Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 05/24/08 at 04:56 PM ET
Some questions for Pittsburgh Penguins coach Michel Therrien today.
[Update 5:01pm ET: And for some thoughts from Sidney Crosby, you can check out his ESPN interview here.]
Q. Can you talk about the decision not to practice here yesterday and not to get on the ice here until today?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: I’m not a big fan to change preparation, the way we do things. It’s always been like this. We’re not going to change because we’re in the Stanley Cup playoff.
Q. Mike Babcock said they had no bones about it, they were going to go power on power, Zetterberg against Crosby, Lidstrom against Crosby, how do you feel about the matchup against the two super powers out there?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: Mike’s obviously got the last change, but that’s great.
Q. The decision not to play Gary Roberts, can you tell us your thinking, what’s it like having that guy who has been around and won the Stanley Cup?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: Obviously it’s not an easy decision, no doubt about that. But in the meantime we’re more than satisfied with Tyler Kennedy and what he brings to the lineup. And he’s got speed. And he’s playing with a lot of intensity. We’ve got Jarkko Ruutu, he’s been really good for us.
You got Adam Hall, he’s got a role with our team, skill to penalty, he’s good to take faceoffs on the right‑hand side. And you’ve got Georges Laraque, he’s a physical presence that we like. So it’s something to say yes, we’re going to bring another player. But the toughest decision is not that, so who are you going to take out? And those guys did a great job, a great job so far.
And that’s the number one reason why that we’re not changing the lineup. It’s not that we don’t want Gary Roberts in our lineup. Yes, we want them. That’s been part of being a good team. We’re a good team. We’ve got depth and we’re going to start the series like this.
I’m not saying that he’s not going to play. Nobody told that. And that’s the way we feel that we’re going to go tonight because those guys did a great job, and we’ll go from there.
Q. Max Talbot seems like a guy who has bought into his defensive role, but when you need it, you can move him up into an offensive roll like you did with the Staal and Kennedy line last round. Can you comment on him and his ability as that two‑way guy and almost the luxury it is to have a guy like that you can put in, when need be, into an offensive role?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: Yeah, when we start games, he’s our fourth line centerman, because he’s got quality players in front of him.
And he’s got Crosby. He’s got Malkin. He’s got Staal. That’s why we want him at that time, he’s able to play center. He’s really dependable on his own end. He’s good defensively. He’s capable to play the wing. This is something we worked with him, because we know the centermen we’ve got.
He’s got a lot of energy. He’s got a lot of speed. He’s a guy that will sacrifice himself to block shots, and he’s doing a great job in the penalty killing. You know, that young guy, he’s a leader on his own weight. You look what he did in Junior, youngest captain and he did a fantastic job. He did a great job with me. First of all, he played for Team Canada, too, as well. And he did a fantastic job in Wilkes‑Barre, too. He’s a good, young leader of that group. And this is something that I really appreciate from Maxime Talbot.
Q. The Red Wings do a great job at backing away after the whistle and not buckling it up. How have you driven home the message of discipline to your guys’ team and individual discipline as they go up against Detroit?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: Well, the word discipline, they hear discipline every game. You can’t be undisciplined if you’re in the Stanley Cup Final. I think both teams show they’re disciplined. That’s one of the reasons that’s why they’re here. That’s one of the reasons why we’re here. That’s one of the reasons why Detroit is here.
So the most important thing is to play whistle to whistle. This is where you win games. I don’t think you win many games after the whistle. But we’re going to hold our ground. That’s important. Yes, we’re going to it. We’re going to hold our ground. This is not a team that’s getting intimidated really easily and we play some tough teams.
We’ve got some teams that tried to do it. It didn’t work. We’re pretty focused.
Q. A lot has been made about the fact that it’s two puck possession teams playing against each other, but maybe lost is both team’s ability to go get it when they don’t have it. Can you speak to your team’s ability to do puck retrieval?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: First of all, you need speed. You need a plan. When we’re talking about puck possession, that doesn’t mean that there’s a lot of time. You need to chip the puck, because they’re going to play a good tight checking game. And it’s going to be time, you’re going to need to chip the puck. This is where the decision with the puck is going to be more crucial, I think. In the offensive zone, it’s like you don’t want to make those hope plays, hope the guy’s going to be there. Hope the guy’s going to be there. You’re making it easy on your opponent.
That’s why we try to talk with the guys to manage the puck, to work for your chances. And I think right now the team they’re doing a good job, even for a young group, doing a good job managing the puck. There’s plays you can’t get it back, if you have to chip it, we have to try to chip it. We’re going to try to establish some forechecking that we believe has been a big success for us.
Q. Can you talk about Sidney’s ability to rise to the occasion and tonight not only plays in the biggest stage in hockey but he goes up against arguably the best two‑way center in Zetterberg and arguably the best defenseman in Lidstrom?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: He’s one of those players that when the game is there, he’s capable to bring his game to another level. And he always did that. So he’s been a guy that, through his career, not only this year but the last year, finished and got some pressure when you’re battling for the title at 19 years old. It’s not many guys that have done that, obviously there’s none. So there was some pressure to perform.
When the game’s on the line you want to make sure your best players bring their A game, and there’s no doubt he’s the type of player, when the pressure is there, when the game means something, not only like the first game of the Stanley Cup playoff, it could be the first round, the second round, there’s plays to be made. And you look into your best player to make those type of plays. And a guy like Crosby, guys like Malkin, a guy like Hossa, that’s why they’re good players.
One thing, too, with the new NHL, looking around the League, there’s a lot of young players are capable to dominate. And I think it’s good for the NHL to get those young guys the way that they’re capable to perform. Look at Ovechkin, he’s a young player, doesn’t have much experience in the NHL. Definitely is one of the best players in the League.
So that’s a league with the new rules about speed and intensity, that give a chance to the young guys to perform.
Q. I’ve heard your players talk a lot about the first 10 minutes and what they encountered last year in Game 1 against Ottawa. How do you anticipate the opening minutes tonight, feeling‑out process or more aggressive up tempo?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: We use the experience from last year, but I think I thought this year we responded really well to those first 10 minutes. Even when we’re on the road, first game on the road against Ottawa. Yes, the emotion was there from the home team. First 10 minutes we played against the Rangers, the same thing and we were successful. And the Flyers, the same thing.
So a hockey game, there’s a lot of things to concentrate. Yes, we want to have a good start. We’re going to focus having a good start. They want to have a good start, too, as well.
So what’s going to be important to keep your game simple. Always go with percentage play. And you’re going to have to have the feel of the game going on is, because it’s two teams that haven’t played for almost a week.
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