Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 04/24/07 at 07:44 PM ET
Tom Renney and Brendan Shanahan participated in an NHL tele-confernce today.
Q. The Sabres seemed to make a bit of a deal out of a comment that you made yesterday about them maybe not being the cream of the crop. Could you characterize what you said and what your intention was?
TOM RENNEY: Well, when asked what I thought about the Sabres, I answered as, you know, I’m not sure. I wasn’t sure if they were the cream of the crop. But I do know one thing, they’re an awfully good hockey club and we’ve got a tiger by the tail.
From my point of view at least, nobody will know who the best team in the National Hockey League is till sometime in mid June.
Q. Just looking at the Sabres team, they’ve got a lot of speed. What do you think you need to do in order to contain them?
TOM RENNEY: I think a couple of things. We certainly have to match their speed if we can with our own attack and force them to have to play defense naturally. I think we have to try to keep their power play off the ice and play a real disciplined game within or game plan in general, and really stay poised and not allow frustration to be part of our game plan. This is a team that can capitalize on mistakes or miscues. They really do have a terrific transition game. We have to try to, as much as possible, eliminate that from their game.
Q. Looking at your defense, obviously you have gotten some strong contributions from youngsters, Tyutin, Girardi and Pock. Do you expect them to see as much ice time against Buffalo as against Atlanta?
TOM RENNEY: We’ll wait and see. Karel Rachunek is completely healed now, and he’s back ready to go. That might interrupt the progress of a player in these playoffs from that youth group, if you will.
Having said that, much with our team, we’ve done everything by committee, and the defense is a classic example of that. Really it is all hands on deck. I think with the help of our forward group and some terrific goaltending, we’ve been okay defensively, and that’s certainly helped them out.
Q. There’s much been made of the Sabres’ depth this season. They led the league in scoring. They’ve gotten steady scoring from all four of their lines. Can you talk about how you might prefer to match up against them if at all?
TOM RENNEY: Well, I guess that sort of remains to be seen. They do have terrific depth. They’ve got a back end that does a great job of getting pucks up to those guys to lead the way in terms of their attack. I think we’ve just got to be conscious of where we place our pucks and how much time we spend in their end, whether or not we’re turning pucks over. Those are the bigger issues with respect to the match-up. It’s difficult anyway when you’re on the road, you’re the visiting team. You might get your defense pair match-up.
I think one of the things that been really successful for us in the last couple months at least, we’ve really tried to go to a four-line rotation now that we’ve got a little more depth ourselves, and it’s served us well, to the point where we’re able to create some tempo and pace off the bench ourselves.
Having said that, it’s been a while since we’ve played this team, and they’re a terrific team. We’re going to have our hands full and we know that. We’re also want to try to be proactive. We’re not going to sit back and watch Buffalo play hockey. That’s fatal for any team. We want to make sure we don’t do that.
Q. The talk of the morning practice here today was the “cream of the crop” comment. I don’t know if you already addressed this. Can you give me some context of what you were trying to say? I guess you were trying to say your team belongs on the same ice?
TOM RENNEY: You know, certainly we do. At this stage of the game, nobody knows who the best team in the NHL is. With respect to the question as it was posed to me, I don’t know if Buffalo is the best team. I know they’re a darn good team and we certainly will have our hands full here. Clearly for me anyway we go into this series as the underdog. But we also believe that we belong in the tournament, that we’ve worked our way into this position, and only time will tell exactly how good either of us are.
Really, the Stanley Cup is handed out in the middle of June, not yesterday morning at a little press conference.
Q. Can you also address the role that Sean Avery played in the first round? I was able to watch your games on television. He seemed to really get under the skin of Kovalchuk and produce on both ends of the ice for you. Is that pretty much the full package from him.
TOM RENNEY: I think so. Sean plays hard. He’s a very passionate player. Any successful team recognizes how important passion is within their ranks. Sean has certainly helped us along those lines, enough so that others have been able to raise their level of passion to play, you know, their level of commitment to every part of our game.
You can appreciate where he’s served as a catalyst and inspiration for others to play as hard and do the right things. That’s the bottom line for Sean. What I like about the way he plays, he’s a very intelligent player. He’s not out there making a fool of himself. He’s just playing awfully hard. And that is agitating. I certainly appreciate that. He was effective against Atlanta.
Q. Did you talk to Sean before the playoffs and maybe set some I don’t know if “guidelines” is the right word, but how far you wanted him to go in terms of talking, how you wanted him to conduct himself on and off the ice in the playoffs maybe in a way that was different than regular season or have you just sort of kept your distance and let him do his thing?
TOM RENNEY: Well, I think the one thing is, you know, I provided Sean the latitude to be a player first and foremost. He does play the game awfully well. This is a guy who I think’s ability to play has been certainly been underrated to say the least. Any conversations we had with respect to playing whistle-to-whistle, showing the proper discipline, those types of things, we did in a group setting with the team meeting and identified all of those things.
Sean is enough of a team player to recognize that that works for him as well. Beyond that, I think we’ve tried to allow him to flourish and to spread his wings, if you will, to be the type of player that he can be. Part of that is being an agitator. But he’s a very effective hockey player and he can play the game.
The bottom line is at this point in time with trying to kind of redefine the New York Rangers, if you will, over the last couple years, the last things we want to do is stifle people that we believe can help us get there.
Q. Are you surprised at the attention? There seems to be an inordinate amount of attention focused on Sean, given the turnaround of the team, the way they played down the stretch. Are you surprised by it and are you concerned maybe it may ruffle feathers in the dressing room or do you think that’s an issue at all?
TOM RENNEY: First of all, he’s a great teammate. I know he gets along very, very well with his teammates. He holds all of them in high regard and respects every single guy, as they do him. The chemistry in our room is completely unaffected by Sean’s presence in a negative way without a doubt.
From the other side of the equation, I think what he’s done again, as I alluded to, he’s invited others to elevate their level of passion to play, understand that the game is fun, it’s okay to have fun, it’s okay to have laughs. I think that’s important as we pursue what we want at the end of the day. Having said that, Sean, like anybody else, punches the clock with the best of them.
Q. Seems that everybody has been making a whole lot of noise about the Sabres, how well they play. Doesn’t seem the Rangers are getting respect. Your team defense has actually gotten better over the last couple months. What really turned around the team defense to you?
TOM RENNEY: Well, I think we were able to kind of draw the conclusion at least that we needed everybody to be responsible defensively. It wasn’t one of those things that was one night okay, maybe not the next night sort of thing. We needed it night after night after night. We knew we had a premiere goaltender and we needed to give him more help in order to secure some wins.
Consciously we decided that, you know, we needed to diminish the chances against. We needed to do so by being more responsible defensively. It’s funny how that works. Oftentimes when you do that, you end up with the appropriate amount of offense the other way. The guys have seen that bear itself out again, as I’m sure they have with other teams if not this one. So it’s just a matter of staying with it quite honestly. It’s not something we came to this huge revelation six or seven weeks ago we got to be better defensively. We sort of understood that right off the bat.
We had some things to deal with early in our season with respect to our roster and we had to kind of get our heads around what we wanted to do to continue to redefine the New York Rangers as a contending team. Those are growing pains. All of that takes time to sort of adhere, if you will. And we certainly are content with the way we’ve grown. We’re far away from being what we want to be at the end of the day. That will only continue to need hard work.
Q. Which player has surprised you the most over the last couple months with his play?
TOM RENNEY: Boy, that’s a tough one. Again, as I mentioned earlier on the call, so much of what we’ve done has been by committee. An impressive individual for me is Jaromir. He hasn’t had a hundred-point year. He’s awfully close to it naturally. But this is a player with a letter on his jersey who I think also has been misunderstood in terms of his career who has been playing a terrific two-way game for us for months now.
I can’t say I’m surprised because he’s a very sincere, honest player. What I like about it, and I don’t know again if it’s a surprise or not, is the fact he stepped up to help lead our team in a manner that would suggest by his example we can do things and do them properly.
DAVID KEON: Now we have Brendan Shanahan. We’ll go ahead with questions for Brendan, please.
Q. I was curious about Ryan Callahan’s contributions. Could you address that, what he’s done? For a kid that was in Hartford and now all of a sudden has a fairly significant role.
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Yeah, well, I think it’s always good for any team to have a balance with veterans and with rookies. You know, rookie players, especially this time of year, they just bring so much enthusiasm. Everything is new for them. You just see this kid out there every day in practice, you know, just excited to be in the NHL.
On the ice, he bought into the system we’re playing. He’s added offense. He’s been a very good forechecker. He’s physical.
Q. Can you describe your own season so far?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: My own season?
Q. You started well scoring goals. You played in the All-Star. You got a knock in February.
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Yeah, a knock (laughter).
You know, it’s been an exciting year. I knew that there would be a lot of challenges coming here and that it would be exciting, that this was a team that was trying to improve upon last year. It hasn’t disappointed. You know, I really enjoyed working with our coaching staff and with all the players on the team. It’s just been a great organization and it’s been a fun season. It really came down to judging the season was going to, for me, be on whether or not we became a better team.
Q. How important has Henrik Lundqvist and Michael Nylander been to the Rangers?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Great. Henrik has been fantastic throughout the year. Michael I would also say, you know, really had a great year but has turned it up a notch in the playoffs.
Q. You already got three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings. Do you think the Rangers could be a real contender for the Cup this season?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Well, I do. I think obviously every team going into the playoffs has a chance to win. I mean, I’ve been in a situation in Detroit the last couple years where we’ve played against—we were beaten out one year by Calgary. They went to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals. Then the next year we were beaten out by Edmonton, who finished in eighth place, went to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals.
I think, you know, it’s very important obviously to go in and have a great NHL season and to build momentum for the playoffs. But I think the teams are also realizing now that getting into the playoffs and playing your best hockey as you’re entering the playoffs makes you a contender. That’s what’s most important, sustaining that throughout the playoffs.
I think that obviously, not unlike any other team that’s entering into the playoffs, we’re optimistic. Certainly now that you’re down to eight, it becomes more focused.
Q. Could you touch on some of the things you think put this team in a position to do what you just said, to play its best hockey down the stretch and into the playoffs? Early in this new year it didn’t look like that might happen. What factors do you think came together to put you where you are now, playing the way you are now?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Well, we really felt kind of coming into the new year that we were playing on most nights good hockey, but we were kind of changing the style which we played and we were changing the team’s identity a little bit, becoming maybe—trying to correct some of the issues that popped up in the playoffs last year, which I think they felt maybe the team relied too heavily on a few players.
I think, number one, we were trying to commit ourselves to playing a better team game, getting more contributions from more players offensively so we weren’t just relying on three or four guys, and at the same time being a tougher team to score against, a tougher team to get scoring chances against.
Once we did those two things and kept working on it and working on it, it didn’t give us immediate results, but we continued with it, we stuck with it. We didn’t have any guys splintering away from that concept. We just got good at it.
Q. You’ve twice been a teammate of Sean Avery. You’ve also been an opponent. You may have had sort of a run-in as opponents. Can you explain what you think makes Sean tick, what makes him so effective, maybe how he’s grown since he was a young pup in Detroit?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Well, what makes him tick, it’s kind of what made him tick in juniors and then into the NHL: He’s got a tremendous desire for the game itself. I think he’s certainly a guy that, you know, loves the game of hockey. This guy watches hockey games. He loves to play. He loves to practice. He trains hard in the summer. He grew up in Toronto being a big fan of the NHL.
Every once in a while he’ll even throw out reminders of things that I did when I was in St. Louis when he was back home watching as a little kid. He remembers, he’ll quote some of the playoff series I had against Toronto. He loves the game. He works hard at it.
Then I just think aside from that, he’s got the kind of personality where he’s involved. He’s not a backseat kind of a guy. Whether you’re out to dinner with him or out on the ice with him, he wants to be involved, he likes to push buttons, he likes to challenge people. I don’t think he ever enjoys a quiet night.
Q. Let’s talk about you as a veteran trying to get the most out of your younger teammates. What is basically the biggest lesson you try to impart to kids?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: I think sometimes it just depends on the situation. I’ve often said that I really played with some great veteran players growing up in the NHL. Starting as an 18-year-old, they just taught me so much. I listened. You know, I really paid attention to these guys. If there’s a situation where I don’t think anything needs to be said, I don’t say it. These guys are pretty poised guys.
If something happens or there’s a situation or there’s some adversity, whatever that might be, these guys are very welcoming to advice. Might have just been like, you know, when Dan Girardi made a mistake, I think it was maybe the first game against Atlanta, just going down to the end of the bench and remind him how well he’s playing, that those things happen, to shake it off, and how much as teammates we believe in him.
It’s whatever the situation is. It’s experience. You don’t have to play 19 years in the NHL to have playoff experience. I’m just happy to be able to help these guys when I can.
Q. It seems like as the season progressed you and Jaromir Jagr started to gain some comfort playing with each other, particularly on the power play. Obviously you’re going against a very fast Sabres team. What do you think you need to do both on the power play and at even strength to succeed against them?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: Well, I think we just are concentrating on playing our best hockey possible. Certainly specialty teams are going to play a big part in it. We were pretty good in the first round, definitely had—we had some games where our power player and specialty teams really gave us a huge advantage.
They’re going to obviously be a big challenge. They’re aggressive. They’ve got good specialty teams. You know, I think when you get into a playoff series, for the most part when you’re dealing with good teams and good coaches, the advantage as time goes on usually swings toward defense. The advantage in the regular season for power plays is that the teams that might not have seen you the night before, they might have been in another game preparing for another team, they might be preparing for another game, another team two days later. But in playoff series really the advantage goes to defense as the series goes on.
Our power players will definitely have to make some adjustments as we go along because their penalty killing will make adjustments to be effective.
Q. How was your first experience as a home player at Madison Square Garden come playoff time?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN: It was fun. It was great. I played obviously in Joe Louis Arena. It was a fantastic place to play playoff games. Madison Square Garden is as well. The difference being probably Madison Square Garden, it had been 10 years since they’d been able to cheer on a win. They were especially excited and definitely were a big reason why we had so much momentum in those two home games.
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