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June 15, 2006
EDMONTON, ALBERTA: Practice Day
Q. Craig, can you go back to when you told Jussi that he was going to be your guy, and do you recall what you said to him? And further to that, have you sort of spoken to him since, or do you just leave him alone? What is been your take on that?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: I haven't -- I don't direct the goalies at all. I leave that to Pete Peters, but we have conversations. You know, I ask him how he's doing, and obviously he's playing very well for us. The conversation was after the -- after Game 1 in Carolina, when I told him that -- I thought it was important that they knew quickly who was playing and, you know, I was really impressed from how calm he was from the outset.
I have said that before and he was calm, cool, collected. He was ready for it. Welcomed it, where a lot -- I think, you know, could have gone the other way where he was a little intimidated by it, but that's not his nature. He doesn't get too rattled about too much. He came in. He had the right mentality and played well.
Q. A couple of your players frankly said that you are just a better coach than you used to be, that have been with you for a while. Do you think that's true? And what do you think are the things you have improved on over the years?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: Well, I think everybody is better from the experience that you derive in your profession, so hopefully you always are learning on-the-job. I think that's true with everybody in any profession. I don't know, I am not the one to evaluate myself. We'll let the next couple of games do that.
Q. Could you talk about Fernando Pisani a little bit? And in the context, have you seen a guy who is thought of as a solid two-way player get as hot as Fernando has at such a key time, the Playoffs?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: I can't really remember anything. I said it before Stephane Matteau, he didn't score as prolifically, but he scored timely goals back in '94, so that might be -- Fernie is a better player than Stephane. No offense to Stephane. He had a brilliant playoff at that time. But fernie is, you know, he's played through some injury through this series, and I think he's back feeling a little better.
Obviously, it's shown in his play the last couple of games. He's been very good, but he's a very complete player and doesn't need too many chances to get it in the back of the net. Scored some huge goals for us obviously in this run, much like Stephane Matteau, I guess in 1994. He can get them a variety of different ways. He's not really pigeonholed one way, good one-shot scorer. He can deke. He goes to the net well. He can beat you outside.
And I mean, everybody who knows Fernando knows the type of work ethic he puts into his game and the professionalism he brings to his game. So we're all very happy for him, and for us, because we're all the benefactors of it.
Q. Craig, you appeared to be the better skating club in the third period and overtime last night and wear them out. Is it now the after effects of a short series against Anaheim and the retreat of New York paying off for your team?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: I don't know. I think that story is to be written still, and we will know a lot more Saturday night after the game. I know from Carolina's perspective, they played a very good game. I think one of the things -- maybe not lost in it, but it was a terrific hockey game.
It was played at the highest level end to end, lots of entertainment, lots of goals, lots of drama. Just, you know, it was the best game that I can remember, and we played maybe as good a game as we have played in these Playoffs. But it was a great game to be a part of. Obviously we're really liking it because we came out on the winning end of it. But it was a terrifically entertaining game from Carolina's perspective.
It can be difficult with all the distractions to focus in on the game when you are anticipating something you have worked so hard for. I have been there before, and it can be a little distracting. We will know Saturday night. You know, motivation has the league -- the league is so even right now that even a little motivational edge. You know, we were -- we had a little bit of a motivational edge because we had one chance and one chance only.
So a lot of times when the teams are very close, like they are now, that can be enough to swing the game. We had lots -- they had lots of opportunities to win it in the third period, certainly the last shift, they hit the post once in the third period. So you got to be a little lucky, too.
I liked the way that we played, but we'll see. I am sure we'll get a better game out of them on Saturday.
Q. Are you seeing more competitiveness out of Jussi? Looks kind of looks like Dwayne in the net now going right after pucks now, whereas in the regular season he was a pretty unflappable guy, technical guy. The save he made with his glove when Ray hit the post and then he just locked it away in the air. Are you seeing that now or --
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: I see more aggressiveness in his game, and I -- I hesitate to even discuss it right now because of -- from a superstitious standpoint. But, you know, outside -- other than to say we're liking what we're seeing a lot out of him. He had a terrific save in the second period.
On the goal mouth pass when he got across with the Pat, I mean, it was world beater save. Has made a number of those. He looks to be more aggressive and I think that's a product of confidence and I just think it's an overall mentality that he just grabbed the situation when it came to him and he was going to, hey, whatever happens, happens, I am going to go play the game. I am not going to play timid. I am not going to play tentative. I am going to go in there I am going to play confident, that's what he's done from the moment he stepped foot in the net.
Q. What have you seen in Torres' development, how much has he set the tone for you guys physically?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: Well, he was, I mean, he was really good last night, punished a lot of guys, and as I said last night after the game, he's done that at times during the Playoffs. He did it critical shift in Detroit in Game 2. He did it against Michalek in Game 2 in San Jose, scored a big goal, so there's -- he had his legs last night. He was absolutely flying right from the drop of the puck and it's clear that we were all looking at a guy that wants to win the Stanley Cup. Like a lot of younger players he understands the game a lot more than he used to. He's finding ways to put himself in his areas of strength of his game and that's all mental -- the mental part of the game, trying to give yourself a chance to put yourself in your areas of strength, and I mean, he was inspiring to watch him play last night for sure.
Q. In your mind when did you get momentum back in this series?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: Oh, I think last night at third period we had a pretty good period. We just -- like we talked about it before, this series for us has been about regret and remorse, a little bit and we really felt like we hadn't played our best hockey and we had our legs last night and we played better and I think a lot of our regret can be attributed to Carolina's fine positional play and the way that they are playing and last night we played better but we'll see. That's the course of the series and now it's up to us to continue that and up to Carolina to answer back and crank their game up another notch and that's what makes it unpredictable and exciting.
Q. It looks like Weight sustained an injury and Aaron Ward perhaps, do you think you have damaged them physically more than they have you?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: Well, it's hard to say, really. It's hard to say at that because of the fact Roli is still limping around and that's a pretty significant injury for us, so from that respect you can't really say that we have hurt them more than they have hurt us. I think we're starting to catch up. We'll see how badly hurt those players are, but everybody -- in time of year everybody is banged up and bruised and it's just a matter of what you can endure and what you can play with and what you can play through. But injuries are always a big big factor in determining the outcome in the Finals and they will continue to be.
Q. Can you talk about, I mean this team has been written off at least twice in this series early with Roli and then after you are down 3-1, yet these guys seem to almost it's like they are writing their own story: .
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: Yeah, we're off, we're back, we're in, we're out. (Laughs). That's the nature of it. We'll -- we just -- we had to frankly play better than we had and it didn't matter whether Roli was hurt, Jussi has come in and he's played great, given us a chance to win every game and it was just a case of us trying to get our overall team game back at a level that it had been at. And your game is always good when you are winning and when you are losing it's, you know, you got to give the credit to the opposition for exposing weakness. If you want to win you have got to overcome those weaknesses and start to expose the opposition's weakness. It is just the nature of the Playoffs. But you know, it's just we're cutting this awfully close and we did that through the first two games, you know, Game 1, I talk about regret, but Game 1 is a poster child for that. And this time of year, you can't leave a game on the table and I thought we left one there in Game 1 and we're, as I said right after the game, especially after Game 2, the margin of error is fine and we're going to have to be near perfect to win. I still believe that. We're going to have to play our two best games in Game 6 and Game 7 to win this. I do have more hope today that we're capable of it than I did two days ago? Absolutely.
But we'll see. It's going to be great drama Saturday night. It's going to be a heck of a hockey game.
Q. Following up to the question, with the series now down two elimination games, if Weight is out and if Ward is out, how much does that change the complexion of the series now that it's down to one or two games?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: I think it remains to be seen. I mean, Tverdovsky is a pretty good player that they will put in. Obviously they know their personnel a lot better than we do. So they value Ward. Ward has played well in this series and he'd be a big, big absence, but Tverdovsky is not chop liver either. He's a good solid NHL player. I mean, maybe LaRose goes in for Dougie if Dougie comes out, he has got an element of his game that's of value. He's played here in these Finals, so you never know, it will be dependent how the players play that come in, but I mean, obviously when you miss those types of players that are out of your lineup, there is, you know, there's -- there's opportunity there, if nothing else, there's opportunity. Opportunity for them and opportunity for us.
Q. We have seen Raffi's, his Tasmanian devil stuff all season long but he's ramped it up. Can you go back at all to his motivation? One player it's always good to leave extra curricular stuff outside the rink and concentrate on the game?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: I don't know how to answer that. I don't know what you are referring to, but he's a pro for us and has been throughout the year. Plays hard and we won't -- I said this last night, we won't be in this position without him. He's been a big, big reason that we have advanced this far as we have to this point and the thing that I saw the other night was a guy that was, you know, showing everybody that he's going to be a winner. And that's good evolution for a young player like that to step up the way that he did last night was inspiring for everybody and when you get young players that are going through their first Stanley Cup playoff lengthy run and still have the energy and the mental toughness to play the type of game that he played last night, it's impressive. And we just need two more out of him.
Q. Do you monitor Pronger's time? Concern yourself or is he just one of these freaks of nature and you just let him go?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: I monitor his time and I reprimand Charlie if it's anything under 30 minutes (Laughter).
Q. Talk about Matt Greene and the decision to put him back in. I know that you sat him for almost 18 minutes or something like that after the two penalties, just showing the confidence to put him back in and kind of what he's been through this year adjusting to the new NHL?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: Yeah, Charlie handles the defense, I don't give him direction. He and I have conversations about what we want to do and what he wants to do in certain situations and who he wants his defense to play against in certain situations. So Charlie, that's a question better ask Charlie, he manages the defense's ice time and from Mats's perspective, he got a couple of penalties early in the game and that was almost indicative of when we put him in for his first game I think it was against Detroit, we put him in against Detroit and he took, I think three minors that night. The thing about Matt when I watch the penalties that he's taking, they don't look like they are severe infractions, but he has got a look of intensity and desperation on his face and I think if he eliminates that look of desperation, that he will get less penalties, but he's intense, he's fired up and he looks like he will do whatever he has to do to stop the guy. I think that triggers a reaction in the officials. When you look at the penalty, he's just out there playing good aggressive hockey and they are all pretty borderline so I am not going to be too critical of Mats for those taking those penalties. I will say one thing he will be one heckuva hockey player, he's a whole package and we're getting lots out of him right now and I think Charlie, I mean, just for his own, the first two penalties he took we ended up digging it out of the back of our net. He's a tough guy mentally and physically, but that's difficult for a young guy to overcome and sometimes that can affect how he plays the rest of the game. I thought Charlie did a good job in managing that.
Q. With the win, you obviously were playing Russian Roulette with their power play and almost took the bullet because of it and how do you address that or do you address that?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: Well, absolutely. We'll go over their special teams and we have, I think we tied the first Game 1-1 in power play goals, but we have yet to win that battle in the game and we're going to have to in the next two games. I think if Carolina can come in here tomorrow and win the special team game it's going to be a tough, tough game for us to win. I think there were 19 thousand people in that building that thought it was over the minute the referees hand went up on Steve Staios and everybody thought that Fernando Pisani was the happiest guy in the building, he wasn't, it was Steve Staios who was the happiest guy in the building. Great footage and great clip of him. He's such a warrior and wants to win so desperately and that that would have been a tough 30 seconds for him in that box and that was a good feeling to get the shorthander. But we're going to analyze their power play again. We have done a better job. I think they are one for 11 here in our building in the two games that we have played so we have done a little bit better job. Their power play is definitely more prolific statistically in their own building and we're hoping that trend continues tomorrow and then stops after Game 6.
Q. If the rotation would have been different and Markkanen would have been the guy coming off the bench in Game 1 and maybe he didn't win the game, would he even be here today doing what he is?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: You get a sense from, you know, again in concert with talking to Pete Peters and we watched the goalies a fair bit in practice try and get a sense of where they are in case we do need one of them and obviously we did. But it just looked like I am not discounting the fact that Ty couldn't do the job, but it just looked like Jussi was sharper in practice and you know, so even though -- it really didn't have a lot of bearing on it that Ty -- I thought he played all right when he went in. He had the mishandle, it was unfortunate, bad play at a bad time, but --
Q. Why did you not just make him your backup the whole way and just go with that, what was your thinking there?
COACH CRAIG MacTAVISH: My thinking there was that it was close. It was close enough that I wanted to keep him both feeling a part of it in case we needed either one of them or both of them and I didn't want to ostracize one guy that had been here the whole year, just on a marginal feel, on our part. So they both worked hard. I thought it was important to keep them both in the loop mentally. It's good to get them in the dressing room. Jussi looked sharper in practice. Ty was coming off three wins in a row, so, it wasn't like you were comparing again Floyd Whitney and an NHL caliber goalie, they are both guys that can make a case for themselves.
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