May 13, 2001
DENVER, COLORADO: Practice Day
Q. Sakic has obviously had a great year against you guys. What do you need to do differently, specifically yourself against him tomorrow?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I think we just have to come in with a better defensive mindset. I don't think we played very well defensively, didn't pick up loose pucks or battle for loose pucks in the corners. They came up with them. Got a few good scoring chances off them. You know, we just have to bear down in the defensive zone and really focus on what we're trying to do, just stop them from scoring.
Q. Foote said yesterday after the game they didn't like the way you guys were going after Sakic late in the game. What is your response to that?
CHRIS PRONGER: It's a physical game. It's part of hockey (smiling). Body checking is still legal, last time I checked.
Q. When Patrick Roy is playing that well, what do you try to do to generate more offense? Simple as getting more traffic in front of him?
SCOTT MELLANBY: Well, everybody knows how good Patrick is. I mean, he's won a lot of Stanley Cups. He's a great goalie. Any goalie is good if he can see the puck. Patrick certainly has proven what he can do. We didn't have enough traffic last night. No question. We have to make a concerted effort to have more traffic in front of him because if we allow him to see the puck all the time, we're going to have a hard time. But you've got to generate some forecheck in order to get to the net. Have you to get some puck possession, then get to the net. And we didn't -- we just weren't good in many aspects last night. One of them was getting a good forecheck. We didn't come up with much of that. He played the puck a lot. We just didn't give him sustained pressure on a regular basis. That's the big T key to getting to the traffic, is getting the forechecking going.
Q. Do you have to flirt with interference calls because you have to push it?
SCOTT MELLANBY: Well, I think you always mean to try to create traffic and create problems for a goalie. But you can't -- I think we went a little out of our way last night thinking if we were really physical because they had a long series, perhaps it would work in our favor. I think we got away from our game plan. The bottom line is, yes, we want to create problems for Patrick. We can't be in our mind thinking, "I have to get in this guy's way, bump him, do this and that." All of a sudden a puck goes by and you could have had your stick on it because you're more focused on trying to create problems for him. I think we'll do a better job of that tomorrow night, all around, in our game.
Q. Did you make a concerted effort late in the game to fry to get this team going? Were you trying to send a message?
SCOTT MELLANBY: I think as the game goes, sometimes battles can occur. Foote and I certainly have battled over the years. I don't know if it was a concerted effort to send any kind of message. You know, I try to battle hard, and he does. It just happened. You know, I think we'll be more prepared tomorrow night to play a better, solid team game. That's the most important thing.
Q. How would you describe Foote's game, his role to this team?
SCOTT MELLANBY: Well, he's a very good all-around player. I think he's played in the Olympics, some of those world tournaments. He's one of the best defensemen in the league all around. He can do some things offensively, and he's hard to play against. He's a good player. He's won a Stanley Cup. He comes to play. I'm not sure I like him (smiling). But I respect, you know, what he's done. He comes to play.
Q. Chris, with the way you guys cruised by the Stars, then losing yesterday 4-1, the layoff and all the questions you got about that, is any doubt at all creeping into the locker room, or do you just stay completely focused after a loss like yesterday?
CHRIS PRONGER: I don't think we're pushing the panic button yet. It's only one game. It's a best of seven series. I don't think anybody expects either team to sweep each other. I mean, we match up pretty well against each other. We didn't come out with our best effort yesterday. It showed on the score board. We got to bounce back and come back with a better effort on Monday. It's nice to be able to get back at it as opposed to sitting around for a few days and wondering what happened. We can get back at it Monday night and prove ourselves and everybody else wrong.
Q. How much of yesterday's game was a result of having so many guys playing in the Western Conference finals for the first time?
CHRIS PRONGER: We just didn't play well. Bottom line, we didn't execute or stay within our system and game plan. I thought we got caught up trying to run guys and got out of position a lot. When you do that, you know, you're not really worried about the puck too much. It's more trying to be physical and try to get the upper hand in the physical department as opposed to the score board. We definitely did our fair share of hitting. It's a matter of now we got to get some pucks in the net.
Q. The PK yesterday, give up a couple goals. Is that sort of the same thing, not being disciplined or that is a testament to their weapons?
CHRIS PRONGER: You look at the two goals. Both were broken plays. The first goal we didn't clear the puck out of the zone. Somebody's going to be left open. They have five guys, we got four. It's just a matter when pucks squirt free, you know, it's tough to be standing by the guy where it's going to go. You don't know if it's going to go left or right. The fourth goal was a similar situation where we weren't able to get the puck out. Puck went up in the air. Three guys start whacking at it. You know, both power-play goals probably could have been not in the net. You know, that's part of hockey. We got to improve on it.
Q. Chris, could you talk about the influence Al MacInnis has had on you as an older veteran presence? Could you also talk about how scary it was when he hurt his eye this year?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I think that's been one of the biggest positives I think in my career is having a chance to play with Al. You know, watching him on a day-in and day-out basis. Whether it be how he prepares himself for practice, games, conditioning in the summer. Little things that a lot of times get overlooked, you know, how he makes the outlet pass, little moves that he makes that sometimes people don't pick up. Being able to watch him every day, you're able to pick those things up, sometimes utilize those in your own game. It's been a great learning experience playing with him.
Q. How about the eye?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, when he got hit, you know, I don't think anybody realized the extent of the injury. Eyes are a funny thing. You take them for granted, you take your sight for granted. Until something like that happens. It was real tough for him. He was bedridden for about ten days. He couldn't really get out of bed. He couldn't get into the light. It really took its effect on him. I think he was starting to question whether he was going to be able to play again. For him to be able to come back and play at the level he's at now is pretty remarkable, just shows the talent that he has.
(Coach Quenneville joins the press conference.)
Q. Early goals yesterday, first two periods, between them Pronger and MacInnis had one shot. Did you do anything different? Can your attack work if those guys aren't getting shots?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: I think our overall attack game wasn't really in order yesterday. I think coming up the ice, we weren't very effective. I think that was part of our overall game where we weren't in sync like we had been throughout the playoffs. I think we can measure our overall game, particularly with the puck, whether they checked us in the neutral zone without getting the good dumps or sustaining the attack on the offensive zone was part of that, whether it was a lot of our own doing, knowing that we weren't sharp. I think it was probably a combination of those two. We feel we've got to be much sharper than that. We can be and will be.
Q. Do you think they've figured out a way to stop the impact of those long, diagonal passes?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Well, I think when you look back, I mean, there's several instances that that play is there. But I think we missed a lot of those passes, whether it was an area pass or stick-to-stick. Either way, we got to be better at looking and recognizing whether that option is there, hit the middle. I think one of our strengths as a team is moving the puck, assessing the proper option, be it the middle or the wide guy, but our pass completion ratio was off yesterday. I think that was kind of part of our old game, but they had something to do with it, too.
Q. Did you make any protestations to the league at all about the penalty shot?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: No.
Q. You coached Adam Foote for several years. What does he bring? What is his role on this team?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: He's a great competitor. He brings all the leadership qualities you like in a player. He's feisty, nasty, tough to play against. He has some real good quickness. You know, you can play him in an offensive role, you like him in every defensive situation. He's a very -- he's a top defenseman in the game and very effective for what he brings there, too.
Q. He purposely goes out and tries to get under people's skin. Is that something you can warn against, how do you combat that?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: I think you -- when you play against him, you're going to have -- you got to get in his face, knowing that he's coming at you. Don't get distracted on what he's going to try to do to frustrate you, and try to get you off your game. But knowing, hey, you're going to have to battle. It's a battle with him, knowing that you got to confront it and meet it head on.
Q. Can you talk a bit about what Alexei Gusarov has done working his way up to one of your top lines after getting here?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Goose, when we got him, we had MacInnis and Pronger out, we were really short on the D area. We felt when we acquired Goose, he has the ability, and he always has played against the other team's top line, we figure matching him up with Pronger against the opposition's best could work. I think when you put the two of them together, they both are pretty smart mentally and positionally, and can be effective. That's been part of it.
Q. Did he kind help to keep the glue there when those other two guys were out? How much of a role did he play?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: I think it was balance, everybody. We weren't crazy about how it went over that stretch of games. It wasn't like we were lighting it up, we were really struggling at that time. I think the return of those two guys solidified our game. I think in a stretch there, we were more than happy with our overall team game. When you had two Norris Trophy winners back there, whole different team.
Q. Your team working with Alex here, did that help influence the trade?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: We know or are a little familiar with what he can do. He's got the instincts of knowing the game. He's got some patience out there. At this stage, you know, he's got some -- I don't know how many years in a row where he's played a lot of games at this time of the year. He's always had more match-ups. We know that he can -- he's got that experience.
Q. How much of yesterday's game would you attribute to unfamiliarity with being in this round?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: I don't think you can say that was such an edge one way or the other. That's tough to measure something like that. I think our overall team game, when you look at our performance, you can say in the last couple series we had so many guys going in. Yesterday, you know, very short list of guys could say they're on top of their games. I think more so being off. But I think after that game, knowing that what you're in for is there. I don't think that's going to matter knowing that we're at this stage and the pressure is going to change any differently than what we've experienced in the last two rounds.
Q. How much difference will we see in how you guys combat the Sakic line?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Well, that's a key line. That was definitely the difference in the game yesterday. They're so dangerous off the rush, off of any loose puck. I think you've got to concentrate on awareness of everybody on the ice when they come or when they're on, faceoff, change your mindset where you place the puck or what you do with it offensively is equally importantly as how you play defensively against them. I think it combines knowing that awareness factor has to be there. We knew that going in. We've got to be much more effective at it.
Q. Was it an issue of match-ups or not handling the situations right?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Well, I think -- it could be in match-ups. I think no matter who is out there, all has to take the responsibility of knowing you're against Sakic's line, there's things you got to do.
Q. How frightening was the eye injury to MacInnis to you this year and how important is it to have it back?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: At the time we were led to believe it wasn't going to be that severe. We just went through Pavol Demitra's eye injury, which was looking like it was extremely severe. This one wasn't on that same level, the extent. Then knowing that it became worse, almost season-ending, maybe even more than that. You know, Al went through a tough process knowing that you're fooling around with a dangerous part of your anatomy, the importance that you rely on your vision. After several weeks of seeing many doctors and different opinions, there was some progress finally made. But we didn't know throughout a large part of -- a long part of this process whether he'd be able to play this year. When he did come around to playing, I think everybody was thrilled knowing that he's back out there playing and how important he is to our team. His leadership qualities are exactly what we need. His return immediately helped everybody around him.
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