Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 05/23/08 at 08:16 PM ET
From Media Day in Detroit, transcripts from the Q&As with the Detroit Red Wings.
- Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Osgood
- Ken Holland and Mike Babcock
Lidstrom & Osgood
Q. Nick, you’ve been in the situation a number of times before. Is it any different now being the captain?
NICKLAS LIDSTROM: It’s a little bit different. When you feel like you have a little bit more responsibility than maybe when you’re assistant captain. But you still focusing for the next round. That’s the way we’re approaching it, too. We’ve been successful so far at three rounds. And our focus is to get another win here, another win in the series.
Q. What are your expectations up against the Pittsburgh Penguins and some of the great young shooters of the National Hockey League?
CHRIS OSGOOD: I won’t change the way I’ve been playing or my game plan going into it, I might a little bit. They do have some great players and I’ll try and watch what their tendencies are, whether it be on the power play or see Crosby, where he likes to pass it. Where certain guys like to shoot. I’ll always look for it on tape, but for my own game I won’t change, but I’ll watch their tendency so I can be prepared for them.
Q. Nick, what do you think of these Penguins guys from watching them on tape?
NICKLAS LIDSTROM: It’s impressive the way they’ve played together. They have great individual skills, but they play together as well. So it’s very impressive how well they played so far in the playoffs, with some of the young stars they have, they’ve really responded with authority and playing beyond their years in a way, too, the way they have carried themselves throughout the playoffs.
Q. What did the Red Wings learn from losing to the Ducks in the conference finals last season?
NICKLAS LIDSTROM: I think it helped the younger players to go through an experience like that where you play deep into the playoffs. They see the grind, the travel you have to put in and the everyday effort to play in the playoffs. And it is a grind, even though every game means so much. It is a grind to go through almost two months of playoff hockey. I think it helped our younger players to go through that and see what it’s like and see the older players do what they have to do to prepare themselves every night.
Q. Was there ever a point in the last few years when you didn’t see this coming, a chance to be a No. 1 goalie on a team with a chance to win the Stanley Cup?
CHRIS OSGOOD: No, because I never really looked at myself as a back-up, ever.
You don’t want to fall into that trap. I always try to do what I need to do to make myself a better player and just to take what I knew before and add some new stuff to make myself a more complete player.
And I think I did that during the lockout and during the last two seasons, and now I’m just seeing the rewards of it this year.
Q. Was it hard to make that kind of change in assessment?
CHRIS OSGOOD: No, not really. I had a whole year to think about it. I had plenty of time. That’s just, more or less, what I did, I took what I did good before and I mixed it with kind of the new moves that some of the younger guys are using nowadays. I tried to mesh it into one to make myself a better player. I played with guys before like Mike Vernon, that changed his game a little bit. I played with some veteran guys that did it when they were my age, what I am right now, which enabled them to play longer and play better at the latter stage of their career. I’ve seen it before. I knew what I had to do and I wanted to do it.
Q. One of the stories has been Franzen and his health and obviously such a huge part of you guys early on in the playoffs. I know status is still a little bit unknown. Chris, can you talk about watching him go through what I imagine has been a pretty frustrating thing and how he’s handled it, and Nick, if you can talk about what he means when you have him in the lineup?
CHRIS OSGOOD: I think he was frustrated at the point when it happened, I think, because he was playing so well and he was so hot. For him to miss the Dallas series was frustrating for him. I think he missed being around the guys. He wanted to come to Dallas but couldn’t make it for Game 6.
And we know he’s eager to get back on the ice, and he’s been out a couple of times already. And he’s looked good. But hopefully we can get him back at some point in the series. It’s huge for us because he’s our leading goal scorer and he’s a big body and a huge presence for us.
NICKLAS LIDSTROM: Well, I think it’s been, like Ozzie said, real frustrating for him. When we had him at the lineup he’s real at making huge strides this season from being a checker to a penalty killer to playing on the top two lines, being a big part of the power play. Being able to take the puck to the net.
I think he figured out himself that he was able to hang onto the puck a little more. He uses his size to his advantage. And once he figured that out he’s taking the puck to the net a lot more. And he’s tough to defend too. He knows how to protect the puck, and he’s willing to take it to the net, too.
So I think it was big for our team when he missed that, I think it was the second game in Dallas, or in Detroit, I’m sorry. And the team won. We were able to win without him.
And I think that was big for everyone in our room to realize we can still win without Franzen being a part of our team. But he is a big part of our team, the way he’s been playing in the month of March and the playoffs.
Q. You’ll love this one, because I know no player, no professional athlete likes to talk about themselves, but just from the time in ‘97 when this team won the Cup, how each of you - I’d like both Nick and Chris to answer, how you’ve changed on a personal level and your maturity level and your focus, how you prepare for this type of event and stage, and also how different the team is or what the similarities might be to the ‘97 team, Cup team.
CHRIS OSGOOD: I think on a personal level you just know what to expect. Mentally you know how to prepare yourself better for games and kind of put the other stuff on the side and clear your mind for when the game starts. You’re more aware of what matters and what doesn’t. And you just know how to mentally prepare yourself for games and be ready to play when they do start. Because there is a lot of stuff going on.
And for comparing the teams, I don’t really like to, because it’s 10 years ago. I mean we had a lot of different guys. Those were two special teams we had, and it was a special time for the whole organization, those two consecutive years. But that was too long ago.
It was different. Our young players then were Sergei (Fedorov) and we had a lot of young guys, Vyacheslav Kozlov. And Nick was young and so was I. It’s a lot different. Our young players, Pavel and Hank, are great superstars. They’re two different teams that deserve different billing, if you want to put it that way.
I don’t want to compare. Because it’s different. I don’t like to look in the past or too far ahead.
NICKLAS LIDSTROM: Yeah, it is tough to compare the teams. On a personal level, I was 27 at the time we won the first Cup. I was one of the younger players on the team. We had a lot of older players, experienced players. Now forwarding 10 years ahead I’m one of the older players on the team now. So it’s a little bit different, but you’re still approaching it the same way.
You have the experience now of going through a few finals where you know what to expect and you know everything around, not just the game, but everything around it as well. I think that helps when you’re in a situation like this, again, that you’ve been there in the past.
Q. A lot of us are casting this as series of youth against experience. Do you see it that way? If you do, how do you use your experience against their youth?
CHRIS OSGOOD: Well, actually, I didn’t even realize they were that young until I started hearing their ages. They are pretty young. Obviously. But they’re great players, still. I don’t think that’s going to be much of a difference.
We do have the experience, which we lean on often in the playoffs. I think we did after we lost two games to Nashville. We leaned on it a little bit and we were able to regroup ourselves and play our best hockey. The same thing with the last series against Dallas, up three nothing. The minute you lose two games you get pressure because everybody starts talking about the only two teams that have ever come back from a 3-0 deficit.
Because of our experience we were able to shut that out and just go out and play our best game and realize that we just know how to prepare and to play in big games, especially when we need it most. And I think - not the difference, but that’s what we’re able to do because we’ve been there before.
Q. The fact that you guys, the Red Wings have such a huge following in the hockey world and Detroit and beyond and the Penguins have such a following with the young stars. Do you think this could be the series that brings in the casual sports fan to watch hockey at this time of the year?
CHRIS OSGOOD: We have lots of skills on both teams. That’s going to come out. That’s one of the main reasons we’re in the finals and they’re in the finals, because they have the skill and determination to fight through checks. But the skill level is going to be very high in this series on both teams.
And I think that’s one of the - I think a lot of people wanted this kind of matchup in the finals. People are talking about it in the media and before we got here. So I think a lot of people are - wanted to see two highly skilled teams, two offensive teams, two puck possession teams in the finals.
Q. Nick, you talk about being 27 and being young when you win your first Cup. Can you fathom what it’s like to be 21 or 20 or 19 as the top three centers you’re going to face in this series are, and what they must be going through at this stage?
NICKLAS LIDSTROM: I’m sure they’re very excited about first of all being in the finals and being a big part of their teams. I think the old play would be beyond their experience, too. You can tell they’re playing with lots of confidence. They’re playing well. I don’t think that’s going to be a huge factor, the experience part, because they are such impact players on their team. So I don’t think that’s going to be a big issue here.
Q. Given the way you played in Game 6 against Dallas, do you think that’s a wake-up call for you? Do you think it will benefit you here?
NICKLAS LIDSTROM: I think the team responded well to a little bit of adversity losing two games in a row. We didn’t play all that bad, we thought. Especially Game 5, I thought could go either way. The way the team responded after losing two games and they had the momentum a little bit, Dallas did, so I think the team really responded well to playing in Dallas and it’s a tough game, Game 6.
And just the way the team prepared ourselves and the way the team responded to that pressure. I think it helped the team, too, knowing that we can fight through a little bit of adversity and still win games.
Q. Nick, a lot has been said for Crosby and Malkin, they have yet to face a blue line of the caliber of Detroit Red Wings, and that will be a test for them. The flip side for you is you guys haven’t maybe faced a one-two, or one-two-three punch including Staal coming into this series?
NICKLAS LIDSTROM: They’re very individual skilled players. They can take you on one-on-one, they can challenge you and the defensive pairs. One of the reason for our team’s success has been the way the group of five play on the ice. Not just the D playing solid, but forwards coming back hard and eliminating the time for the teams to pull up and find lanes.
So the way we’ve been playing as a group on the ice, I think it’s the team defense, not only the defensemen on our team but the team defense has been a big part of why we’re here now.
Q. Nick, a team like Pittsburgh, you guys don’t get to play a lot of teams in the east during the regular season. How important is someone like Brian Rafalski who has played a lot of games in the east and has experience against teams like Pittsburgh in your preparation for this series?
NICKLAS LIDSTROM: It helps. Helps having a player who knows more about their tendencies and their players than most of us do, haven’t played against them. So he’s been helpful in just little things that you notice, whether it’s on watching tape or watching the game when they were playing in the previous series, and just get a feel of their tendencies. It does help having a player that’s played a lot against them in the past.
Q. Chris, Nick, what does having a head coach like Mike Babcock mean for you guys, what does he mean to you?
CHRIS OSGOOD: I think it was a lot different when he first came here three years ago. I think he brought some new things to our team that helped us get to where we are today. Everybody said we weren’t physical enough and we weren’t tough enough to play against, just after the lockout, and I think we’ve really improved on that over the years, and last year in the playoffs we did a really good job of it. We were a tough team to play against. We fell short. But this year I think our guys realize what it takes to win.
And he’s instilled in us we had to be a harder team to play against and we had to be more physical. And that’s just not the big guys, it’s the guys, smaller players need to finish checks and be tough around the goal and be tough in the offensive zone. I think we’ve done a good job of doing that where we’ve gotten to the point now where we can win ugly games 2 to 1 and grind it out and be able to put pucks behind the defense and go after it and grind down a team rather than just being a flashy team like maybe we were a bit too much before.
Q. Nick, when the Penguins played the Flyers, there was a lot made about their defense, that 1-2-2 trap they’ve got. What’s the best way to counter that? Is it speed?
NICKLAS LIDSTROM: Speed is a big part of it. I think quick transitions, too. If you bring the puck back go D-to-D they have a chance to set up that trap. If you want have quicker counter attacks on them, if you can get the puck up a little quicker, you have to find ways to sometimes lay the puck in behind their defense to make them turn around, too.
So if you have quicker transitions, that’s going to lead to their team having a tougher time setting their trap up.
Holland and Babcock
Q. Mike, you haven’t seen the Pittsburgh Penguins as far as playing them for a while. How have they changed as a team?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Last time we played them it was an exhibition. And I think Zetterberg played, and I think Crosby played. So that’s the only thing I have to go off that way. I think we played them, if I’m not mistaken, two years ago in their building.
And two years ago, obviously, it’s documented they weren’t the same team they are now. I think people have come of age. Obviously, they’ve had really good draft choices. They were fortunate in the years they had those draft choices that they had star players, they made the right picks.
Their management and their coaching has gone in and done a real good job of giving them structure and focus and demand and their elite players are very elite and they’re very young. If the cap doesn’t get in the way, they have a chance to be very good for a long time.
Q. Franzen practiced with you today. What’s his status?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I just said the same thing. He’s flying around, going 100 miles an hour. Looks like 100 bucks, no side effects. Looks to me like he’s ready to play, but that’s why I don’t make those decisions.
KEN HOLLAND: He’s going to go see a doctor again tomorrow. He’s doubtful for Game 1. We expect him in the series day-by-day, but he’s like Mike, he’s close.
Q. Did he have some body contact out there today? Not that you had a lot, but by the looks of it, he was certainly making some contact?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Yeah, he’s just the same as everyone else. That hasn’t been a concern at all. He feels great. He’s felt great for a period of time.
You know, I think today, this morning was a big morning, obviously. Worked out yesterday pretty hard. Come back and you feel great, you’re always concerned about that. A setback. There’s nothing at this point. We’re optimistic. And yet in saying that, we feel we have a good hockey club and we’re prepared to go without him.
Q. If you both could answer this question. You’re focused on winning this thing, if you could take a step back and realize some of the buzz that we’re excited about these two types of teams facing off in the Stanley Cup in terms of the skill and how they were built?
KEN HOLLAND: Really, for me the rebuilding really started when the work stoppage came. Obviously we brought in Mike. And I think Mike and his staff has done a tremendous job getting our team to play harder. It’s been a real learning experience.
I really look at our team in the mid-90s and the process that we have to go through to the point to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. And we’ve been sort of through a similar type of process now. We come out of the work stoppage. We had some young kids, Zetterberg and Datsyuk, who are just starting to get the experience of playing in the playoffs.
We went out and our staff found some home players like Dan Cleary and Andreas Lilja, Mikael Samuelsson, and disappointing loss to Edmonton. Came back last year, thought we were more prepared last year for the playoffs than we were this year. And I think the experience of going to the Final Four last year prepared us to be where we are today.
So it’s always a process to learn how to win. And our scouts did a great job drafting. But obviously Mike - I remember a game in Anaheim, wasn’t this year but a year ago, about October or November, and they really gave it to us physically. We talked and Mike really challenged our players to respond.
And I think as we’ve gone forward, you know, last year obviously we went into the playoffs. There was a lot of questions about our team. We felt good about our team. But at the same time you still gotta have some playoff success.
And we went through Calgary, got through San Jose and unfortunately come up just a touch short against Anaheim. But it’s been a process to get here.
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I concur. I think it’s been a process. I thought it was, for me my first year here in Detroit was a real learning experience at playoff time and the fact that I’ve been in the playoffs and been to the Stanley Cup Final and lost.
So you’ve been through that. But I had no idea what it was going to be like the first year when the playoffs started, because the expectation - not just because of the expectations, but because of previous defeats and the tightness of our team.
And I think we’ve come through that. I mean back-to-back fairly successful playoff seasons. Young guys driving the bus for sure. Everyone talks about how old we are. But we’ve got great young players. Really good young players.
Two of the best ones in the prime of their career. When you are - three, maybe with Kronwall, Franzen, and these guys, but also Filppula and the group coming. So the scouting staff, our amateur scouts - Jim (Nill) is in charge of that, to me have done a phenomenal job for years.
I joked with Jim because I worked in the minors with him. We’d be at the draft, I’d be talking to him deep in the fourth round, he had never had anything to do, they never had any picks but he still found a way to get players. As you watch us in the future you’ll see those players. We have good ones coming and I think that’s the key here.
You’ve got to develop players and Pittsburgh is a great example of that. Is they drafted and they’ve developed and now they’re prime-time guys. And you have to have in this new CBA, in my opinion, you have to have an influx of young talent, fast young guys, young men. You’ve got to be able to fly. We’re fortunate to have some experienced people as well that lead the way and keep us under control.
Q. Do you think you have to coach differently in the Final than any other series, and if you do, then what did you learn from ‘03 that might help you this time around?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I was asked that question yesterday. I’m going to know after this one because I’ll have been through it twice more than - I’ve asked myself the same question many, many times to say what’s the experience give you, what’s the experience give you? I think when you don’t have experience, you think it’s overrated. When you’ve been through it you’re supposed to be more poised and calmer and better at it and more prepared and all those things.
I don’t know if that guarantees success. To me what I know is there’s a huge difference between the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Stanley Cup Final. And the giddiness of the players, exuberance and excitement. Look at the people here. It’s an exciting time. It’s the same if you’re 38 or 21. It’s exciting.
I think our key and our focus is to do - not I think - I know. Stay in the process, enjoy the process, and if you do that, you have a chance to enjoy the rewards at the end.
And I’m a big believer you do what you do.
Q. Ken, you’ve been through a few of these now. You’ve seen the spectacle that the Stanley Cup Final is. What do you think about this final with all the names talked about in the series has the potential to do for the game in the U.S. where obviously it’s important, but what can this series do this year, what kind of impact can it have?
KEN HOLLAND: Well, I think obviously Sidney Crosby is the face of the game, of our game in the United States. So I mean right off the bat you’ve got the player that I think most people recognize the name in the United States. He’s on center stage.
I think there’s a tremendous amount of great players on both sides, besides Sidney, that fans are going to be able to watch for two weeks. I think both teams play a high tempo, skilled game.
I think you’re going to see great plays. Puck possession. I think both teams - Mike’s been looking at tapes. We’ve been talking. When both teams have the puck, the other team is going.
The greatest series I was ever involved in watching personally was the ‘02 third round series when we played Colorado and we beat them in seven games.
I remember when we had the puck, you felt like you were going to score a goal. When you didn’t have the puck, sitting in the press box, I was scared spitless when the Sakic and Forsbergs had the puck. I anticipate it’s going to be the same type of series when one team has the puck, they’ll be attacking and there’s a possibility that the goal could be scored every shift. When the other team has the puck, you’ll be hanging on and you gotta make sure you’re taking care of business.
And I think there’s going to be some great goals, some great plays and obviously we’ve got - we’ve got great players here in Zetterberg and Datsyuk. I think that people haven’t realized how good they are until we’ve been able to, last year, go to the Final Four and now get to the Stanley Cup Finals, and they can make exciting, great plays.
So I think it’s going to be as good a series as anybody could hope for.
Q. Mike, last year against Anaheim, you basically outplayed them and didn’t win the series. In this year’s playoffs twice you lose two games in a row and recovered from that. How much more mature or stronger is this team than the one a year ago in terms of getting over those kind of situations?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Well, I think way better. We’ve been through it and understand it. We lost two games the previous year to Calgary. They were different in the fact we dominated so bad in Calgary, but Kipper stood on his head. This year against Nashville when we lost games we thought we still had played pretty well and couldn’t keep it out of our net.
Then in the series against Dallas, as much as I mean I would have loved to have swept, don’t get me wrong, at the time, the best thing that could have happened to us is to lose those games.
We were a big believer in our group and in our locker room and in talking to the guys that we had played pretty well and hadn’t won. And just do what we do and keep doing it and start better, do it harder and do it longer.
That kind of is what we try to do. We’ve got a real simple plan and we try to do that. And so I think that gives you strength. But both teams right now that are coming here today to talk to you believe in themselves. They’ve won their side. We both believe we’re going to win, and one of us is going to be disappointed, one is going to be elated.
Q. Mike, what’s the key to containing Sidney Crosby?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Good question. I’ve never coached against him in forever, never in the Stanley Cup playoffs, so I don’t have any idea. I think you could ask the same thing. What are they going to do to Z (Zetterberg) or Pavel. And they’re good players. And you’re not going to stop them. That’s impossible. But you’re going to try to slow them down and try to be in good spots defensively, and we’re not a team that comes out to check you, per se, like some would and have defensive players against him.
We’ll play skill on skill, and we believe that - I think it’s harder for skilled players to have to defend and play offense at the same time. If they never have to worry about defending against you, I think it makes better for the offense players.
Now, I think both matchups, either way there’s going to be good players both ways. There will be a five-man unit against both of these types of players and we’ll see what happens. Goaltending is very important for covering up for mistakes, but what I see in Crosby is a great passion for playing. I see a bottom half of a body that looks like his legs never stop moving. Great strength. Really good skater. And good courage. Goes to the net hard. You’re not going to back him off. Gifted, gifted player.
That’s why as Kenny was saying the series has a chance to be very exciting, because the players on both teams are very good players.
Q. With a player that age, is it almost important to get under his skin as it is what you do technically to try to stop him?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Well, you know, I think his birth certificate says around 21 or something like that. But I don’t think he’s 21, is he?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: 20. When I saw him the first time really it was at the World Junior tournament. He was the first line center when he was 16. Is that right? He was 16 or 17.
He’s always been ahead of himself. So that makes him probably about 25 hockey-wise, he’s a good player. He’s a mature guy. He’s going to play hard. But I think Malkin is a good player and going to play hard and I think Staal is a good player and I think Malone is a good player and Sykora and a good player and Hossa is a good player. They’ve got a lot of players. It should be fun.
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