Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 05/16/08 at 02:56 PM ET
Some questions for Philadelphia Flyers coach John Stevens today.
Q. Can you talk about what Kimmo will mean not just on the ice, but off the ice in the room if he does come back and play on Sunday?
COACH STEVENS: Well, he’s a huge part of our team. I mean, through this year he’s progressed and in the playoffs he’s really taken his game to another level. I think just his presence around our team all year, he’s got deep respect by all his teammates. He just has composure all the time. I think that’s infectious on our team.
You get into a game like last night and get the lead. You can’t have enough Kimmo’s in your lineup. And Derian Hatcher and Jason Smith really settled the team down. We have young players on our team, and they seem to have the ability to keep our team composed and obviously played big minutes in a hockey game in all situations.
He’s an invaluable guy that can’t be replaced by one player. I think we’ve done a pretty good job by committee. But there’s no question if he’s able to play, he makes us better.
Q. If he does return?
COACH STEVENS: Absolutely, any time a player’s out of his status and he can come back, it’s big for your team. Even when Hatcher and Knuble went out, and they were around the locker and just happened to be around.
You go through a lot as a hockey team through the course of the season. You go through a lot of ups and downs. And there is an affection and bond with this group that they’re a big part of. Just having them around is one thing, but having them able to play is totally different.
Q. Are you banking on having Kimmo and Braydon or something?
COACH STEVENS: I’m not banking on anything. Have you seen the markets lately (smiling). It’s a good thing we’ve got a couple of days. I think time is our friend right now. And in terms of Braydon and Kimmo, I don’t know. I can’t say with any kind of certainty when they’re in or they’re out at this point.
Q. Before the series started, you were asked how do you use Timonen against Crosby or use him against Malkin. Four games in and with his injury situation, have you seen anything that would lead to you change or rethink how you might use him? Or is he still going with the original plan you had at the beginning of the series?
COACH STEVENS: Well, if he’s able to play, he’s going to play against both those guys, and he’s going to play. Hopefully, he feels well enough. If he plays, he’s probably going to play big minutes. So they’re going to get the last changeup there.
I think a lot of our guys are starting to do a good job, better job defending. Getting more help from our forwards here to try to do a better job of slowing their attack down. Kimmo’s been our best guy in that sense. So whether it’s Malkin, Sykora or whether it’s Crosby and Hossa, Staal seemed to step it up yesterday. They’re a good offensive team. It doesn’t matter who you’re on the ice with, we’re going to have to do a good job defending.
Q. If they both come back, you’re going to be left with a couple of decisions on the blue line as to who would come out. Has Ryan Parent shown you in the two games he’s played, that he would be someone you would seriously consider keeping in as one of the six moving forward?
COACH STEVENS: Well, he definitely deserves consideration. I think all of our guys do. I mean, when guys go out like that, you’re asking a lot of other players for guys that haven’t played. Guys that are playing need to play more. Those are decisions that are difficult to make for a coach, because these guys all want to play and they all want to help.
But there’s no question to me that Ryan, he’s been impressive for a young player coming in in this situation. Pittsburgh is arguably the best team the East. They’ve been the hottest team in the playoffs. He’s coming in an intense environment with our season on the line and played very well for us.
Q. Could you kind of differentiate the Timonen and Coburn situations? I know Timonen skated today. Has Coburn skated? What do you have to see? Does the eye need to open more for him to be able to play or what is the determining factor between now and Sunday on Coby?
COACH STEVENS: He has skated since his injury, and his eye is improving. I think his vision, the swelling has gone down to the point where he can see. I still think it’s a little disported. He’d know better than me just in terms of looking peripherally. I think the swelling hasn’t gone all the way down. But I think he can get to the point where he can see well enough to play.
It’s just a matter of getting back on the ice. He’s going to have to wear a visor now. He rode the bike today for a little bit just to keep his legs going. We’re hopeful we can get him on the ice tomorrow in practice, and see how he does. That will be the tell tale sign for us. The opportunity tomorrow for a good practice day for both these guys hopefully, and that will give us a better indication if he’s ready. Kimmo’s obviously, a totally different situation with his comfort level. We’ll see how he responds being on the ice tomorrow.
Q. It may have had to do with getting the lead last night with the success, but how much was that physical pounding that you guys were able to do against Pittsburgh key to that? And partially getting Sidney off his game with the frustration level of Richards and Hatcher on him all night?
COACH STEVENS: Well, I thought obviously we got the start we wanted. We were able to get the lead. And I thought we had some good execution in getting up the ice with the puck. Even though when we didn’t enter with possession, we had pressure on the puck. It seemed like sometimes in the previous three games we had the pucks where we were chasing the puck and, the puck was moving. You don’t have an opportunity to have puck battles or win puck races.
I just thought our support was better, and our ability to get on the puck, whether with possession or with pursuit and speed on the puck, it allows you to be physical. Obviously, if he can have the puck more, guys like Crosby and Malkin have it less, and that’s a good thing for us. But there’s no question they’re good players. If you’re not physical with those guys and you don’t get them pushed off the puck, they make plays.
They’re competitive guys, and they battle hard, and they welcome the physical challenge. So, they’re good players and competitive guys this time of the year. I thought Richie and Hatch, and Smitty, those guys did a great job. It’s going to have to continue.
Q. By putting Richards with Briere and putting Umberger with Vinny, did you do that to have a defensive presence against all of their lines? And what did you see last night from those two lines?
COACH STEVENS: I really liked it. I really liked Danny and Richie together. And Hartsy and Danny they just seem to play well together. And Richie and Hartsy have played well together. But I really like Danny and Richie together. I think, obviously, Richie’s use d to playing down low in his own end. He’s a puck possession guy.
Seems like Danny had the puck more, and then you put Vinny in the middle. I thought Vinny was good in the middle, too. He’s good on face‑offs and he has lots of speed, and his wings with Lupul.
I like the way the lines have changed, and I thought Carter’s line looked good all year so. That’s something we’re going to stay with. I thought Danny had his best game of the series. I know it’s only one game, but I like what those guys bring to the line, and I like how they plays together.
Q. Whether teams fall down 3‑0 in the series, there’s always talk about belief and talking about the history that’s been done before. How much more does that belief set in when you do get that first win and you can feel the ball start to roll?
COACH STEVENS: Well, I don’t know how the ball’s rolling, but we’re certainly still here today, and that’s a good thing. I just think you gain confidence from winning. I think your team starts to believe you can win. When you don’t win a game and even if you play well and you don’t win, you still have to win to kind of get that enthusiasm and hope going.
But our big challenge now is that we won a game, and we can’t sit here and relax. We need to play better. We need to have the same kind of urgency in our game. We’ve got to find a way to get our focus back. It’s just one game. But now we’re in that situation again. We’re looking at one game, and we want to go to Pittsburgh and win that game and try to bring it back home for Game 6.
Q. Continuing that theme, Mike Richards said that the adversity you went through down the stretch in the Washington series, he feels might make you a little more emotionally equipped to handle elimination games. Can you talk about that?
COACH STEVENS: We haven’t talked about it. We’ll probably talk more about it tomorrow. But I had the same conversation with myself driving in my truck this morning. We were looking at the last nine games in the Atlantic division, and really, it was every game we had to win. We had to win one game to the next one, always the game we had to win. All the way down to the second to last game against Jersey, was a game we had to win against a team we hadn’t had a lot of success against.
So we kind of put ourselves in that situation, where you get hardened to it. And we have the ability to get up and get focused and if you remember, Danny was out, Kapanen was out. We had guys out of our lineup. Hatch was out. You know, we had the ability to beat good teams that had as much to gain as we did.
So I certainly think that reference point for what we had to go through. This team just seems to embrace adversity. I don’t know what it is. We never do things the easy way, but we never run away from adversity and never back down from a fight and things are tough. I think it speaks volumes about the character of this group.
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