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May 14, 2004

Ken Hitchcock


Q. Can you just start with Marcus and tell us where he's at?
KEN HITCHCOCK: He's being operated on this afternoon. He's done for the season. It's his index finger, and it's broken.
Q. Which hand?
KEN HITCHCOCK: It is his left, left index finger.
Q. So what are you going to do now? That's another significant blow; how do you recover and who do you put in?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I don't have to recover because I don't have to play back there. We're going to use Joni, obviously. We'll probably bring Dennis back from the Phantoms as a backup and see how it goes from there. Sami will stay back.
So we'll play the two Russians together, the two Fins together and the two Swedes together.
Q. I see you're keeping your sense of humor?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, it's only 2-1. If it's 4-1 my sense of humor would probably be a little different.
Q. Isn't this a significant setback for you?
KEN HITCHCOCK: The injury you mean? It's the same as has been going on all year. We'll get over it, we'll get used to it.
I said before, we had two players who played 30 minutes, they had two players who played 30 minutes last night. This is really short-term. For both teams, this is the potential for three or four weeks left of hockey, that's all it is. There's lots of time to rest later on.
Especially when you're not practicing and you're not traveling very much, guys like Malakhov and Johnson and Markov are very comparable of playing 30 minutes if we need them.
Q. We've seen examples of defensemen moving up to play forward but we are not seeing a lot of what we are seeing from Sami; can you put in perspective what he's done in these playoffs and how difficult that is?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think he's a product of the way hockey has developed in that nation. I think there's a mindset that the players play all of the positions at an early age, other than goal, and I think all of the players have to get used to it. It was the same conversation as we had with Yuri; he had played as much defense in his youth as he had as a forward. I think that's why when you get a player from Finland, you're always complimenting him on how well they are coaching before you get them.
I think Sami just has an unbelievable understanding of how the game is played. I thought he got better and better as the game went on and was a huge factor, obviously in the second and third period for us when we started mounting the comeback. But, you know, I think it's just because the way they are brought up, everybody plays everywhere, and you know, I think that's why those players understand each other's positions so well, too.
Q. What do you need to see from Joni tomorrow that you did not see from him earlier in the series?
KEN HITCHCOCK: We just want him to be fearless with the puck, that's what we want. We want him to be fearless with the puck, take off and go, skate with the puck. Defensively, he's played terrific. But we want him to really take off and go with the puck.
Q. You're a bit of a historian; what are some of the great other switches you can think of, guys changing positions at this point in the year?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Probably the most famous would be Red Kelly. But I think it's -- a degree with what Gordon was saying, it's a lot easier to go the other way, believe me. Sydor was a perfect example of probably somebody at the NHL level who from midget or from junior, made the switch halfway through his junior career and become an elite player. He was a forward all of his life and then he was switched by a coach. Then he became a good player back there.
Q. Is there anything in Esche's history that suggests to you that he can recover?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, just the recent side, how competitive he is. These are all new experiences. In the long run this will be good for Esche. This will be good for him to go through something like this. He knows he has to step up and play well. He's really looking forward to it. He's excited. He's like the rest of us, we want to start what we finished yesterday. We want to have a better start to the game, much better start, and their sense of desperation was a touch better than ours. And then we really started to come on. We want to start tomorrow like we finished. That's going to be important.
Q. When Keith became the captain of this team, did you envision what he's become and what he's doing, did you have an idea that he had that in him, both on and off the ice?
KEN HITCHCOCK: People told me that he could do these things. He was capable of it, because of his personality. People outside of our organization said that he has the potential to do these things. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever expect a guy to emotionally take over like he is doing in a hockey game. He just took the game over, with the last two shifts the first period and the last of the second and start of the third he took the game over.
Q. First two rounds, you guys have not been down three games in, do you see a difference in your players, your older guys, your leaders, do you see something different today, are there any hanging heads or any moping?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No. There's some anger and frustration right now, because we felt that we weren't on our toes collectively at the start of the hockey game, and you know, we were a little bit angry at ourselves because we talked about it. But they got bounced hard 6-2, and they responded. Any team would that's got the pride of both these teams.
We were there, but we weren't on the mark like we had been most of the games so far, especially since Game 5 in the Toronto series.
So they caught us. They caught us a little bit unaware. But then we gathered it in again. So I, the players think that the game was lost in the first period a little bit, and they feel that -- they are angry about that. They are really angry and they want to get out and play again.
Q. The last time you faced a real back-to-the-wall game, you could argue, is Game 5 against Toronto, and in that time Keith stepped up overtly on the ice and led you. Do you expect him to or do you rely on him to do the same thing now when you're again looking at a must-win?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think you have to watch what you're doing here, because we only allowed nine scoring chances yesterday. But they scored on three odd-man rushes, and we've got to watch overanalyzing.
The difference in the hockey game was the little bit in the first period, but we are a really resilient group here right now. I think if we are going to get better, and I know this is hard maybe to analyze, but if we are going to get better, we have to be harder to play against offensively. We were a little bit easier than we normally are to play against offensively yesterday. If you look at a lot of our opportunities, we had shots, but we had no second and third shots yesterday. So we don't want to live on the if-a, could-a, should-a, would-a's that Montreal lived on. Those won't work in this series, because you'll be going out. We have to dig in a little bit harder offensively if we expect to score.
Q. How much do you like the chess match that goes from game-to-game and what kind of adjustments do you see?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think this is the most -- I've said this before to people. I think this is just the greatest time of year, it's the most fun. When you're able to focus on only one opponent, make changes, I think you feel that as a coach and as a coaching staff, that you're finally showing what you're worth as a staff. I think that it really, to me, magnifies what competition is all about.
Now, they had to make some real strong adjustments, and they did. They got that first period, that little bit in that first period and they got us on our heels a little bit and now it's our turn.
We have to find ways to motivate our team and to change structure a little bit. We've got to do these things. That's the challenge that you're faced in coaching. But to me, it's the greatest time of year. The pressure is irrelevant for us. It's the actual competition that's really important and I just -- you know, I love this time of year. It's just the greatest time.
Q. You've been through one notable chapter of the Flyers goaltending follies over the year?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Not only (laughter).
Q. A lot of the players have been through even more than that. No matter what they may say, is there not a temptation to have your head drop a little bit when you see that first one go in last night?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I think sometimes it is, because you can feel the stands draw a deep breath and some words come out. (Laughter).
But I think that it's just, there's something different about this team, and I know we're down 2-1, but there's something different about this team. This is a team that has overcome so much this year, to get where they are at, it's a very different group. It's a group that responds individually and collectively to the challenge, and I have no doubt in my mind that Esche is going to be a top player in the game tomorrow, and I think our team feels the same way. That's what's different, is that when things are difficult, we seem to be at our best. And they are difficult for us right now.
It's the first bump in the road for Esche. Now you have arguably the best defensemen in the series for both teams; now out, Ragnarsson has been tremendous and he's been tremendous since Game 4 in Toronto. Now he's out. So other people are going to have to step up and respond. Our team has done it all year, and I see no reason that we are not going to do this again, individually, guys like Esche and Joni coming back and playing well.
But I think collectively, we have shown the ability to do this all year.
Q. In what way did Roman not meet that expectation?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, the quality that Esche has, when things don't go right, he always looks within first.
Roman had a tendency at times to worry about -- he always told me that he never read the papers; except he came into the office with 11 papers. (Laughter). He worried about things that weren't in his control. Esche doesn't do that, and I think that's the key to being a good goalie in this league. You can't worry about what people are writing or what people are saying; that, or you need to be illiterate. Esche, he's not illiterate, but he doesn't read the papers.
Q. Your power play, I believe, is 1-for-17 in this series, have you gotten away from some things?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Where did you get that number? It's right. (Laughter).
Q. Have you gotten way from some things?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Not really. I think what's happened on our play you power play is we've always been a two-unit group. We have one unit that's doing most of the damage and another unit that's struggling and we have to make some changes. That's the area that we have to make some tactical changes on. We'll do that today.
We have had success in creating chances, but if you look at things, we've not created any second or third chances right. We've had a lot of bang-bang plays, but Khabibulin is too good of a goaltender. You're going to have to find chances that were created for those second and third opportunities.
I think we are going to take a page out of Montreal's book. They had some good success later in the series with it, so we are going to have to do some of those things they did.
Q. Being at home where you had not been behind the whole series, is there an overcomfort feeling that you thought even though they had not lost on the road, maybe you guys took being at home for granted?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No. I think it's the evolution of a series, when you get spanked, you've got everything you're pouring into the game is going to come out at the start. You're embarrassed and you want to play like hell. I think there's a tendency for a short period of time to maybe subconsciously think it might be a little bit easier, and that's the fine edge that goes with competition that's so close.
Look, we created so many chances. The second period we played as was unbelievable we hit crossbars and goal posts and everything. But there were too many times against this team that it's the same speech from the same coach, and I know there's folks here from Montreal who heard the same speech from their coach: We missed all of these opportunities, we missed all of these chances. Well, guess what? We are in the same situation. You have a goalie that's playing really well and you have a team that's an opportunistic scoring team. It's a combination of us getting more scoring opportunities and not giving up the ones we did. We gave up a real good one when the game was on the line, we gave up a breakaway, and we can't do that.

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