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May 30, 2004

Craig Conroy

Stephane Yelle


Q. Conny or both of you, can talk about the significance of that power play goal last night? You guys had two power play goals earlier, but they came at not too significant time. This time really came through in the clutch is that a good time for the special teams overall?
CRAIG CONROY: It gives us a feeling that we're scoring some goals, we're getting some breaks, but the tough thing is, in a game like that, you know, the first goal is going to be so crucial for us to get it on the power play and what a great break; it kind of -- Si takes a shot, hits a defensemen, bounces up, Khabibulin is on the other side of the net to score. I mean, it is just a big thing for this team confidence-wise to come in and the way we played the game before, we weren't very good and then we came in, to get that lead and then kind of Donovan gets the second one, it just kind of rolls from there. It was good feeling.
Q. Craig, Darryl said this morning that when Jarome was named captain, there were a lot of people who said, oh no, he's too young. It's going to be too much pressure. When in reality it was what he needed to take his game to the next level. What changes have you seen in Jarome as a person since he put the C on?
CRAIG CONROY: I think he tries to do more things in the room. He tries to talk a little bit more, but for the most part, he tries to do most of his talking on the ice. A lot of it had to do with, you looked at different guys who were in the league, I think Shane Doan, you know, I was looking at the guys in Boston and Joe Thornton. You look around the league, there's a lot of young captains. Jarome, who I feel is probably the best player in the game, you know, I guess to become a great player, you got to at some point, you got to be captain and lead, and you know wear that C, to take your game to the next level, like Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, guys like that. If you don't have the C on, there is always that, "I wonder why he isn't the captain. There must be a reason." There really isn't a reason. He is just a young guy. You don't want to put a ton of pressure on him really. You look two years ago what he did, leading scorer in the league, goals, assists, everything like that, that's just -- that was his first step, now this is his next step. He's a great leader. Even if he didn't have that C on, he's the leader in that room and on the ice.
Q. For those who aren't familiar with the hard hat theory, what gave you the idea to bring it with this team, because you had it in St. Louis?
CRAIG CONROY: The thing was we were sitting around before, we were talking and Donovan and I were talking about it, and we kind of mentioned, hey, it would kind of be nice to -- maybe the unsung hero, last night Oleg Saprykin blocking a shot, turning it into a goal. Perfect example. That's what it's about, those little things like that. It's fun for the guys in the room. We got little traditions that go along with it. We just enjoy it. People take pride in wearing that silly green hat. (Laughs).
Q. Any idea why green?
CRAIG CONROY: Oh there's a reason. Like most things I do, I do things last second, right before the game, 15 minutes before the game, I thought I got to get a hard hat, so I started running around this building and finally, Gus said, I think I have one in the top in my office, so I climbed up on the ladder looked up there. I looked, and then I noticed that it was -- that silly green color. I am, oh, it's kind of ugly but it's going to have to do because I can't come up with anything better in this short notice.
Q. St. Louis, he's a dangerous player you are lined against him sometimes, what is it about him that you have to be careful of and why have you been successful so far against him?
CRAIG CONROY: I think the thing with St. Louis, he's just very crafty, skilled forward that you know, if you give him and space, he's going to create and make plays, so we're trying to stay as close as possible, not giving him a lot of room, but you know, great players create room. We're trying to limit as much as we can, time and space with the puck if we can, take him out and finish our checks on him any chance you get, to get a body on him. We have to because if you just let him skate around and do what he wants, he's going to be very effective.
Q. Do you think Chris Simon is underrated for his scoring touch? He had the reputation as being a tough guy his whole career. He's done that very well. But it looks a lot like he has got a lot of scoring touch that maybe is under appreciated by others outside your room.
STEPHANE YELLE: Chris, he has got a reputation as being a tough guy and a enforcer over the years. I have played with him in '96 in Colorado and that was pretty much his role, but over the years, you have seen in Washington and where he's been. He can score goals. He has got a lot of skills for a big guy and his hands are really good. He's been getting the job done.
Q. Last night was the fifth shutout for the team in the playoffs. It's getting to be pretty elite company in terms of how many shutouts in a single playoff. Darryl just mentioned moments ago the identity of what New Jersey has done in the last decade has been something a lot of teams strive for. Do you think that this team has achieved that kind of shutdown identify where that's No. 1 in your mind, and you can go execute it? Have you gotten to that point as a team?
STEPHANE YELLE: I think that's one of our focuses. We take a lot of pride in it, you know, our defensive game in the game in our own end, you know, when you limit the chances and you know, you keep the teams off the boards, that's what we aim for and, you know, that's what we have done.
Q. Can you think back, do you remember when you felt that there was something special going on here, that you guys were getting it together and more specifically, how early did you know that Kiprusoff was going to be the player that he's been?
CRAIG CONROY: Well, I mean I think I will start with Kipper. Probably I think eight games in I thought, wow, it's not just one or two games. He has been consistently solid, and then we had one rough game where they scored five against him, five or six against him in Colorado, when we end up losing that game. The way he bounced back from that loss, I thought that showed a lot because that was his first real tough point in the season, where I thought, you know, this is his first adversity, where he had to face, where he let in six goals. I mean he was behind the net on one of them, I recall, and Selanne just picked up the stick and walked out and scored. Some guys that would effect, but Kipper, it didn't. Next game he came back. I thought maybe it was his best game of the season. I can't remember who it is against now, I just remember that bounce-back showed how mentally strong he was.
As far as the team, I thought when after the All-Star break we got to play Colorado a couple of times, and they were a team that as always really played well against us, and kind of had our number over the last few years and for us to come out -- we won a one-nothing game, then the next time we beat them like 7-1. You started to feel like, hey, this team can do something, and you can beat some of the top teams in the league. That's where you get your high standards from. It's not the teams on the bottom. You have to beat them, but it when you can beat those elite teams, especially a team like Colorado, that everyone at the beginning of the year said probably was going to be sitting where we are right now.
Q. Yeller, if my math is correct I think you have been to the Western Finals seven of your nine years in your career. This could be your third Stanley Cup. For a guy who has been traded from the organization that you have been drafted and you never got a chance to play, can you believe how your career has gone?
STEPHANE YELLE: It's been great. Seven years in Colorado was awesome. I got to win two Stanley Cups down there. Like you said, we had a winning team. We were in the Conference Finals numerous times and you know, but to be here with this group of guys and having the year we had last year, and building this team and growing as a team over the years, it's been great.
Q. Hopefully both of you will answer this: At this point in this series and through the whole playoffs, the physical demands have been outstanding. Likely will be, no matter how far it goes. Now that you are into a real fatigue portion of it, how do you prepare yourself mentally to go out and do what you have been able to do so far?
CRAIG CONROY: I mean, I think we talk about it before each game, you know we got plenty of time in the summer to sleep relax and now we're just going to play when we're not tired. No matter how tired we are, they are just as tired. We have to focus on that and you know, dig down, and if you do see a guy that's tired on the team, or having a tough night, you got to help pick him up and help him heading in the right direction and vice versa. It's 20 guys, it's not going to be one or two guys. They go with a pretty short bench over there, so we know if we're tired, they are going to be that much more tired.
Q. Rhett Warrener, your coach described him as the unsung hero on your hockey team. What does he mean and what does he do well?
STEPHANE YELLE: I think Rhett, to start with, off the ice he's our leader. He's the biggest voice in our dressing room, and when something needs to be -- when something needs to be said, he says it, and it's been really good for this team, and I mean off the ice he just shows up every night. He gives 110%. He's just solid out there. He gets the job done night in and night out.
Q. Talk about what you guys did again last night on the penalty kill, and why you guys were so successful? I guess Conny, if you can talk about some of the things that you guys think you can do better in Game 4, because Sutter said there was a lot of things could still be improved for the next game. What are some of those things?
STEPHANE YELLE: As for the PK, I think first couple of games or mostly the second game, we weren't on the same page as a unit, and yesterday or the day before I think we watched video and worked on things that needed to be worked on. I think as a unit out there we felt better and we felt we weren't as out of place as the first couple of games.
CRAIG CONROY: I think the big thing that I noticed last night was once I came around from behind the net, I had the puck and I went to throw it up to the board-side winger, which is Saprykin. It looked like he's wide open, but as soon as I get ready to make the pass, the D is already on their way there. That was the first time I know when we have been rimming around the boards or trying to throw it up the boards, seems like they keep it in 90% of the time. So after that I said, okay, if we're going to do that again, we got to start using the middle and different parts of the ice because they just do such a good job at keeping the puck in, and that's where they create all their forecheck against us. If we can go to different places, we're going to go high off the glass. I mean, we have to start getting the puck out on a more consistent basis because that's when they are more effective when they turn it over in the zone, and they have got a lot of crafty players in there. Their D does a good job. They pinch you on the strong side every time. As far as that, we have got to skate -- the D has to skate it out a little bit more and try to do more just in our defensive zone, not just throwing it around the boards to the winger. It's probably the hardest thing in hockey to do that's overlooked, the winger against the D on there, and especially with these D coming down every time and pinching the way they do sometimes, it's very difficult. So if we can start doing that, moving it away moving it to the center more, chipping it high off the glass, maybe to get in foot races with the guys pinching, we can get some odd-man rushes and things. But we have got to be more disciplined -- every time we want to rim it around the boards, it's very tough on the forwards.
Q. There's a lot of talk about how physical you folks played last night, how much you checked them. Obviously do you expect them to come back and try to play the same game against you on Monday night? Are they going to try to out-check you guys now?
STEPHANE YELLE: We'll expect them to be physical and to be better. As for our team, I think when we're skating and when we're physical and everyone is involved, that's when we play our best hockey.
Q. You've been to the Stanley Cup Finals three times. It is pretty rare to see fighting in the Stanley Cup Finals, yet we have already had three in this series, which is pretty close for the record for the Finals. Why do you think we're seeing it in this series as opposed to years past?
STEPHANE YELLE: I don't know. It's a good question. It's tough to say. I think it's been great, you know, both teams have been playing with a lot of emotion and intensity. I guess it's just part of it right now.
Q. Darryl talks about when he got here, he found this culture where they had one star player who made a lot of money and everyone kind of just let him lead the way. If Jarome had a good game, the team won; if he had a bad game, the team lost. He found that a problem when he got here. He's been trying to fix it. He's probably fixed it now. Can you talk about him shaping that culture and giving the rest of the guys ownership of this team?
CRAIG CONROY: I think if that's what he saw, that wasn't the case, in my opinion. I felt like we definitely rely on Jarome but we, as a group, we didn't, you know, we always felt like we had to do it as a team, if you want to win in the NHL. I have never seen one player win it or two players, so you know, I think he definitely came in here and wanted to change things, but this team was headed in the right direction. Our young D were getting much better as we're going along. I thought Leopold coming in and just his offensive presence, and then you bring in a guy like Rhett Warrener, I mean of course that's going to help. But I think this team was going in the right direction. What we had problems with was staying focused and not going into long slumps. Two years ago we had a very good start. Us and Detroit after 22 games were one and two in the league. As a young team we found ways to start losing games, then we couldn't get out of that. That's what was frustrating. I think what Darryl did do, he came in and he makes everybody accountable and game in and game out, he didn't let us have that long slump. That was something that, you know, maybe we needed. When things weren't going well, he kind of nipped it at two games. Okay, that's it. We're going to get back on track, and he has -- he's very -- he has got some different ways he motivates and the way he does it. But I felt like this team was coming along, our young players were very good. You look at Edmonton and we, you know, they were in because of the young players, and I thought we started adding some very skilled young guys in Kobasew and Lombardi and guys like that have come in and made a difference for us, and now, you know, now we all believe in ourselves, we have to go, but I mean Darryl is a big part of that. I felt like that was actually happening a few years ago.
Q. The day that trade was announced, were you shocked No. 1, and No. 2, when that shock wore off did you think maybe Calgary could be a good thing for me, maybe I will get more ice time, playing in a small market? Were things getting little stale in Colorado?
STEPHANE YELLE: I mean, after seven years in one city with one team you kind of expect it, so as a shock, you know, I don't think it was much of a shock and no, I saw it as something positive, as a fresh start, and got here and got to meet some great guys and, you know, like I said, it was a fresh, positive start for me.
Q. You played with Patrick Roy and won two Cups with Patrick Roy, can you compare him to Kiprusoff? Darryl called you the toughest mental team he's ever been around, do you agree with that? Why is that the case?
STEPHANE YELLE: Kipper and Patrick are two different people on and off the ice. The biggest similarity between Patrick and Kipper right now is that seven years in Colorado, Patrick would give us a chance to win every night, that's what Kipper has done for us this year.
CRAIG CONROY: I think mentally this team is tough but we have a lot of quiet leaders and that's what gets it going, Martin Gelinas, guys that have been around a long time, Yeller, very quiet guy in the room, but when he talks, people listen. They take from it. Guys like this are mentally tough and it rubs off on everybody else. All of a sudden, you know, you have a coach that comes in and he demands a lot out of you, very, you know, tough on guys, in the room, on the bench, you know, even in the media. He's not going to, you know, hold back. If you didn't play well, he's going to let you have it. I think he was kind of building that mental toughness as the year went on. And that's part of his game plan for us to be mentally tough and prepared when the playoffs did come, because he believed right from the beginning that we were going to make the playoffs and that was his focus. He broke it right down from Day 1, and he let us know what we had to do to be mentally tough and physically how we had to be ready to play. It says a lot about what Darryl brings to the team. He had to do two jobs this year and he brought in some great players. The acquisitions end of the year and Kiprusoff, that speaks for itself. But the three guys he brought in at the end of the year with a budget and the situations, I mean you couldn't have found three better guys.

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