NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 19, 2006
DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's the PR department, and I'd like to welcome you to the call, our third of eight conference calls being conducted this afternoon as we prepare for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This call we are featuring the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers. The teams will open their series at Continental Airlines Arena on Saturday at 3 p.m. E.T. on NBC and TSN. With us we have Rangers Captain Jaromir Jagr, who finished the season with 54 goals and 69 assists for 123 points and 82 games, and from the Devils we have Patrik Elias, who scored 16 goals and 29 assists for 45 points in 38 games. Thanks to both of them for joining us today to answer your questions.
Q. Thank you both for coming on. I've been asking all of the guys today and we'll start with Jaromir. Both you guys have been in a lot of playoff series and playoff rounds before, but can either of you remember a year where there is no prohibitive two or three favorite teams? It seems like any one of 16 teams has a shot. Jaromir, when you were in Pittsburgh, everybody said. These are going to be the favored teams, but this year there does not seem to be one.
JAROMIR JAGR: Well, there's a lot of teams that have had a good year. I think Ottawa has a pretty good chance. I thought they played pretty good, especially last night. They showed me a lot. New Jersey is probably the hottest team in the NHL right now.
Q. And Patrik?
PATRIK ELIAS: Well, you know, you see what the CBA did. You have a lot of teams that are very much at the same level, and it's been like that the whole season. It was very exciting for the fans, for us to watch the race, who is going to end up where. I think we all are aware that there is no one team that can just run away with it and that everybody has a chance.
Q. Jaromir, can you talk about your rookie goalie, you spent a whole season with him now. Has he surprised you throughout the season and what are your views now?
JAROMIR JAGR: It might be the first year for him in the NHL but he's not 18 years old. He's 22 years old. He was playing a lot in the Swedish league and on the international level. We've got a lot of confidence in him, he showed us in the year that he can stop a lot of pucks and he can win the games for us, and hopefully he can continue to do that during the playoffs.
Q. How was he today in practice and does he look ready?
JAROMIR JAGR: He didn't play for two weeks or maybe three weeks, and last night was his first game back. We didn't help him much, but he made a lot of stops and hopefully he's going to get better and better every game.
Q. You go from the Atlantic Division lead to now being the 6th seed in the East going up against the division leader, is that hard to follow or do you just basically say, look, there's no time to think about it and dust it off and get ready to go for Game 1?
JAROMIR JAGR: That's what basically happened. They had a great finish there and they won their last 11 games and the other way, we lost the last five games, and all we needed is one victory or one point and we couldn't do it. You know, for whatever reason, hopefully we can forget everything that happened the last two weeks and move on.
Q. What do you think your team has to improve on, and what did you learn about yourself during that five-game losing streak?
JAROMIR JAGR: From the start of the season, we weren't able to score many goals but we played pretty good defense. Our goaltending was great every game. They kept us in the game and all we needed to score is two or three goals to win the hockey game. Lately our defense breaks down and we make a lot of mistakes. There's a lot of rushes against our team and we are not able to score more than two, three goals and so then give up four or five.
Q. My final question for Patrik, in years past your teams have talked been about, and Martin Brodeur still talks about, the great defensive play, but now you have offensive punch with yourself, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez and so on. Do you think your team is a lot better offensively than it has been is in years past?
PATRIK ELIAS: I think we were underrated offensively in years past. We know that the key to win championships here, you've got to have good goaltending, and to play solid defense which we've been playing the last few weeks.
Offensively, we always had a talent on our team, everybody thinks that we are just playing -- but we call it good position hockey, which leads us to be successful. We are feeling very confident right now, very good, but we know that we have not accomplished anything.
Q. Patrik, was there any one particular period or game that turned you around at the start of the 11-game winning streak?
PATRIK ELIAS: Well, I'll tell you which one. It was the game against Atlanta which we went in for one and we lost it in overtime. That was a turning point for us. We knew that if we were going to keep going that way, that we were going downhill. Since then, we start working on and playing a little more simple hockey, and why we've been successful is that we are playing very patient and very good positioning hockey. So that game, turned it around.
Q. When Lou (Lamoriello) stepped behind the bench there, once you had him as your coach, was there one thing you learned about him or a couple of things that you learned that surprised you that you didn't know before he stepped back there?
PATRIK ELIAS: Well, you have to give him that credit. He stepped into the position that he has not been used to -- he wasn't in for quite a while, obviously not at this level, not at NHL level.
You know, it was good to see him, just how he loves the game. Everybody was a little afraid, what's he going to be like behind the bench, and he's been very positive all the time and actually a good influence on our game, no question.
Q. How important is Petr Prucha to your team's offense and the playoffs?
JAROMIR JAGR: Well, any offense from anybody is important. You know, he was able to score a lot of goals, especially on the power play. That's what you need. You need some young guys, young guys you know, to step it up, especially during the playoffs and get more scoring from everybody.
Q. Patrik, can you talk about the play of Zach Parise and what he's meant to your team?
PATRIK ELIAS: Well, obviously, his first season, it's a learning process. It's up and down and he's going to learn as the years go by. He's had a good finish to the season, obviously he was put on the line with Gionta and Gomez (ph). Those two guys had an unbelievable regular season. Like Jaromir said, you have to expect the other guys to step up because the other team is going to be watching the best players. It always happens that the heroes in the games are the guys that you don't expect.
Q. Jaromir, John Davidson was on a conference call this morning and we were talking about the series and he said he's concerned that if things go south for the Rangers right away that this could turn out to be a one-sided series. Is there concern that this first game or two, you're going to have to definitely get a game in the Meadowlands to get out of here and keep it a long series?
JAROMIR JAGR: That's what JD said, huh? I've got to talk to my boy. (Laughing). You know what, we played them eight times. I thought it was pretty close every game. The way they play, they play very good defensively, and most of the time, the game is decided by one goal, one mistake, one good save. I feel like this is not going to change in the playoffs. Hopefully we can somehow go to New Jersey and win at least one game. You never know. It's up to us.
Q. JD also said that Martin Brodeur is on record as saying this is the series the Devils wanted. Is that the way the Devils felt, that this is the team you wanted to play in the first round?
PATRIK ELIAS: I don't know, for me personally, because I know how tough these guys can be. Like I mentioned before that, it doesn't really matter who you are going to be play. To be the best, you've got to beat the best. Right now, we are feeling confident. We know we won 11 in a row, but like I said, it's more important to feel good about your own game going into the playoffs than just going after the one team that you like to play. We know it's going to be a tough series.
Q. Is there any concern finishing the season on an 11-game winning streak and there's no precedent for what you've done. There's a saying all good things must come to an end, are you worried that you're coming in a little too hot?
PATRIK ELIAS: There is always a question mark, are you coming in too hot or too cold. I'd rather come in to feel good about the team and about the game. We figured out a little bit the last 11 games and the last few weeks that we like to play and what we have to do to be successful. We've just got to keep it going and see where we end up at the end of the season. That's what we've been doing last three weeks, same approach, just take it game by game and see where we are going to end up after the regular season.
Q. Jaromir, it's been quite some time that the Rangers have been in the playoffs. Can you talk about a bit of the atmosphere that you feel in the City and sort of the buzz that's surrounding the team right now that has not been there for quite some time I would imagine?
JAROMIR JAGR: Well, it's my kind of first year here. I did not know the atmosphere here before and I cannot compare with anything else. From the first game when we started playing good and winning some hockey games, the fans, they appreciated it a lot. They support us through the whole year. They were very excited and happy that we made the playoffs, and so are we. We didn't play very good the last five games. They stayed after the last game to cheer us, and hopefully they are going to do it through the playoffs, too.
Q. Do you feel that sense for Ranger fans that it's been so long that there's a bit of added pressure there or what have you?
JAROMIR JAGR: Well, I don't think there's a pressure. On the one side it's not pressure but on the other side it's always pressure when you play in the playoffs. You don't want to go home in the first round or after the first round. You don't want to lose four straight and go home and just say, oh, we had a good year, we made the playoffs. Obviously it was our goal before the season, but we want to accomplish something more than just to make the playoffs.
Q. We hear a lot of the Rangers/Islanders rivalry here. Can you talk about the elements that go into a Rangers/Devils rivalry over the years?
PATRIK ELIAS: Well, we know what happened in, I believe it was '96 playoffs, right when they knocked us out. There is always a rivalry against these guys. It's going to be special. We hope we are finally going to have a full building, probably because we are going to have a lot of Rangers fans in there, too. But we are excited and we are looking forward to that series. We are going to be playing against one of the best players in the world, and it should be a lot of fun. That's what we work for the whole year, the playoffs and looking forward to that.
Q. How do you feel about the travel element? There's not going to be any travel concerns; do you think that will have an effect on the series?
JAROMIR JAGR: Well, it's good for both teams I would say. After such a long year like this year with the Olympics games and all the traveling to Europe and a lot of games, it always helps. You can travel 15 minutes from one side to the other side and it's great. I like it that way.
DAVID KEON: Thank you very much, guys. Good luck in the playoffs.
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