Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 05/21/08 at 04:51 PM ET
Ryan Malone participated in an NHL tele-conference today…
Q. Could you sit back and look at the big picture, where this franchise and team was about 15 months ago when it looked like the team might possibly move, the arena deal was difficult to negotiate. Nervous time for everyone in Pittsburgh. 15 months later you’re in the Stanley Cup final, sold out every game, a new rink on the way. Has that been kind of a fun but nervous ride?
RYAN MALONE: A little bit. I think especially being from Pittsburgh, even being with the team early on, when you heard all the rumors about we might be moving, I think deep down inside with the fan support we had at the time, it was great, so it would have been tough to leave such a good hockey town with the support we were receiving at the time.
I think deep down inside we knew we weren’t really going anywhere. For some reason, people were dragging their feet, finally got the rink deal done. It would have been crazy to think at the end of this year we would be going somewhere else.
Definitely great to see. I think you really have to thank the fans for the way they supported us. Had big rallies during that time to make sure we knew they were supporting us. It was great.
Q. Could you sort of sum up your ride with Pittsburgh. You’ve had certainly some good times, but there’s been some trade rumors about you, as well. Finally you’re here in the final. Sum up the ride that you’ve had.
RYAN MALONE: I think my first year coming in was a great opportunity out of college. I was 23 at the time. It was a new coach rebuilding ‘the next generation’ as it was called. It was a great opportunity to come in and try to catch a spot, I thought.
I tried to seize the opportunity as best I could. That was my first year. I was just really happy to be part of the team, even though we were in last place. You’re just keeping your mouth shut, eyes open, taking everything in. The next year we made some moves to try to get a little better. We end up picking up Sid I think my third year. I’m not even really sure. I think each year you learn something.
I think I try to be a better player at the end of each season, continue to work hard in the summers to improve my game. But playing 82 regular-season games at the NHL level, you learn a lot more a lot faster.
I think for myself this year, you kind of put everything together finally, kind of learn the ropes a little bit. You’re familiarity with other teams’ arenas and players, different styles each team plays. It all kind of came together.
With the trade rumors, even last year, the year before, that’s kind of out of your control. You just continue to play. Whatever happens happens. I’m definitely glad and lucky to still be part of this team.
Q. Your linemates, first of all, how have you sort of adjusted your game to play with the talent of someone like Malkin? Also talk about Sykora’s contribution. Sometimes he gets overlooked.
RYAN MALONE: Yeah, definitely. We each have a role on the line. Myself, I try to use my size in the corners to get those guys the pucks. Sykora is definitely pretty much the shooter on the line. We try to get him the puck, wherever we might find him. He does a good job of getting pucks from the wall to Gino in the middle as well as I do. We kind of let Gino do whatever he does, try to get open for him.
We try to keep it simple. I think us three together, we had some good chemistry, and that’s why we’ve done so well so far.
Q. You obviously have as much history with that franchise as anybody, having hung around as a kid while your dad was working with the Pens. Is it special for you to be a part of the franchise that’s kind of come back to that level after having watched it at that level as a kid?
RYAN MALONE: Definitely I think it’s any hockey player’s dream. Growing up watching hockey in Canada, watching Montréal, Toronto, getting a chance to play for that team, now all of a sudden to have a chance to be in the Stanley Cup final to lift the best prize, you definitely feel lucky. It’s a privilege. Can’t wait for Game 1 to get started so you can go out there and do whatever you can to get the job done.
Q. You talk about how it all came together for you this year. You clearly had a career year on a team with a lot of free agents. Is there an urgency to get this done this year because the team might look different next year, a number of people might not be there, including possibly you?
RYAN MALONE: I think so. I mean, amongst the players, it’s not really discussed. But I think especially with the big trade at the deadline, bringing in Hoss, Dupy, Hal Gill, we all got the message that this better be our time. We got a lot of great players. Like you said, we have a lot of unrestricted players at the end of the year.
We’re kind of enjoying it, taking it game by game, see what happens. We definitely came together during the regular season. Especially now with the playoffs, with everybody back from certain injuries, it’s definitely been a great ride. We’re looking forward to the series.
Q. I know you were young at the time, but what do you recall in the days leading up to the Stanley Cup finals in the Malone household when your dad was a scout?
RYAN MALONE: It was awesome. Fortunately enough for myself, my dad was the head scouter. We got two tickets to every game. Me and my brother would always come down, watch the games. I keep saying, we had these Jaws posters we’d always wave around every time we got a power play. They would play the theme music from Jaws. That was pretty cool and special to have, look back upon.
Really I was down here at the rink since I was a little kid rollerblading through the arena during the practices or just hanging out at the rink, in the weight room, goofing around with my brother, whatever it may be. It was great to get the opportunity at training camp my first year to make the team.
That first year, it was definitely a little strange knowing everybody in the front office, even the trainers, they even sharpened my skates since I was a little kid, giving me sticks, Steve Latin at the time. I was always around. It was very special to me.
Q. Did you have an opportunity to spend a day with the Cup?
RYAN MALONE: Yeah, we had it in Pittsburgh here. At the time we lived in a town home. We kind of invited the neighborhood. Turned it into some huge, huge party that we didn’t have room for. Ended up being like a street party kind of with the Cup. I was around 13, 14 at the time. It was awesome. We have pictures with all my friends here that I grew up with. We all got our picture taken with it. It was something special.
Q. Could you step back and be a hockey fan. Is this the series that maybe even you would want to see play out in the Stanley Cup finals?
RYAN MALONE: Oh, definitely. I think both teams are very similar. I think the way we played through our playoffs, I think we earned our chance out of the east. I think the same for them. I think we match up pretty similar, which is kind of scary.
It’s going to come down to those little bounces you might get or might not get, the penalty that might get called. As a fan watching, I think it’s going to be great for hockey, great for the sport. You have so many world-class players playing, it’s going to be some fun hockey to watch.
Q. Have you seen the tapes of Detroit? I assume you’ve looked at some of the tapes of Detroit.
RYAN MALONE: As a team, yeah, we haven’t collectively gone over everything, but individually you’re watching the games, you’re realizing what kind of system they’re playing.
Q. This business where Niklas Kronwall comes down and hits a winger where he’s trying to get the puck off the boards, picking up a puck coming out of his zone, I was wondering what you think about the ethics of that kind of a hit. It hasn’t been illegal. I don’t think he’s taken a penalty yet doing it. It seems the player is in a pretty vulnerable position. Being a winger, you could end up being in that position.
RYAN MALONE: If it happens, it’s hockey, you have to have your head up and be ready. If your elbows get up quick enough, you have to protect yourself also. You don’t want to get hit. If by accident your stick gets up a little bit, maybe he learns his lesson. He’s definitely a player you have to keep your eye on.
Q. So you think it’s definitely aboveboard to go ahead and do that?
RYAN MALONE: Not really. A hit’s a hit. He’s actually probably looking at you, waiting for you to put your head down and watch the puck, then he’s gonna try to run you over. I mean, we have our guys that do that, too. I don’t really think it’s a cheap play by any means. It’s just part of the game.
Like I said, I haven’t watched their system or how they play it. But if he’s running around taking chances like that, hopefully we can get a couple goals when he’s stepping up like that.
Q. A lot has been made of your 1-2-2 we won’t call it a trap defense type of forecheck. Can you dissect it a little bit, even if it’s a little bit of inside hockey talk, kind of going over what the concept is, where it came from.
RYAN MALONE: Well, I mean, when coach took over two and a half years ago, I believe he definitely installed a system that we’d be playing. The main purpose of it is to put pressure on the puck carrier and pretty much to get the puck back is the main reason why you’re doing it. Everything else falls into place after that.
Mainly you just want to kind of take away the skater’s time and space and some of his options, make him chip the puck back to our defensemen, where we can start with the puck and try to score the other way. I think it’s more of getting the puck back when you’re doing a good trap.
Q. Could you do this without speed?
RYAN MALONE: The trap, you mean?
RYAN MALONE: I don’t think so. I mean, especially going against Detroit or any defensemen, if you give those guys time and space, every defenseman is in the NHL for a reason: they can move the puck. If you give those guys time and space, they’re going to make the right play.
This way you’re trying to hurry them up. Maybe they might make a bad decision. You’re really trying to get on them as quick as possible, hurry up and hopefully make them make a bad position.
Q. How do you think it can work against Detroit, as they have defensemen that can move the puck very well?
RYAN MALONE: I know (laughter). I think we’re going to find out in Game 1 if we’re playing our game and using our speed to get on their defensemen. They have some pretty talented guys back there that are going to be able to move the puck.
But it’s our job to try to take that time and space away. I definitely know if we’re sitting back on our heels that they’re definitely going to try to tic-tac-toe around us. We have to make sure we are on our toes, trying to be physical, try to take their time and space away.
Q. St. Louis, the Blues came into the league in 1967. People are longing for a championship. You were around in ‘91, ‘92. My question is, what does a Cup do for a city? What did it do back then and now possibly being on the brink of another one?
RYAN MALONE: Collectively as a city gets together, has something to kind of celebrate, get behind, root for their team, their pride. As a team in Pittsburgh now, we try to go out on the ice and work hard. I think the fans respect that, give us great fan support.
I think as a city, everyone kind of rallies around you, tries to help you out any way possible, shows their support which has been great so far.
Q. Anything in ‘91, ‘92 that sticks out in your mind, a result of winning the Cup, that you just said, Wow?
RYAN MALONE: Mario Lemieux. Mario Lemieux. I just remember he was unbelievable during those Cup runs. To watch him on the ice, how he could control a game was something special to watch in the stands definitely.
Q. You mentioned the trade deadline deals. Can you talk specifically about what impact Marian and Pascal have had during this playoff run?
RYAN MALONE: I think it’s a huge impact. Obviously I think when Sid was hurt, when I was playing with Malkin and Sykora, we did pretty well. I think they wanted someone else to play with Sid. They went out and got him. And Dupy, he just fit right in with our team as well on the PK. It was kind of weird how we got those two guys and both guys ended up fitting good on Sid’s line there, so we kind of created that other line now to have more depth to our team.
I think both guys have been great on both ends of the puck. I think that’s the biggest thing that both those guys, you might not hear a lot of, but they definitely fit into the team on and off the ice. It was a great pickup.
Q. Was there a moment that you kind of noticed both of them being a little more comfortable, that they fit in with the team?
RYAN MALONE: I think the further the playoffs have gone now, especially the last series, I think you’re starting to see how comfortable they’re getting, especially with the guys, the first couple weeks, you could tell they’re good guys, but you still don’t feel as comfortable as before, so you just knew it was going to take some time. Especially the last series, you know, I think they feel comfortable with each other. I think they’re getting more comfortable even playing with Sid, too.
Hopefully there’s better things to come this next series.
Q. Does part of you feel for a guy like Colby Armstrong, been through the rebuilding part, but isn’t tasting this success?
RYAN MALONE: Yeah, it’s unfortunate. I mean, God bless the kid. He was a warrior, trooper. He’s going to be a great hockey player. But it’s just part of the business. I mean, it could have been myself. It could have been a lot of guys. It’s unfortunate. You know, it’s just the business.
Q. Can you talk about the matchup between the Penguins’ high-powered offense you have and a Detroit defense that has Stanley Cup championship rings left and right. How do you go about beating that experienced Cup unit?
RYAN MALONE: Yeah, I mean, honestly I don’t think anyone’s really too sure how it’s going to be until we see Game 1, how they play. We definitely want to be physical on them if it’s going to be a long series. We just got to make sure we’re playing smart with the puck, not letting them join the rush. They have a lot of guys that can move the puck and jump right into the rush. We have to make sure we’re being physical and we’re thinking defense. Even if we’re in the offensive zone, we have to be thinking maybe defense as well to make sure they can’t jump into the play and help out offensively.
Q. When you were 13, 14, taking photos of your friends with the Cup, did you touch it? How surreal would it be if, in fact, you get the opportunity to do that?
RYAN MALONE: I did touch it ‘cause I never thought I’d be in this situation, so I was trying to pick it up. At the time it was pretty heavy for myself.
For real, to lift it, I never lifted it over my head, so maybe that was the secret. But, yeah, I couldn’t even think if everything works out, that’s the way it ends out, it would be great.
Q. Could you throw your mind back to that ‘03/‘04 season, your rookie year. Penguins have 58 points, all kinds of rumors about where the team is going to end up. Can you juxtapose that against where the team is now.
RYAN MALONE: In ‘03/‘04, coming in, it was a rebuilding year with Craig pretty much stating that, the way they moved the veteran players out, brought a lot of young guys in for the most part. It was a rebuilding year. I think we all knew that.
For myself, I was just happy to make the team and be part of the team. It was my first year in the league. You’re just kind of happy to be there, having fun. I think each year you could kind of see the directions we were taking. But we were I think very patient. Craig was patient. He did a great job of getting the main guys that you need to be successful. It was nice to have the lottery ball to pick up Sid. We kind of started that way.
Q. What kind of impact did Eddie Olczyk have on your career and that team in particular?
RYAN MALONE: I think he did a great job of like teaching. As a young team, we definitely needed to be taught some little things, just certain things maybe on our breakaway. If you’re a shooter, where to have the puck. He would teach you all kind of little things to do just to help you out in game situations. I thought he did a great job. Took what he said and tried to use it.
Q. You have a former St. Cloud teammate on the other side, Hartigan. Do you have a side wager?
RYAN MALONE: He just texted me yesterday, said, This should be interesting. I haven’t texted him back. Didn’t know what to say yet. Might have a little side wager. He lives in Minneapolis in the summer.
Q. You work out together in the summer?
RYAN MALONE: He just actually bought a house and I bought a house, as well. This summer he will be down. He was up in Canada before. But he’s there. We will be working out this summer finally.
He was my roommate at St. Cloud. Definitely would be fun to see him across the ice from me.
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