May 31, 2000
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY: Practice Day
Q. Thoughts Eddie talking after the game about using the cold medication as possibly an
excuse for the performance last night?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, Eddie, it wasn't an excuse; it was the truth. But sometimes when
Belfour says something, everybody thinks it's an excuse..... We knew we were in a
situation in the afternoon with him that was a little precarious for us, but we felt like
we could get through with it. He wasn't great for the last day and a half, but thought
maybe he was starting to come around a little bit. And I think just looking back at things
that even the first shot-on-goal it kind of hit him in the foot, and he was unaware of
where it was. It was an indication of ourselves and the way he handled some of the longer
shots that we were in a little bit of a dicey situation. But he's a warrior, and he has
fought through with us. He will be good tomorrow.
Q. He talked about he thought it was the decongestion that was a problem. Is he still
taking the medication, or will he get off it by tomorrow?
KEN HITCHCOCK: He has got a different situation going right now. Coldwise they are
doing some different things with him. But I just -- I think the combination of the
excitement of what was going on and the energy that was out there just kind of
off-centered him a little bit. We talked to him in the afternoon, or I talked to him in
the afternoon, and he felt like he needed something to help him get through it, and he
felt like he had some breathing problems and his energy was dropping and he needed
somewhere to clear so he had some breathing space. It obviously affected him a little bit.
Q. How can your team slow down the Devils's top line Sykora, Arnott and Elias?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I don't know that you can sit there and say that it was one
situation that that line beat us with. To me, the turning point in the game was the
situation with Modano and Hull where Hull misses the goal. They come right back and score
that. That is a great play behind the net. It really tilted everything the other way. They
beat us in a number of different areas. They beat us down low, off the rush. But it was a
lot about what we were doing. It was less about what they were doing. We were constantly
giving them the puck in areas that we normally don't give it. I thought we had a little
bit of panic on our side, and I thought we had some poor decisions. I think that we
anticipated some things last night in the game that happened or that didn't happen that we
expected to happen, and we released the puck into areas that we felt from watching tape of
previous games were open and they were shut down. They did a great job in taking the time
to understand how we were moving the puck, and we made a lot of turnovers and gave them
some counterattack opportunities that normally we don't give. I think that, quite frankly,
they are the best counterattack team in the National Hockey League, and that is one of the
critical areas that we have to be aware of. We have to be much better in that area so that
we are not giving them those easy opportunities. I think whenever you have a line like
that, it is like Hull and Modano, and whether it is Morrow or Lehtinen, if you give those
guys those counterattack opportunities, they are going to bury you. We gave a good
offensive line; far too many opportunities to come back at us quickly like that. If you
look at the goal that they scored, it was a neutral zone turnover. It was a turnover that
ended up being a quick 3 on 2 that ended up being a great play from behind the net, but it
was a neutral zone turnover that caused the problem.
Q. I am not a doctor, and I don't know exactly the kind of decongestion he was taking,
but I read the medication on the over-the-counter; it says you are not supposed to drive
on some of these decongestants that you take. If you are not supposed to drive, how would
you throw a guy in goal stopping 100-mile-an-hour pucks? And if you knew you were in a
dicey situation after one shot, why did you leave him in?
KEN HITCHCOCK: It had nothing to do with the medication. We just -- we have a thing
with Eddie where we kind of communicate with him earlier in the day, because really from
noon on he's not a guy you really want to talk to. (Laughter.) We always ask him the
question: How are you feeling? And he gives you the answer "Good," then we walk
away. That is the end of conversation. But there was a ten-minute conversation about how
he was feeling, and so we kind of felt like things were not great, and he did not look
good coming to the rink in the morning. So we wanted to talk to him and see how he felt.
Look, he is the horse that has gotten us this far, and we are going to ride him all the
way through. It was a situation that, quite frankly, I am sure Eddie probably would have
liked to -- probably tried to run through it clean, but he felt terrible and he wanted to
try to get into a situation where he had a little bit of clear breathing area.
Q. You and Belfour, as a team and as goalie, hardly ever had two back-to-back games.
No. 2, Modano and Hull don't get on the score sheet. They have been so productive in your
victories. How important is it to get them going tomorrow tonight?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think they get going in a different area than a lot of teams do. They
are a lot like a checking line that can counterattack. They were constantly on the
backcheck, because we constantly turned the puck over and didn't give them any
opportunities to get their checking game going. If you look at Hull and Modano, and use
Lehtinen as left winger, say that is -- they are one of the best forchecking lines at
getting, creating opportunities off the forecheck. We never had the puck in their end to
create those opportunities. We never had the puck turned over to create those
opportunities. We were the team turning the puck over all the time. When you see us at the
end of the night give it away 16, 17 times in their neutral zone like we did, that is not
good and that is not good at any time. But that is not good against this team. That is the
problem is they were constantly on the backcheck. And if you look at zone time, there were
some periods where we were spending 3 and 4 minutes more in our own zone, which is
completely different than any series we have played in. It has been the opposite in a lot
of the other series.
Q. You made a statement last night about how this is the fastest team you have seen in
the Playoffs so far. What are you going to do to try and combat their speed, if anything?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I think that when I said that after the game I kept thinking that
they were coming at us, coming at us, but then when I looked at the tape this morning, the
reason they were coming at us is because the mistakes that we were making that gave them
that opportunity. We were giving them odd-man rushes because of us turning the puck over.
I think you negate speed by being better with the puck. You can stand in position
defensively all you want, but if you are not good with the puck and you are not strong in
those areas and determined to get the job done, then you are going to constantly be
looking at speed coming at you. That is the area that has got to be better for us. We have
got to make them spend more time in their zone than we did in ours. I think that is a
critical area for us against any team, but especially a team that has the quickness up
front that they do.
Q. What is the condition of Hatcher, and he didn't skate -- I didn't see him out there.
Did I miss him? Was it the right knee that he has the hyperextension?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No, I think it is his elbow. He skated at 7:00 A.M. You missed him.....
He is fine.
Q. Is he going to play?
KEN HITCHCOCK: This year, yeah.
Q. People were talking about the cold medication being an excuse or whatever, but what
about the travel? I mean, New Jersey got to play from a series where their road trip was a
bus trip down the turnpike. You guys not only had a hard series, but you played a day
later than them, then had to fly all the way here to play the opening game. Do you think
that took a lot out of your team last night?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, look, you start talking about that stuff, and then you get accused
of whining and sniffling at everything. All I will tell you right now is that we know we
are two days behind them energywise, but it is our job somehow to catch up these two days.
We know that that was the biggest factor in the game yesterday that we were behind. We
were behind in energy. We were behind in executions. We were behind in enthusiasm and
awareness on the ice, and that is not like our team. But we have an obligation to
ourselves and the organization to find that energy back again. We have got to do it.
Whatever we do has to include kind of writing off yesterday and start something anew
because they are ahead of us. They are ahead of us in jump. They are ahead of us in a lot
of areas and we have got to be able to find it. We know the emotion that we went through.
They went through the same thing. But we also know that that is how critical things are at
this stage that energy and enthusiasm are the two biggest factors in winning
championships. And they got it on their side right now and we have got to find a way to
get it back. We have got to catch up.
Q. How do you attempt to compensate or in fact can you when your best players play
badly as was the case last night?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Talking like the way Belfour played or whatever or --
Q. Belfour, some of your top forwards were minus 3. Zubov had a rough game back in the
blue line. Can you compensate for it?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think we have been through so much as an organization. We have been
through so much as an organization - the players, myself, for three years, that we learned
to be able to write these things off and sometimes it isn't going to be your night. We
have gotten drilled pretty good; hammered pretty good in Edmonton; hammered a couple of
times in Colorado. We got beat last year -- pretty badly at home against Colorado. We got
hammered pretty good in some games, but it is your ability to write it off and start fresh
that I think is critical. From our standpoint we have got to come up with fresh energy and
if I wear on these guys or I am ragging on these guys all the time or I am overcoaching
these guys, I am taking away their energy. Like I said before, that is what this whole
thing is going to be about because we got to find it. It is not in our favor right now and
we have got to find a way to get it back.
Q. You talked about all the technical stuff, but how do you assess the mood of your
team after last night?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think the mood is a little bit all over the plays right now. But
remembering that we play tomorrow night at eight o'clock, I think the mood right now, from
our standpoint, is that we have some people who we are trying to reenergize right now; get
some health back in our group right now. That is No. 1. No. 2 is that we are trying to get
a definitive game plan that we can make adjustments. I think the key is to make
adjustments for us. This is what, to me, playing in a best of 7 is about. It is about
making adjustments. The ball - they have kind of thrown it over to our side of the court
now. We have got to make the adjustment to change our game to counteract to what they are
doing. We are very good at that. We have been very good at it for years. That is our
obligation right now. Now, we have got to make the changes because they came with a great
game plan. It worked and we have got to change ours a little bit.
Q. If Eddie Belfour is on decongestants, was Zubov taking sleeping pills? That is the
worst game I have seen him play in a long time. Will Langenbrunner play?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Lags will not play tomorrow. He skated yesterday and he came up sore
today. So we are still a couple of days out with Jamie. Zubov was the victim to me a
little bit of trying to do too much once it got down a little bit, but if there is anybody
that can shake it off, it is Zuby.
Q. Do you think it hurt the confidence level of your team to see a guy like Belfour who
had played so well have a shaky outing like that?
KEN HITCHCOCK: You know what, I think that -- I think our team will have a different
attitude bit. I think what we learned last night when Ed Belfour is average or even below
average, we are not a very good team and I think that we need Eddie to be a great player,
but it also shows me how valuable this guy has been to our group. I mean, we have made the
same mistakes in games and he saved our bacon. Last night for the first time maybe he
didn't do those things. But you know what, he will be back on course there and I think our
players feel pretty strongly that it is our responsibility to pick up the pace here. Like
I said before, it is our responsibility to go and find another gear. Doesn't matter how we
get it done and that is what this Playoffs is about, finding that next gear and it is our
job to find it.
Q. Will you want the mindset tomorrow to be something like "We have done this
before; that was no big deal?"
KEN HITCHCOCK: Cripes, I hope we haven't done this before, get drilled like that. Our
situation is that we are pretty experienced at writing things off. We are going to have to
be very experienced because we got drilled pretty hard and we got drilled by a very, very
good hockey club on top of their game. They have gained a lot from their situation in
Philly. Sometimes when you -- we have all been -- as coaches we have all been in series
where you mount comebacks and you come back and sometimes you reach a pinnacle and you
drop off. They are building on what they did against Philadelphia at the end. We have got
to catch up.
Q. Your team usually plays kind of a mean game that they didn't play last night. Is
that a concern to you? Not that it is a bad thing.
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think that we never had the opportunity because, to be honest with you
we played the game on 140 feet of ice. We never really -- when we had it in their zone we
had good production, but we never had it in there enough to do anything with it. I think
that we are best when we have got our heavy forecheck going and we never got the puck past
the blue line very much because we were turning it over in critical areas. So it is hard
to be physical when the kind of the shock of having this thing come back down your throat
all the time. That is what happened. They had so many opportunities - and I can't
emphasize this enough - off of poor puck play by ourselves and, quite frankly, it is
exactly what happened in the Philadelphia series. Towards the end they were
counterattacking on Philly pretty hard. They have got a real great mindset in there and we
have to make adjustments to counteract that. That is going to be the key to this series
for me is to not allow them to counterattack as much as they did yesterday.
Q. You played them the week before they made the coaching change. Do you see anything
different in the way they are playing for Larry just as far as either adherence to the
system or commitment or all those things that coaches like to talk about?
KEN HITCHCOCK: The way they are playing right now is the same way they played for
Jacques, same way, same system - same way, same patience, same level of determination.
This is -- Larry has done a great job, but this is the same way they played for Jacques.
Q. Did you and Eddie talk about him just staying back at the hotel and resting today or
do you make that decision together? Does he make it on his own?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, we kind of have eye contact and when I looked at him today, I kind
of just stayed away and he's out on the ice working his butt off. He will pretty much work
everything off. He should be done by about 6:30.
Q. Is it good losing a game that way because that is kind of a wakeup call?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No. I hate getting drilled like this. But it's part of the game. I think
that the thing you have to take in accord here is who is responsible. They played a great
game. But we played a poor game. We played a very poor game with the puck. That is what we
have to change and our players recognize that.
End of FastScripts