cole and Ruutu - What is the status, how are they feeling?
COACH MAURICE: We expect all of them. But I think with Ruutu we see it as more of a day-to-day.
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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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