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June 11, 2006

Craig MacTavish


Q. What is going through your mind when you see or you hear all the Hurricanes last night reacting the way they did to the officiating, feeling they got robbed last night in the game, how do you think that will carry into Game 4?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: I don't know. It's normally a squeaky wheel gets the grease league at times. We're certainly hopeful that that's not going to be the case.
Were they okay with the quick whistle on Ethan's disallowed goal? Were they okay with that one? I don't know. I am not going to get into it too much.

Q. What was the reason for getting that first line out there so often in the first couple of shifts? Looked like you doubled them two or three times early in the first couple of shifts. On the power play you guys said you were going to make subtle adjustments. What did you guys do differently to be more effective on the penalty kill?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: I don't want to get into too much on our tactics on the penalty kill. I will just leave it with we got away from the staples of good penalty killing and we had that pretty much throughout the playoffs, and we got running around in Game 2 and a lot of times a lot of those situations it was a product of the score and we were trying to -- we were taking short cuts, trying to take unnecessary chances, trying to get a goal and it ended up in the back of the net too often in Game 2.
Just you know, just trying to get -- want to get your best players out there as much as you can and you know, get the opportunity to do that. Wanted to make sure that they started the game. I knew definitely Brind'Amour's line was going to be starting, but you know, just try and get them some ice time. They are under a lot of scrutiny to score, so give them some opportunity.

Q. Talking about bringing in Dick Tarnstrom, your thoughts on that. How do you think he played last night?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: I thought he was exceptional. I thought he played terrific, moved the puck very well, good composure with the puck, and that was my sense putting him in that he may help our power play. I think that his style of play maybe fits this series a little bit more than it would have in the Anaheim series or the San Jose series.

Q. You adjusted for Game 3 by getting Peca's line out against Brind'Amour's line quite a bit. They were pretty physical on them, controlled faceoffs. What do you think Carolina will do that to counteract that? Secondly, you said the squeaky wheel gets the grease, you said earlier as far as the some type of league it is, is that part of coaching, that gamesmanship? You guys sent a tape to the league about the faceoffs after Game 1 and now they are complaining after Game 3?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: No, we didn't send the tape to the league. The league is here. (LAUGHTER). They'd have to reroute it back here to actually receive it.

Q. That was a question after Game 1 how Brind'Amour was taking faceoffs, is that gamesmanship part of all of this?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: I think the league does a very good job of -- Colin Campbell Mike Murphy they have got a lot of experience and they have got a lot of savvy and I think they do a good job separating the legitimate complaints from the illegitimate complaints. They maybe don't do quite a good a job with our team because we're one of the few teams or maybe the only team that of at all teams have legitimate complaints. (LAUGHTER).
And we try and get that through to them as best we can. But, no, I mean, it's ironic really when you think about the -- we weren't all that happy with the quick whistle on Ethan's goal, that was a big -- didn't cost us but quite often those things do in terms of goaltender interference. Our goaltender is out of the series right now, so they charged the net in that situation, so, I mean, I don't really want to go down whether their complaints are legitimate or not, but I think you get the drift that we could make a case for them not having been screwed by the officials up until this point in the series. We could make it if we need to.

Q. And the adjustments you guys made against Brind'Amour?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: I am not afraid of that matchup and obviously you know, I am not afraid of that matchup from a defensive standpoint in terms of Hork, I don't think that -- and we talked about it after Game 2. I wasn't as though Brind'Amour's line was dominating Hork's line offensively. Got a couple of goals in the first game, so I am not afraid of that matchup from a defensive standpoint, but you also want to make sure that you know, I don't think there's any secret Brind'Amour is their best defensive centerman. He may be as good a defensive centerman as there is in the league and maybe the best a two-way centerman as there is in the league. Offensively if you can give Hork's line a little bit of a reprieve from that matchup, then we'll try and do it.

Q. The Human Highlight Film gave you another clip last night. What did Ryan's goal rank among all those beautiful goals and are you a connoisseur, are you learning to differentiate --
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: They are all beautiful to me and that one was particularly satisfying in the way that we got it. He's proven to be a difficult goaltender to beat with the first shot, so we have to find ways. And it was a pretty innocuous play really with, looked like a two-on-three with them having another guy back, coming back quickly, so it's just a product of a willingness of Ryan to go to the net. And as I said last night, it's not the first time he's been in that situation, and he knew what to do when he got there. He got a good break off the, I don't know whether the puck was deflected or it hit Ward's pad but he knew what to do with it. He was due a break. He missed a few chances in Game 1, and those are the good playoff goals, good Ryan Smyth playoff goal.

Q. Did you feel things start to shift in that San Jose series and can you draw on that now that you are trying to dig out of the same situation having experienced it as something other than, oh, an Oiler team did it seven years ago, this team did it two rounds ago, how much does that count?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: That helps. You know, the game against San Jose Game 3 was a really difficult game to win as well. That game last night was a very difficult game to win. In a lot of ways they paralleled one another, both those games. We got off to a great start against San Jose, really took the game to them, I mean, to a greater extent than we did last night against Carolina, we had the edge in play for the first half of the game, I thought, so in that respect, the games paralleled one another.
You know, it's easy to draw on those experiences but we got to make sure that we go out there with a similar mindset and get the game tomorrow because really that's, as we all know, it's a very important game tomorrow, and it gets us right back into the series on level terms and maybe has them in a position where they have got to react and change a few things and that's always healthy.

Q. Before you came in here today this has been kind of the comedy store in here on the subject of Ryan Smyth. Ethan started it by saying, he has got a horrible shot, a terrible stick, a slap shot my five-year-old has better one; Pronger said it's a muffin, and on and on it went. Would you like to contribute?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: I think I will take the fifth on that one. Wasn't it Howie Meeker that said, he had the great line, "Can't skate, can't hit, can't shoot, can't handle the puck, what a hockey player. " (Laughs).
And you know, Ryan, he's got 38 goals or 36 or 37 goals and you know where they are coming from and he's pretty hard to stop when he gets in those areas. But at times you can see Gary Bettman's name on the puck when he shoots it. (LAUGHTER).
That's it, though. That's the end. I will apologize to Ryan for that.

Q. You spoke about Jussi being a great story, but a guy who sat for three months, you could not easily have lost him but maybe he would have thought, I am not getting a chance, I will do what I have to do, but maybe his mind might have been somewhere else. What can you say about maybe the character of him to still be there even though he wasn't playing for that long and how it panned out last night?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: Well, there aren't a lot of things that can poison a room quicker than an irritated goaltender and a guy with a bad attitude in the room and especially our room, we're a team more so, I think, than any other team that really thrives on energy and good positive atmosphere and it would have been easy for he or Ty, maybe not easy, but you know, a lot of goalies would bring a poor attitude and not a workmanlike attitude to the rink and he never did any of that. And he really has the respect of the players because of that mental toughness. If he just chose, you know, attitude is a choice and he made the choice that he was going to have a good, positive attitude regardless of what the situation was. Recognize as a coach you can say, hey, just control the things you can control. You can't control whether I am going to put you in or who I am going to play, you just control how hard you work. It's easy to say that as a coach and it's easy advice to give but much tougher advice to accept and adopt. And he's done that.
And the other thing is, I think, you get in a situation mentally where you just go, you know, I have put up with this all year long now I have got an opportunity to play, whatever happens, happens, I am just going to go out and just play the game, I am not going to get bothered by the pressure, what else could go wrong. He had a disappointing year, certainly the last half, and he wasn't afforded an opportunity to get his game back the last half, so I am sure he's going, I am just going to go play. I am sure that's the best attitude and that's held him in good stead the first couple of games.
As I have said before the first minute I told him he was playing and he was calm, confident, and that was good to see.

Q. Entering the series what did you think of Eric Staal? You have done a very good job on him this series, two assists what are you doing with him?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: I was very impressed with him. Hadn't seen a lot of him, outside of TV, obviously. But really saw a player that's developing through the course of these playoffs and a player that - there was one instance in Buffalo it was late in the game, and the play was coming out of the Carolina end and he swung behind the net and you get one of those Messier-type looks where you just demand the puck, "Give me the puck and I am going to make a difference," and he had an end-to-end rush that almost tied the game for Carolina and at that point, I knew this guy was going to be -- was quite a player.
I mean, statistics aside you have got to have that mentality that you are going to be a difference maker and he had that. He's played well in this series. Very good transporter of the puck. He's maybe the guy we worry about most carrying the puck through the neutral zone and we have to do a good job slowing him down otherwise he's a handful for the defense. He can shoot the puck. He's physical. It's quite clear he's the whole package.

Q. There's an expression, lead, follow or get out of the way, it doesn't seem applicable to your team. Leadership skills are deep and broadly spread. How does that assist you and how do you interact with that, how does it help you foster the right kind of attitude in your room?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: A lot of these players have been here for a long time and they are similar traits and characteristics that the Oilers have held in high esteem for a long time. We have a lot of guys that come from other organizations, guys like Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios, Jason Smith, that have great character, great selflessness, definitely a physical edge, and they are all traits that we hold in high esteem and characteristics we hold in high esteem, and you know, your best players have to be your best examples and your leaders have to be your best examples, otherwise you get a double standard and that's lethal for coaches. We're fortunate that we have those types of players embody what the Oilers' work ethic is all about. It's invaluable in the organization to have those types of players.

Q. Since you have been here for a while you were able to see the difference, but could you tell us a bit about talk a bit about the impact of the new CBA on your success and also do you see the Oilers as the poster boys of that new economic reality?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: We have been talking about it for a few years prior to the new CBA so we knew that the window of opportunity was going to be short once we did get the new deal, and fortunately for us, not as quickly as what we would have anticipated, but nevertheless we are in the position we are today because of that, obviously everybody knows that. The roll-back equals Chris Pronger pretty much, and we all know how important he is to the success of our team, so it's been big. Kevin is a better guy to ask that question to, but I know for sure, because of that, we have better players in that room.

Q. Ales Hemsky passes up shots from pretty good looks, last night he shoots from nowhere turns into that goal around Smyth. Can you tell us about trying to get the most out of this guy and try to have him evolve into maybe how good he might be one day?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: I will say I thought through the first two games that he was the best forward, the most dangerous forward offensively on either team. I thought Game 2 he was -- I mean we lose the game 5-0, but he was spectacular and right from the start he was creating stuff. He didn't produce the offense but he made some spectacular rushes.
So I think that he has got the mentality too, that the pressure of the Finals, it's not going to bother him at all. He thrives under that type of limelight. He's not a wallflower by any stretch of the imagination, he's not going to shrink with the pressure; he gets better as the game gets on the line. He's scored huge goals for us. He's won us three or four games late in the last minute or the last minute and a half, so he's shooting the puck more. I see it in practice, I see it in the games, he's on top of his game. He's on a level that I don't think he's played at before in his career now, couldn't come at a better time.

Q. You talked about Jussi's good attitude, stylistically, what did you like most about his game last night? And you were for many years a very good faceoff man, you guys were super in the circle last night. Is there an advantage when it comes to faceoffs at home or is it more of just a flow thing?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: A flow thing? Big advantage at home, it forces -- the visiting team has to ground and pause with his stick on the ice and that's a big advantage and certainly one that they were exploiting on us in Carolina. It's good to see that we have been able to turn the table here a little bit at home, but faceoffs are so critical to the success and it was -- it was no small matter that we won the faceoff battle and won the game, our first game of the series.
Jussi stylistically he's a very athletic goalie, he's an athletic guy, he handles the puck well. He's quick out of the net in terms of getting to the rims, which helps on your penalty killing, sets the puck well, and I thought he was real aggressive last night and really challenged the shooters well, and that's all a by-product of confidence and it's good to see when the goalies are making those good decisions and getting out on top of the crease, that he's a confident goaltender and he gave us, I think he -- I know he impressed everyone last night with the way he played under tough circumstances.

Q. It starting to look a lot like a "Boys On The Bus" reunion around here. What does it mean to you as a coach not so much a team made of some of greatest names of the game, but as a coach to see Mark Messier and Paul Coffey here supporting the team and what does it speaks of the franchise?
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: I think it speaks to loyalty of the franchise and a lot of that all stems from Kevin and it flows down. But I think players in the locker room, current players, definitely respect that bond that the former Oilers had and they are creating that bond themselves and I think there's a real parallel there. It's always good to see Mess. Mess is like, he played hockey but he has got a rock star persona to him. It's always great to see him. He inspires us just by being around him, and certainly, I am sure he has that impact on the players, so it's a big, big plus to have him around as well.
The players got a chance to meet Paul when we retired his jersey and saw the type of past he had for the game and the class at which he conducted himself not only as a player but when he was back here and that's a good message for the players, they understand that very well.

Q. Can you talk about your power play.
COACH CRAIG MACTAVISH: No. (Laughs) Absolutely not. Other than to say that we have had a pretty good power play throughout these playoffs. We have won the special team game in every series that we have won. Likely going to have to do it in this one. We need more from our power play. I have never seen a group of players more committed or the coach, Simmer, is a terrific tactician on the power play and I have never seen a group of guys so committed to turning it around. There were some things that we're going to have to handle better than we have. Hats off to Carolina's penalty killing. Up until last night they were winning a lot of the faceoffs which really takes you out of your setup. They are putting a lot of pressure on us. They have identified our threats on our power play very well. And we're a work in progress in terms of trying to get better and in terms of trying to counteract that.

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