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May 14, 2016

David Backes

Troy Brouwer

Brian Elliott

Ken Hitchcock

St. Louis, Missouri: Practice Day

THE MODERATOR: David and Troy, other than the obvious play a more simple game, what's the key to a better home record, playing better at home and using the same game that we've seen on the road?
UNIDENTIFIEDSPEAKER: If you exclude my first answer, it's tough to answer your question.
It's just trying to simplify. It's not trying to put on a highlight show reel goal for each time. We have to get in the zone, get in deep, get on the grind, make sure it's tough for them to get out of their zone. That's the way we score goals, have success, that's the way we keep them out of our zone and off the attack they're going to try to bring.
UNIDENTIFIEDSPEAKER: We play a simple game, to begin with. We really simplify it on the road. We stress on key points of getting pucks behind them. Getting out of our zone quick and clean.
At home, not that we get away from that, but we try to make a couple more plays. You're always going to be a little bit more comfortable in your building trying to make plays, trying to create a little bit more. That's something that we have to recognize a little bit better when we're at home when those plays are there to be made and when they're not.

Q. For either one of you guys. What changes in this round? You saw two teams that thrive on transition. Do you have to be mindful of their size and speed, combination of both?
UNIDENTIFIEDSPEAKER: Yeah, I think they're high‑potency offense, just like the previous two opponents we played. They've got guys that can join from the back end.
They may be a little bit more zone‑time oriented with Thornton down low and the Pavelski line. They ride the puck, get Burns swooping in for the point.
That being said, you know, what we talked about already, getting pucks deep, making them come 200 feet, they're more tired when they get in the zone to occupy it for extended times.
That's our focus. When we're in the zone, there are some big bodies, some quick guys. The combination of that makes it a little bit tough. But we've fared pretty well throughout. When we screw up, that's what Ells is for.

Q. David, I know you feel like there's a lot left to do. Could you take a minute now and talk a little bit about what it means to be on this stage here for you personally and for this team.
DAVID BACKES: It's my 10th year in St.Louis, 10th year in the league. This is my first time to this stage of the tournament. Being one of the final four teams to win a Stanley Cup, it's kind of vindication and rewarding for a lot of the work that's been put in here to build this team from a rebuild when I was first getting into the league to some real struggles in our first round in three consecutive years, to some changes to the corps, some new faces, new ownership five years ago or whatever it was.
All that seemingly has come to a place now where it's making it all worth those struggles and those lessons that we've had to learn the hard way, to now be able to get a chance to do what we've set out to do for the last 10 years. All the meetings, all the time and struggles we've had have led us to this point to where now we've got eight wins to win a Cup. But we've got to take them one at a time.

Q. For any of you guys. Patrik Berglund, four goals, four assists, for him to have a strong playoff run, despite the injury, why has he been able to be so successful this far?
UNIDENTIFIEDSPEAKER: He's a big body that with the injury he had for the first half of the year, it's tough to jump into the middle of a season, I can imagine, to get up to pace, get your legs under you, join the rest of the group.
That being said, he started off pretty hot. There was a little lull. But I think he's probably benefitting right now from not having a full season of the grind of what you go through, the energy lapses, all the stuff that an 82‑game season would bring you.
That being said, I think the last two games against Dallas were some of the best hockey I've seen him play in his career that I've been here for every single game of it. When his big frame gets the puck and he's skating well and he's determined, I know from experience in practice, it's tough to take it from him, it's tough to defend.
With him going the way he's going right now, we continue that. He's just another asset and weapon in the arsenal for us to have.

Q. David, 15 different players scored a goal thus far in the playoffs. Troy, you can answer, too. But was this a theme throughout the course of the season of this many players contributing to your success or is it a matter of a number of guys stepping up in crunch time?
UNIDENTIFIEDSPEAKER: I think it shows the depth of our team. You need those players in key roles to have success. You heard people talk about it in other series as well. We're no different.
A lot of the games our support players are the ones that pushed us through games, pushed us through series. Those contributions are huge because every team's top line, every team's top D pair is always going to be matched up against.
It's tough for those guys sometimes to break through. You need them to be your best players regardless of whether they're on the score sheet or not. But you need other contributions from other players to make sure that you're pushing yourself through.
Another thing that I think contributes to that, too, is the amount of injuries we've had throughout the course of the regular season. It's put a lot of guys in different roles that they weren't slotted in at the beginning of the season. For them to be able to get confidence, build their game, build the trust of the coaching staff and the other players, it gives them that experience and that confidence, so when you do get into situations like this where you need guys to step up, even if they're only playing 10 or 12 minutes a night, they can be effective offensively and defensively as well.

Q. Brian, what has this run been like for you, just the whole process of knowing game in, game out what you're prepping for?
BRIAN ELLIOTT: It's been exciting. It's something you wake up in the morning, you just try to have that same winning feeling. When you come to the rink, everybody kind of leaves you alone, lets you do your thing, which is probably true for a lot of goalies around the league.
It's something that you work hard your whole career for. You become a goalie because you want to be counted on and you want to play kind of every minute of every game and be involved. When you have that opportunity, you got to seize it, really cherish it.
That's what I'm trying to do, is have fun with it, be the rock for these guys.

Q. Brian, there's been a lot made out of the opportunity since you've gotten here, had to wait for a few guys, play behind some other goaltenders. Do you feel like you're more prepared for it now than you were then from a mental standpoint, that your game is more prepared to handle this now than maybe it was a few years back?
BRIAN ELLIOTT: I mean, you do your best to learn from every situation every year. Going through some struggles or watching from the bench, trying to cheer the guys on a little bit, I think it just prepares you for that moment when you do get that opportunity.
I think especially as a goalie, the experiences are what you learn from. You have to look at each one as a learning opportunity instead of a negative emotion. That's what I've tried to focus on my whole career, is try to be positive every day, get your head down, keep working. Sooner or later it will work out.

Q. Brian, Hitch said yesterday he learned not to talk to goalies, because if he talked to Eddie Belfour, he would have hit him over‑the‑head with a Sherwood. Have you ever wanted to hit Hitch over the head with a Sherwood?
BRIAN ELLIOTT: I'm sure if I used a Sherwood, that would be the case.
You know, he's kind of the old school guy where if you stop the puck, he'll leave you alone. I think most of the guys probably want him to leave them alone. Try to do your job and you won't get talked to.

Q. Troy, you obviously played a lot of hockey against David, formed a lot of opinions playing that hockey against him. Has your opinion changed at all since you've come here and played with him?
TROY BROUWER: I mean, you're hard‑pressed to find any bad guys in the NHL. There are a couple, but there's not too many.
Playing against Dave, he's a guy you respect because of his work ethic, how he handles himself, his passion for the game.
When I came here, all those things were evident right from the beginning. From camp when I got traded, he was one of the first guys to text me, make sure that I was going to be comfortable in my transition here.
The guy away from the rink, you get to know him a little bit more, now that I'm playing on his team. I met him a couple years ago at Washington's practice facility for the Olympics. We had a brief conversation. At least there was a little bit of familiarity personally between me and him.
The way he plays on the ice is evidence of a leader. It's somebody that you can follow and somebody that you can trust day in and day out.
Shed a tear over there (laughter)?
But his play on the ice is everything I expected when I came here. Playing a little bit against him younger in my career, not so much as of late, but, yeah, yeah.

Q. Brian, from a goalie's perspective, you're playing between four and seven games against the same team every night. Does that change your preparation at all? Do you have more of an advantage Game1 because shooters don't know your tendencies or do you feel more comfortable Game4 or 5 because you know their tendencies?
BRIAN ELLIOTT: Tough question. I mean, it's a little bit of a cat‑and‑mouse game. They'll be preparing stuff on me, and I'm doing the same for them. As a goalie it comes down to how your teammates play in front of you, taking away opportunities from them. These guys have done that all playoffs long.
When you're able to kind of focus on a couple guys, where you know pucks are going to come from on certain power‑play situations, it makes your job a lot easier.
When you can focus on that, I'm not going to say who has any type of advantage, it's just you try to work hard and prepare so that you have that advantage, I guess.
I can't tell you for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for coach.

Q. Hitch, flipping Steen and Lehtera, you want to go back to a little bit of familiarity maybe?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Yeah, I'm not sure why I did that, but seemed like a good idea at the time. So I don't know.
We just feel that from a chemistry standpoint, Lehtera and Tarasenko and Schwartz have had good chemistry. Because of the way Dallas' lines were formulated, we needed a different mix with their first two lines and we found it.
I think going back to this line combination makes us more comfortable.

Q. A couple players talked about you had a discussion about playing better at home. I realize it comes down to playing more simple. What are some ways you can get them to do that, to play simple?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Well, I think it's a lot up to the players. It's not simple. One of the problems you have at home is you want to make the next play. Your attitude on the road, for every team, is a little bit different.
At home, the next play, when the intensity level is as high as it is right now for playoffs, usually gets you in trouble. We're trying to get the players to understand that the proper play still allows us to continue with puck possession and offensive opportunities.
It's like anything else. When you're at home, you want to play well in front of people, you want to put on a show. We want the players just to make the proper play, not kind of the next play. The next play gets you thinking in the wrong direction.
I think if we make the proper play, we're focused, we're going to be in good shape.

Q. When you game plan for elite players, what changes when it goes from guys like Toews and Kane to now what you're going to face in San Jose?
COACH HITCHCOCK: You're talking about Pavelski and Thornton and Couture and Marleau and Burns, you have to arrive at the assumption you're not going to push them out. They're elite players for a reason. They're elite players because they're competitive. They've already proven on the world stage they're not going to get pushed out, so you're going to have to play well in front of them.
I think for any team that plays against good players, you just don't want to give up any easy ice. For us, whether it was Toews' line, whether it was Ben, we just didn't want to give them any easy ice. That's going to be the same formula moving forward.
I think it's like anything else. If you don't give them the puck as much, then they can't do as much damage as they normally do. I think from our standpoint, we've done a reasonably good job at keeping the puck away from key players.
But if you think you're just going to go out and check good players and negate them, that's a big mistake. They're patient, competitive, and they'll wait for their opportunities.
San Jose is a little bit different in that they have chemistry that is so automatic because they've been together for so long that a little mistake can end up being a big mistake. It's a little bit different than the other lines we've played against because they do things five‑on‑five and on the power‑play that seem unorthodox, but they know each other so well, they find each other.
We're trying to just not give them the puck as much, and hopefully we get a chance to hang on to it.

Q. What Robby Fabbri has done, everybody talks about how impressive it is. Is it more impressive skill‑wise or more impressive mentally with the stakes at hand?
COACH HITCHCOCK: I think it's more impressive composure‑wise. He hasn't got pushed out emotionally. He's allowed himself to remain composed in critical spots in the games. When the game is on the line, he's played with sound composure. He hasn't panicked. He hasn't got emotionally so revved up that his focus has gotten narrow.
I think he's been able to see the ice at critical times in the games, and his competitive composure to me is his greatest asset. He's got obviously good skill, but there's a lot of young players that have good skill.
What he's got going is the composure to make plays under pressure with no panic in his game, which has allowed him to be a good player late in games. That's why there's so much trust from the coaching staff.

Q. When you say the 'proper play,' does that boil down to putting a lot more pucks on net?
COACH HITCHCOCK: Not necessarily. Hockey is a game of finding two‑on‑ones. Against good teams, the only way you get to have the puck and maintain possession is find all the little two‑on‑ones on the ice.
The proper play is to find that two‑on‑one. Where it is, how you find it, it varies every shift, shift by shift. But if you end up playing too much one‑on‑one, you expose yourself against good teams because the four teams that are left, you saw it last night with Tampa, Tampa knows how to check. San Jose knows how to check. If you expose the puck too much in one‑on‑one situations, you're going to get burnt.
The proper play is to understand the whole game of hockey, to create offense, find two‑on‑ones all over the ice.
Rush, down low, front of the net, wherever. That's what we want to do. That's the proper play. One‑on‑one hockey is for November and February, not now. You got to find the two‑on‑ones, you got to create it yourself, you got to work together. That's what I mean.
Sometimes when you want to do so well, you try to do things that are riskier because you want to impress people. That's a natural tendency for any athlete to want to do that.
If we lower the risk and increase the relationships on the ice to create two‑on‑ones, we'll be more successful.

Q. What have you noticed watching the Sharks' power‑play and how do you intend on disrupting it?
COACH HITCHCOCK: It's the first power‑play during the pregame skate that doesn't even have a coach. They just go out one end of the ice, they run the rotations. It's so automatic that they don't even use a coach. They just go on the ice. They have their 10 plays that they run from each side of the ice.
The motor response is just so automatic because these guys have been together for five, six years, the same group of guys. I saw it three years ago. When they came in here, when we played them in the playoffs, every pregame skate, they just ran the power‑play, and nobody went into that end of the ice. They went down there as a group of five, ran the rotations. That's chemistry. That's been created just by five guys who are very good players being able to play together.
Our job is to negate the trigger points, to find out what the trigger points are and negate them.
First thing is to stay out of the box. Second thing is to make them work, make them work harder than they want to work. They're going to get their licks, their chances. We played three hockey games against them this year and they had 19 scoring chances on the power‑play in three games. That's too many. Too many power‑plays, too many scoring chances. We're going to have to eliminate that.

Q. What are the common traits you see in defensemen like Alex when it comes to their ability to handle workloads over 30 minutes a night?
COACH HITCHCOCK: He's like a lot of young players that are elite. If you don't play them every second shift, they get bored. He's a guy that needs to be out on the ice all the time because he's a very intense player. He's a very emotional player. Very driven player. They want to be difference‑makers and be out on the ice all the time. If they're not on the ice all the time, they get bored.
I think risk comes into their game. It doesn't make them effective.
I think the more we play him, the better he plays, because he keeps the game very defined and he understands how to maintain a competitive balance on the ice without exhausting himself. I think that's what those elite players do.
You look at all the top players, they only want to rest one rotation. They don't want to rest two rotations. They want to come out every second time. He's no different than Doughty, no different than Weber, or Carlson. He's the same type of player. He wants to play those type of minutes for him to get an impact in the game.

Q. Are there things beyond just playing him every other shift that you can do as a coach to help him manage that workload?
COACH HITCHCOCK: He has to understand that everything starts from keeping the puck in front of him. When he keeps the puck in front of him, then he's allowed, because of his mobility, to join from underneath.
Sometimes when it's a regular‑season game, he's doing a lot of leading of the rush. That's when the risk is really high. It doesn't allow him to be what we think is a proper participant in the game.
So by moving the puck first, joining from behind, he uses this mobility as a real weapon. That's why he was so effective in the Chicago series. He joined from behind, he became the fourth attacker every game. It made him very, very effective for us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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