Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 06/01/08 at 05:24 PM ET
Q. How valuable is it for you as a coach when one your best offensive players, Hank, is one of your best defensive players? Also, talk about the sequence yesterday where he blocked a shot up top and them came down and knocked Crosby’s stick down?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Him and Pavel and Nick and Rafi and Kronwall, they’re all the same in a way. Franzen as well. Maybe Filppula. They’re all our best offensive people and our best defensive people as well. We’re fortunate. I thought the five‑on‑three, we had to get a stop there. We did. Zetterberg did a great job. Came off the ice. Pavel went out and did a great job. And they called a timeout. So Z was allowed to go back out there again.
I think intelligent players with good hockey sense, you have a structure on your team. But they take the structure to another level, because they know what’s going on. They read plays. They cut off lanes. They know how to be in the right spot.
And the guys who think offensively, in my opinion, have a chance to be elite defensive players, because they know what they do. And so that gets them to a whole other level.
And they’re conscientious, and they work hard, because they’re good defensively. They spend a lot of time on offense.
Q. Do you have an update on Holmstrom’s status for Monday?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: He told me he’s playing. I don’t usually ask the player. But we’ll see what happens. Obviously, we thought he was playing last night. And so we’ll see how he is tomorrow. He’s got a hamstring injury. Sometimes they don’t come as quick as you’d like. He’d really obviously like to play.
Q. With so much going through your mind, the players’ minds, a lot of opportunity to talk to them, today’s practice, tomorrow’s skate, pregame tomorrow, do you have to pick and choose carefully when you say what you need to say to them to get the right message across?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I’ll do the same thing I did all year and through the playoffs. We had our meeting today like we do, went through our game like we always do. We’ll have a power play meeting tomorrow morning. We’ll have a penalty kill meeting, regular meeting tomorrow night. It will be no different.
Q. A lot of people say that the fourth win of the series is always the hardest to get. Are you one of the guys who believes that, and if so, why?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I believe that the game you’re playing is the hardest to win. I believe that in Game 1 of the regular season, I believe that in Game 82 of the regular season, and right through. And tomorrow will be no different.
No different ‑ I said this all along. If you live in the present, the most important thing you can be doing is doing this right now, because you’re here. So you might as well do it now. And that will be the same with tomorrow’s game.
Q. There’s a group of five guys that have been together on this team for quite some time. And maybe a bit of a unique situation. Can you talk about what those five guys mean, how they kind of embody what this whole organization, at times, seems to be about?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Kenny Holland is very, very loyal once you’ve won the Cup. No, I think he’s loyal in general. But I mean, for those guys, they’ve won Cups here, and they’ve been a big part of the organization. And he has a great relationship with them.
Kenny’s different than a lot of general managers I’ve been around, and his relationship with the players is strong. He has a good feel for them. Understands. That doesn’t mean he’s easy to negotiate with for the players.
But he I think he’s a real good hockey person that has a good feel for them and understands what it takes to keep people happy. And Ken Holland ‑ now, we win lots. So I’ll put that in perspective. But he knows how to have fun. Sometimes hockey is all about we’ve got to work harder, we’ve got to grind harder, we’ve got to grind longer, and it’s not fun. And Ken Holland sets an atmosphere here that the game’s a lot of fun and people are allowed to have fun and enjoy themselves, and I think that helps keep players around.
Q. You’ve been in this situation on the brink of a championship at other levels of hockey. Is the feeling you have right now the same as it was then, or is it because it’s the Stanley Cup, is it bigger?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I’ve been in exactly this situation in the Stanley Cup Finals, as a matter of fact. Won 15 games and you think that everything’s going to go your way, and last time I got to watch someone else lift the Cup.
So I think what I’ve gained out of that experience and what I’ve tried to do through the whole playoffs is understand that it’s the best time you could ever be having in your life, besides family things, enjoy every single minute you get to be in the playoffs and enjoy the process of preparing and working and going through matchups and the highs and the lows, and then come in here tomorrow and enjoy that again. And play the best we can possibly play, be as good as we can be, and ideally, that will be good enough.
Q. What do you guys draw on from that Dallas series when you were up 3‑1 on home ice and didn’t get it done, do you think that’s an experience they’ll lean on?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I think they’re all experiences. Now, I’ve said this a number of times. Experience doesn’t guarantee success. We had this same situation. We had a whole bunch of people here on a Saturday. It was a 1:00 game. Everything was going to be great. We were going to clinch the series. And feel great. And we walked out of here, I said this, I walked out of here with my son and my wife. My wife told me we were flat, and my son just acted like he had been mortally wounded.
And we weren’t flat. We were just nervous early, and we didn’t execute, and in the end, we had to win on the road. We’ve had to win every series on the road thus far.
So what do you learn from that? You learn you better have your best stuff tomorrow and just be prepared to battle hard and play within the structure and the simple game that we play and just look at the guy across from you and try to outwork them, outcompete them.
Q. Going back to ‘03 when you made it a point to stand out there and watch the whole ceremony. How much did that change you as a coach and also any chance Chelios getting in for Game 5?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I don’t know if it changed me as a coach at all. It just makes you understand how special it is for the people that get an opportunity to do it. And you hope one day that can be the group you’re involved with.
Now, there’s been a lot of really good players and a lot of really good coaches that never got that opportunity. And so I don’t know if I did it that time to see how bad it felt or if I did it to see how good it was going to feel. But the bottom line, I remember going out there, we had a pretty sad dressing room, and they had an elated group.
Q. Chelios, any status change? Any chance he’s going to get in?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: There’s always a chance, but at this time, I don’t expect there to be any lineup changes.
Q. Your players in the locker room talk about staying focused and shutting off their phones late tonight. How do you guys, as coaches, keep them grounded and keep them focused in the next 24 hours?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: We’ve got an intelligent group. We talk about it. It’s pretty straightforward. You pick up your phone after the game, and there’s like 100 text messages. You can’t return them anyway. So just do what you do and all those things look after themselves.
I think in any walk of life that’s what you do. You just try to enjoy the process and enjoy it. And we have a number of veteran guys who have been through it before and understand what it takes and how hard it is to win. And you gotta win 16 games. 15 doesn’t get it done.
Q. How much did you enjoy watching the five‑on‑three being killed last night and the five‑on‑four with your three players, which were actually speaking Swedish on the ice.
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: They were speaking Swedish in front of the bench. As soon as we talked about it ‑ you had three Sweds out there, why wouldn’t they be? And I just think they’re real good players. Obviously, you always enjoy when it works out.
You find it hard to believe that you’re down five‑on‑three, I can tell you that. But it was something that we were able to overcome, and there’s always little things in the game. There’s some point in the game, and you never know what it is, that’s going to turn the game. You don’t know what shift and you don’t know what period or what point in time, so you better be ready for all of it.
Q. Mike, given what you were able to accomplish in the first two games here, do you try as a coach to take some of that into tomorrow night or is it all ancient history?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I mean, we try to play the same. And with a few nuances, every single night. And we have a simple blueprint or foundation we go to. But that’s not what makes you win. What makes you win is the will and the determination of great players who want to be successful.
And so we have to get that to come to the forefront tomorrow night. And we have to control our anxiety level or our activation level and make sure we’re at an optimal point. And we think we have enough experience and enough young guys that we’ll have that opportunity.
Q. In the two games you played at home and the two you played on the road, did you notice indifference in your team heading in just in terms of the ‑ like you just used the word anxiety or whatever the case may be. And how much of an advantage is it to then play at home for this?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: I never noticed one bit. Not that I wasn’t trying to. It’s just we seem the same all the time. That’s just kind of how our group is. And we’re pretty comfortable, we can win on the road and we’re very comfortable we can win at home. And yet we’ve had a lot of success, obviously, in both places. But we haven’t won some nights, too. I think it’s real important. Like I said, we’ll get prepared, and we’ll be ready, and we’ll put our best foot forward.
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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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