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May 20, 2006

Shawn Horcoff

Craig MacTavish

Michael Peca

Chris Pronger

Dwayne Roloson

Ryan Smyth


JAMEY HORAN: Questions for the players.
Q. For Michael and Shawn, just talk about the significance of winning the special teams battle in this series, how important you see that being?
MICHAEL PECA: I think we saw how important it was in the last round where our penalty killing was pretty good and our power play was extremely good. Vice versa for Anaheim where their penalty kill was extremely good for them in that series. You get in the playoffs and oftentimes one or two goals can make a difference and that plays a big part in special teams.
SHAWN HORCOFF: I think that's just today's NHL. You look throughout the regular season, there's so many penalties being called and going into the playoffs, there was so many questions about whether or not that was going to be prevalence, and the standard was going to be upheld, and I think we've seen that. So special teams in every series seems to be a big key right now.
Q. For Rollie and Pecs, that play, Rollie, is that something that -- I mean, do you have that in the back of your mind, maybe we spring somebody? Is it a set play?
SHAWN HORCOFF: You know what, it's just he clears the puck that way, too. It's not like it's an automatic break for goal scoring opportunity. For him, when he clears a puck out of zone, a lot of times he'll cross his hand over. Their defensemen were doing a good job of blowing out because they know we like to jump on the penalty kill when our D get in possession.
But I think when Dwayne had his hand frontwards, they continued to creep in and then as soon a he crossed over, I knew was going to try and ice the puck. I think that's the main goal there was to ice the puck. And I was just able it get a jump.
But I don't know, I don't remember making eye contact with him last night before the play happened. I just through it out there. No, actually, Mike made a great read and Ryan's done it a couple times, too. I've only had the opportunity once or twice. It's one of those things, when you get an opportunity, you just clear the zone. I'm not really worried about anything. I just get it out of the zone and try to take a little pressure off our D and force.
Q. Ryan, are you going try and find a way to watch that game from Riga, and have you given one second of thought to that team over there or any contact or anything?
DWAYNE ROLOSON: That's why he's wear has Canada shorts today, supporting the team.
RYAN SMYTH: Obviously, I'm a proud Canadian. But I don't think it's being televised because of the Eastern Conference game going on. But, obviously, you hope for the best for them. You know, they're in the semifinals, played in Sweden. It's quite an accomplishment. You learn so much over there that brings back to your own game. And it's good experience learning from other players, too.
Q. Ryan, maybe following up on that theme, did you wonder over the years when you were going to the World Championships, you know, can I do it in the playoffs and are you maybe surprised at all at your success?
RYAN SMYTH: Well, I was seven straight. You know, I always believed that we could succeed on in the playoffs, but it's obviously not an easy task to do. And like I said before, you learn so much going over there, you know. You should be playing at that time of the year anyway. But now we are, and, you know, this is quite an experience. And you learn so much from the guys that have been through it. Guys like Pecs has been through it right through it right to the Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. And he adds so much to your team in that category. It's exciting to be a part of right now and I'm happy to be here.
Q. Have you seen a change in Craig's coaching pattern or style? You've seen him sort of grow up on the job. Is he a lot different now than when he first started or when you first played for him? What's that been like, the change in Craig's coaching personality?
RYAN SMYTH: I don't think he's changed a lot. He stuck with it for the most part. Obviously different personnel changes a little bit of the look of the team. But how he has been, he's been a hard-nosed guy, cares about his players. You know, obviously throughout the year we were blocking shots, not a lot of teams do that. And you know, that sort of -- that's how he is or was as a player and is as a coach.
Q. Ryan and Shawn, I know you don't want to look too far ahead, but the last time the Oilers won the first two games of a playoff series was 1990 and you were on a big roll. Can you speak to that?
SHAWN HORCOFF: Obviously, going into Game 2, we have a chance to bring some momentum back to Edmonton. It's nice getting the first win. Obviously we haven't done that yet in the series, and we've had to kind of fight and claw our way back. So we realize the situation we're in, but at the same time we know they're going to get better. They had a big lay off. They were probably a little bit rusty last night. So it's obviously going to take our best effort, and we're going to have to get better as the games go on here in order to move on.
RYAN SMYTH: I think the thing with getting off to the first, you know, the first game is obviously a great thing. Hopefully you never look back. But like Horc said, they were off for a little bit, but we have to expect they're going to come a little harder. We've got to obviously match their intensity and keep playing the way we can. We want to carry the momentum from the last series into this one and hopefully we did that and we can continue it.
Q. Dwayne, the guys have made a point of talking about you as being maybe one of the best penalty killers out there and the reason for the special teams success. Much how is what you're seeing in front of you affecting your play and confidence in that the way guys out in front of your are playing when you're a man down?
DWAYNE ROLOSON: You know, I think that's been a big reason why we've been having great success is because of the guys in front of me. It's not really me. Every once in a while I'll make a save, but the guys are blocking shots and doing all the little things. Shots I can't see, like last night, there was a shot I couldn't see and Prongs makes a skate save and a beauty and puts it into the corner. The guys are doing all the little things in front of me and they're doing a better job than I am.
Q. To keep with the penalty killing theme, Michael and Shawn, beside the set play and Roloson throwing it up to you guys, how are you guys getting so many chances that have left you two shorthanded goals so far in these playoffs?
MICHAEL PECA: It's more of a mentality. We've got a lot of speed with the six guys we use up front. You know, as mindful as we are about our positional play defensively, we're not afraid to, obviously if the opportunity arises, to turn that into offense. And the guys that do penalty kill are capable of producing offensively. And any time you can do that, try to create some down-ice pressure, it kills a lot of time off the clock and really gets them on their heels.
So it's something that we definitely do focus on, but at the same time, it's not like we're going out of our way to try to create offense. But when you get a goal like that from Pecs last night, especially in the playoffs, it builds so much momentum that goals like that change games.
Q. Shawn or Ryan, can you talk about Ales coming back from that hit and scoring that big game-winner for you guys?
RYAN SMYTH: He's not an overly big guy, but he's very thick in the lower half. His legs are pretty big. I think he saw him, but he thought was going back up and then obviously got hit. Obviously that's a lot of player's mentality on our team, coming back from a hit or whatever it is. But, no, I thought it was pretty gutsy of him to come back, and obviously he scored the winner.
SHAWN HORCOFF: You know, with Hemsky, it's almost like, you know, you don't notice him for the first period and then a few times he gets smoked or something happens that gets him a little bit frustrated, and next thing you know, he takes the game over. It just shows his talent level, tasking a puck out of air, heck of a goal. To come back like that can demoralize a team. I mean, they put a lick on one of our best players, huge hit, he comes back and he's better than ever. It just shows that it's going to take a lot in order to intimidate us.
Q. Chris, good morning.
Q. Can you talk about Rollie and just the comfort level that he's found with the little parts of the game now, like playing the puck to you guys and you guys knowing where he's going to play it and the things that take a little time for a new goalie to iron out with his new defenseman?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I think a lot of that has to do with communication both in practice and in the games, whether it be playing the puck behind the net or rebounds in front of the net. He finds the comfort zone with us and we need to find it with him and go to the areas where we think the pucks going to be laying and taking away, whether it be two-on-ones or three-on-twos, and limiting the shots that he's going to see.
He's going to know, now that he's been with us a couple months, where the shots most likely going to come from and can adjust and set himself. And, you know, I think you're seeing a by-product of that, is the way he's been playing, which is obviously very well.
Q. Ryan, there's talk about your work around the net. Is that something that you've always done and do you feel like you're having a very good game when you can see that the goalie is getting frustrated. How long have you been doing that? Is that how you know you've been having a good game from that standpoint?
RYAN SMYTH: I did it pretty much when I was a kid, but the puck's got to end up there. I think the big thing is that if I feel that the goalie's being distracted or off his game a little bit, then I know I've done a little bit of my job. But the big thing is we've got to get the puck by him and make sure it's in the back of the net before everything's done.
Q. Mac T said yesterday that if you keep working at it, people see you in front of the net at practice. Is that something that even though you've reached a certain level of success around there, but you kind of never stop striving to even be better around the net?
RYAN SMYTH: Yeah. I do it every -- I don't want to say every day, but every game day in the morning I do some tips and getting in front of the goalie and screen and stuff. The old cliche, practice makes perfect, and I don't want to say perfected, but it's come a long ways.
Q. Dwayne, Mac Greene said last night that early in your tenure with the Oilers, you told them not to worry about it if you drop your stick, that you were quite capable of playing without it. And he was just laughing about a little bit, suggesting that maybe they'll get you some pine tar. But you obviously can play without it. Is it something you're comfortable doing, you've worked on? Because you don't seem in any rush to go get your stick when you loose it.
DWAYNE ROLOSON: No, it's just one of those things that I'm not too worried about. I'd rather have my defensemen or my forwards have a stick instead of me. You know, with the way the game's changed now with the butterfly style, it's not a big deal if you don't have your stick for a goalie.
Back when I first came in the league I was still a standup-skate-save guy, and it was more important to have a stick then. But now, it's one of those things you get used to not having it sometimes. And sometimes in practice, like when I was in the minors, I buggered up my wrist and I had to take practices without a stick. So you just get used to dealing with it.
JAMEY HORAN: Thank you, gentlemen.
Questions for Coach.
Q. Mac, what part can or does momentum play in playoff success? You've got five wins in a row now, came back hard against the Sharks. Does is help build confidence or any of those things we talk about?
COACH MacTAVISH: I think it does, but all of teams that are still around right now have a lot of confidence in their ability to beat anybody, for sure. I really believe this time of year every game's its own entity and you can't take too much from the previously games or the three or four games you've won previously. And, you know, you just have to approach every game as its own entity.
Q. Some coaches and GMs have an arm's length or sometimes don't even talk, but describe what it's like for you having known each other for seems like forever. What's that relationship like and has that evolved since...
COACH MacTAVISH: Yeah. It's always been great. I think for sure as a coach, it's a difficult business. You know, it's made easier when you have the support from the manager. And it's almost, I would think, an impossible job if you don't have the support of your manager. And we've always -- I mean, we've had disagreements over the years, don't get me wrong, but ultimately you always know where his intentions lie, his good intentions lie, and vice versa.
So it's been easy for me from that respect to have the support of the management.
Q. Did you hesitate at all when you were talking about taking the job and Kevin moved up? Did you hesitate at all because you had a long relationship and sometimes in the end much manager has -- sometimes it doesn't end pretty for the coach?
COACH MacTAVISH: I've heard that. I don't know it to be true, but I have heard that. No, I think it's probably a question better asked to him, you know, whether he had any reservations. I mean, I've -- you know, the one thing that I know is that Kevin's always been able to separate the business part and the friendship part of it, and I think a lot of people have questions about that. But there's always -- I understand the business side of it. He's -- we're friends, for sure, close friends, but he understands the line that he has to walk as my boss and manager. And he's always been able to separate the business part of it.
Q. Mac T, can you talk about the comfort level that Roloson seems to be finding right now and just talking about little things, like the comfort level with his defensemen knowing where to the puck when they're coming back to get it. How it was a bit of an evolution from the time he got here to where it seems to be right now. And talk about the play that he made last night.
COACH MacTAVISH: Yeah. I mean, sure, it's just the consistent top-level goaltending that he's given us each and every night. You almost expect an off game at times, but he's just right on top of his game. The thing I like about his game and the level that he's at right now is you know it's going to have to be a spectacular shot, whether it's a screen or deflection or whatever it's going to be, it's going to have to be a great shot to beat them.
The play that he made last night, Pecs is great at anticipating those situations and getting in behind the opposition's defense. I haven't seen him do that very much since he got here, you know, backhand right up the middle. You know, it was a terrific play and a big goal for us and good communication on their part.
Q. You've been this far as a player, but as a coach, what's the difference being in the conference finals as a player and is as coach?
COACH MacTAVISH: As a player, I think it's, in a lot of ways, a more enjoyable journey as a coach than as a player, it's a real grind. As a coach, I try and manage our time around that, understanding that I know it's a grind for the players, and try and give them not only physical rest, but mental rest. As I said before, it's nice to have that in this environment, because it's good -- refreshes your team mentally, for sure.
As a coach you don't have the physical burden, and I think from that perspective, you're beat up when you wake up. You can enjoy it more than the players. But the players, it's more like make the doughnuts mentality: you get up, go through your routine, you go to the rink, you put your gear on, you get back out there, you go to battle you go to war, and you win that game. And then you do it all again the next day. So it's a little bit different from that respect as a coach.
Q. Craig, you became a penalty killing specialists in your playing career, and back then it was Gretzky that was getting those short-handed goals, now you've got Michael Peca and Shawn Horcoff that are getting a lot of chances and converting them, too. Do you see some comparisons there and how are they getting so many of those chances?
COACH MacTAVISH: Well, Anaheim's really aggressive on their power play, and their overall game plan is one of aggressiveness, but in particular on their power play they are really, really aggressive. And they give up short-handed goals. I mean, they were very dangerous on their power play last night. I thought we did an okay job. We got better as the game wore on terms of our penalty killing efficiency. But they're aggressive where a lot of times they'll leave one defenseman back solely. And so we know that if we can do a job down low, we're going to get some shorthanded opportunities. It's a double-edged sword when you attack like that on your power play, there is the possibly and the vulnerability that you're going to give something up short-handed. I don't know whether that short-handed goal that we got last night was a product of that.
I mean, it was a little bit of a, you know, different play with the goaltender lobbing it over for Pecs. But I still feel, given their philosophy on their power play, we're going to get some short-handed opportunities, and we're a team that can capitalize short-handed, as we've seen throughout the regular season. So hopefully, we'll offset their power play's effectiveness with the odd short-hander.
Q. Craig, not to look too far ahead, but do you know when the last time the Oilers own the first two games of a playoff series?
Q. It's 1990, and I only say that because you mentioned that the other day. Drawing comparisons between that club and the team that you have this year.
COACH MacTAVISH: Against Boston.
Q. Yeah.
COACH MacTAVISH: Yeah. Well, the goaltenders are comparable, too, comparable. Thinking about it, Ranford won the Conn Smythe and really evolved during those playoffs. And Rollie's evolving into that type of goaltender as well and giving us that type of goaltending. I see a number of comparables with us and that team.
Q. Craig, just on that same theme, you guys have shown the ability to come back 1-0 to Detroit, 2-0 to San Jose, but just how things can maybe be different now that you've won one and you have a chance to get another one and go home. I know that's getting ahead, but just the difference to start the series with a win?
COACH MacTAVISH: You have to think about it. It's one game away from going up 2-0 and going back to Edmonton. You know, that's an advantage. The next game's always the most important game of the series, but it really presents us with a real terrific opportunity to get that game and put them in a very difficult position.
And as I said last night after the game, we've got an opportunity presented to us tomorrow, and, you know, at this stage of the game, you have to be efficient enough to take advantage of those opportunities and we could make it very difficult on them.
Obviously it's impossible. We came back against San Jose with four straight, but it's tough. It's going to be a pivotal game in the series, not only who's going to win, how long. It's going to be a tough win for us, but hopefully we're up for the task.
Q. Craig, can you elaborate more on some of the comparisons you see between the 1990 team and this team?
COACH MacTAVISH: Well, just the evolution of the team during the scope of the playoffs. Our team has gotten better through our playoff run, and that team got very much better in 1990 to the point where it continued to improve. By the time we get to the finals I was as confident with that team as I was with any of the other teams I played on.
So I knew that that had to happen. Our players knew that that had to happen. We definitely weren't going to compete or win a Stanley Cup playing the way that we finished the year. And, you know, you play against Detroit, obviously we knew we had to dial our game in early or we were going to be eliminated. Because of the level of the competition, it forces you to get better or you go home.
We got better and the goaltending grew and a lot of aspects of our game grew, and now we're a much more formidable team going into Game 2 in these conference finals than we were in Game 1 going into the start of the playoffs.
The goaltender is a pretty good comparable, too. You know, Billy started off slowly in the Winnipeg series and there were a lot of question marks about him. He came on, and answered all those questions much like Rollie's done for us here.
Q. Craig, can you talk about Ales. Were you surprised at how well he responded after getting hit and then coming back and scoring that game winner?
COACH MacTAVISH: No. I've seen him do it before. He's a tough kid and he doesn't get a lot of credit for that. He was rattled. There's not question. That was a tough, tough hit to take. But he's a solid player. And I think he surprises guys with his strength on his skates. His low center of gravity and he's got some good size. But he came back and when he gets mad, he -- he'll finish his checks very aggressively. And you saw that couple shifts later. He had an opportunity to finish a check and he hit a guy pretty good. I can't remember who it was. It was on the right side in our end.
And then, obviously highly, highly skilled player. Capitalized on the chance. Didn't knock the puck out of the air too soon, and, you know, that was a highly skilled play.
Q. You coach this game differently from the point of view of win or lose, to make them pay the price in a lot of areas just to establish the physical thing not make them not want to play the game as much? Does that come into play?
COACH MacTAVISH: I think it comes into it at any stage, whether your 0-0, down 2-0, up 1-0, it's a battle of attrition at this moment. And you want to make sure that, we've talked about it in the previously series, you got to make sure that their players that are playing a lot of minutes are playing tough minutes.
And you know, Niedermayer comes to mind. You're not going to have a lot of opportunities to finish your checks on him because he's so deceptive. But when you do get those opportunities, as Ethan had on the penalty kill in the second period, you've got to finish your checks and make those tough minutes on them. And very much you have to let the opponent know that it's going to take a lot of work and a lot of physical sacrifice to win and beat us.
JAMEY HORAN: Thank you, coach.

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