Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 05/10/08 at 04:27 PM ET
Q. Max Talbot was able to practice today, can you give us an update on his status, might he play tomorrow, and, if he can, what will you do with the lineup?
COACH THERRIEN: We’ll see tomorrow. He looked pretty good today. We’ll go through the morning skate and make a decision. We’re going to sit down with him and see how he feels. But it’s nice to see him back practicing with the boys.
Q. Can your team execute its system any better than it did in the second and third period last night?
COACH THERRIEN: You know, we didn’t give up a lot of scoring chance against, and a lot of credit to the players. They really buy into it. When we took that two goal lead, we were tough to play against. It’s just something that we try to teach a lot with that young group through the course of the season to be able to get some success in the playoffs.
We played pretty well. For a team that hasn’t played almost for a week, I thought we were sharp in different situations in the game. But I’m expecting the Flyers will be better tomorrow. There are some areas in their game that I’m expecting that we’ll be better too as well.
Q. Before the Rangers series, we were asking you about the Rangers being the best defensive team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. You kind of reminded us that you guys weren’t too bad either on that side of the puck. As it stands now, you have the best goals against average in the playoffs. Do you take a lot of pride in that and do you think it’s the most overlooked part of the Penguins right now?
COACH THERRIEN: You know what, people probably won’t pay attention to our defensive game because of the weapons that we have offensively. And I believe that’s normal. We stress a lot with the players about playing a good team game, good defensive game, a good checking game. And they know. They know they want to be successful. And there’s no team at this time of the year that could be successful without playing a good checking game.
This is a young group who wants to be better. This is why it is so fun for a coaching staff to work with those young guys. Because they want to get better, and they pay attention to detail. We try to pay attention to detail with those guys, but they deserve a lot of credit. Even if they’re gifted, a lot of players are gifted defensively, they’re not going to cheat. They’re going to play the book, they’re going to do the percentage play, and that’s the only reason why right now we have success.
Q. Can you talk about Malkin’s physical play and how he continues to sacrifice himself to do whatever it takes, not just with the physical or the offensive talent he has, on the flip side as well?
COACH THERRIEN: He made some big time progress in the year. And especially since Sid got hurt, he picked up his game, and he’s been a true leader. And leaders have to lead by example. And that was the challenge that I gave to Geno. I want him to be a leader, and leaders have to lead the right way. That means playing both sides of the ice, being physical when you have to be physical.
Those young kids got a lot of grit. They’re not going to back down. They’re not going to disappear on physical play. He’s a guy that when the emotion is there, he’s capable to elevate his game. So he deserves a lot of credit right now because he’s playing really well.
Q. Is there anything that Malkin does that’s been impressive to you in this playoffs? Are you surprised by anything or is it just another typical game for him every night?
COACH THERRIEN: He’s been playing like that for a while. Especially the second half of the season, I truly believe he’s been the best player in the National Hockey League. The good thing with a young player like this, you know eventually he’s going to get better again. He’s going to understand the game better. In the year he made big time progress in his all around game. Right now his confidence goes with work ethic. He’s working so hard.
That’s why, you know, he wants to be a leader. He wants to dominate players. And he’s starting to be recognized for it, and I’m glad for him.
Q. There’s no question from a defensive standpoint this is probably the best hockey that you’ve played all year long. But the bottom line, the guy that ends up being the guy that finishes the product is the goaltender. He’s been kind of an underrated figure, I think, in this whole scheme of things as far as things have gone. He’s made the big saves for you, at least as I read it, when he’s had to.
COACH THERRIEN: You’re absolutely right. I think Marc Andre gives us a chance to win every game. It’s not only in the playoffs since he’s back from his injuries, he’s been solid. He learned. He learned through the course of the last two, three years, and I think it’s a progress that is normal. But right now he’s playing his best hockey in the NHL that he’s played so far.
Q. The Flyers lost the first game in each of their first two series and then came back to win Game 2. What are some things you need to be concerned about on Sunday?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, like I said earlier, I believe that, first of all, we’re going to have to be better, and we will. Because one thing we know, they’re going to be better. So the intensity, teams are going to pay attention a little bit more to detail on both sides of the ice. And we saw that in the second round against the Rangers. We ended up winning 6 5, I believe, one of those types of games. But the second game we ended up winning 1 0.
So it’s going to be a different game tomorrow. I believe the second game after that layoff we were playing better. The Rangers did play better, and this is what we expect from ourselves. We’re going to be better again tomorrow.
Q. Last year in Atlanta you pulled Malkin aside when his English was still a little so so. And you pointed to a picture of a player in a magazine, and you were kind of referring him to play more like that player. Do you remember that moment, and who you pointed to, and how much he’s come in the time since?
COACH THERRIEN: First, it was not pointing at one player. That was a challenge that I gave to him. I wanted him to be he was about the 20th, 25th goal scorer in the league. I wanted him to be top 15.
I’m a true believer that good athletes when you raise the bar, when you challenge them to be better, they’re going to try to find a way to get there. He found a way last year to try to get to the top 15. He went through a lot of tough things last year. It was a learning process with him.
In the meantime, this year, when Sid got hurt, we asked him to be the leader, and he found a way to be a good and great leader on the ice.
Q. Who was that player you pointed to?
COACH THERRIEN: It was not one player. I was referring to the top 15. Because I believe he’s got the potential to be there last year. It was a rookie season for him. It was a learning process.
If you all remember, I was demanding for him, first of all, to leave his country, leave his team, to come here with a little bit of controversy. Being in a new country, new teammates, new coach, new system. That’s a lot to demand for a young man who is only 20 years old, and we knew that.
But in the meantime, as soon as I saw that player, the potential that that guy could have, because I only saw him on tape before he got to Pittsburgh. I gave him that challenge. He’s a kid who cares. He cares first of all about his game. He cares about his team. And the most important thing, he cares about his teammates, and he wants to make sure he plays good for his teammates
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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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