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June 16, 2006

Craig MacTavish


Q. How do you read your team? Talking to them today there seems like there's a real sense of excitement more than anything else. Are we getting that right?
COACH MacTAVISH: I would hope so. I would hope it's exciting right now. I mean, there's an energy there. There would be an energy in Carolina's room I would imagine today after the disappointment of losing the game at home in Game 5.
But you got to be excited about the chance. Still have to win two games, but we have put ourselves in this position, so I feel like the energy is really good. And it has been, really, throughout these Playoffs. We're in pretty good shape health-wise. I don't think there are too many guys to beat up outside of Roli, so there should be an energy there.

Q. The media likes to subscribe to that theory that the first goalie off the ice at practice is your starter for the next game. If that's the case, Roloson is your starter for Game 6.
COACH MacTAVISH: Never say never. If it goes nine he's a possibility (Laughter) And the way the looks right now it could very well be nine.

Q. What did it means to have him out there skating before practice?
COACH MacTAVISH: I don't think too much outside of the fact that Kenny Lowe came running in and says he has got a really good shot. I guess he just wanted to give it a try. I guess you never know, but very, very, very doubtful.

Q. If you would give three explanations why the Oilers got this far this year, what would those be?
COACH MacTAVISH: Goaltending, timely scoring, team effort, full team effort, a lot of buy-in from all our guys. Everybody committed.

Q. How have you achieved this? What have you done as a coach to make this happen?
COACH MacTAVISH: Picked up Roloson at the deadline. Brilliant coaching ploy.
No, it seems like -- I mean, obviously -- outside of the obvious, where fundamentally you are a sound team and you do a lot of things well on the ice. Outside of that, the obviousness of that, it's a situation where we have gotten really big goals at really opportune times.
That's just a product of perseverance, I guess, and we have had lots of those and everybody is committed. Everybody has played to the best of their ability, and certainly everybody's has bought into what we're trying to do and we have grown in confidence. It's nothing more than that.

Q. The Chris Pronger that you have seen in these Playoffs, does that remind you of the Pronger that won the Hart Trophy? And was that the Pronger that you were expecting when you dealt for him?
COACH MacTAVISH: I guess yes and no would be the answer to that question. We don't see him that much. The year that he won the Hart Trophy, obviously he was plus 80 or something that year or. It was ridiculous.
We would see him, you know, four, five, or six times during the course of the year, so played with him a little bit when I was in St. Louis, but didn't know to the extent that he could dominate a game. I knew he was a terrific player, but, you know, this would have been at the top of my expectations to see the way that he plays the game each and every night.
And, you know, he's just not once waived. A lot of times guys that play that much, and over the course of the year and go through a grueling two months stretch of my energy, high pressure hockey, you can see that it starts to grate on them mentally and physically.
And the last round, round and a half, I have not seen that. Just the opposite. He's brought more energy, and that's the one thing that I did not have an answer for. Whether that grind of a lengthy playoff run would grate on him, and certainly it hasn't. He's been very impressive in that respect, and takes care of himself. Eats right. Trains very well and very diligently. Always working out. A good lesson for everybody.
I think he's -- outside of his individual performance, just having him around had a pretty good residual benefit to the rest of our players, especially our young players, that see the professionalism that he brings to the game. And that's not just game night. That's off days, the way he eats, and it's been good benefit from that respect to everybody.
I guess that's what great players do. That's what separates guys from being great players. And being part of championship teams is they make players around them better, and only the real greats have that ability. There's probably a handful of guys in the league, maybe less than that, that have that ability, and he's one of them.

Q. How did you try to use the additional day off in between games to your advantage?
COACH MacTAVISH: Just got some rest. Ideally I think we would prefer to have played today. When you are coming off a pretty good game and, you know, there's some question marks in terms of the health of the Hurricanes, some of the Hurricane players, you know, ideally it would have been maybe suitable for us to play today. Where the last time we came off this break we had lost two and we really needed the extra day.
But we got some rest yesterday and everybody feels better today, and it will make the game tomorrow that much more energetic and that much better. Normally you don't see games played in the Finals at that pace that we saw in Game 5 just because of the wear and tear. But, you know, with the extra day spaced here and there, whether it's Dora the Explorer, whatever it is really adds to the energy level of the players, and that adds to the entertainment value for sure.

Q. Been a while since Jussi's won back-to-back games. You need him to win three in a row. What's in his game right now that tells you he's in a zone?
COACH MacTAVISH: Solid consistent performance. There's no reason I said that after -- I don't know whether it was after Game 3 or maybe it was after Game 4 -- but I don't have a lot of questions about our goaltending right now, and that's because he came in and played very well and has given us good, consistent play.
He has given us an opportunity to win every night. I really have the sense that he's going to look after that part of the game, and if we look after the rest we're going to have some success.

Q. We make a big deal about momentum, or try to. But in this series, it seems like whatever happened in the last game is out the door when the puck drops in the next game. Every game has its own identity. Is that typical, or is this series distinctive in that respect?
COACH MacTAVISH: I think momentum has still played a pretty important -- been a pretty important factor. You try and stop momentum, or the other team gaining momentum, by making adjustments, and I think it's up to us to maintain that momentum now going forward into the -- we obviously want to make period one an extension of Game 5. That's our goal: To continue the momentum that we created through period 3 and the overtime and continue that type of play going into period one.
Carolina obviously is going to try and stop that momentum and turn it around. So it's still very important and you know, I can't really remember too many instances where there were so many questions to be answered going into a game like it's just for me it's -- I can't wait for the game, because there are so many questions to be answered in that game. You always say -- and not to get too corny or carried away -- but hockey molds character and reveals character, and you are going to see it. It's going to be an open book on display in the next two games and really the bottom line is whose team exhibits the most of it and the smarts and poise quite clearly, we have got two pretty evenly matched teams right now so it's going to come down to energy, discipline, sacrifice, all those things that really make the game fun to be a part of.

Q. In coaching there's so much said about X's and Os. I wondered how you felt what Charlie did with Matt and how that could help him that night next game, next season, just that piece of coaching that Charlie showed?
COACH MacTAVISH: It gives a young player confidence that he can go out there and, you know, I don't even want to say make a mistake, because it was -- I questioned the calls, but I guess the bottom line is and we have been down this road before.
You can't put yourself in that position and, you know, those penalties were a by-product of a guy wanting to maybe do a little bit too much if -- I don't -- I mean, maybe that's even too harsh, but Matt, the one thing about him and knowing his character I haven't had him very long, but he's a Jason Smith type player. There's some players that they make that mistake, you have to be hard on him, because they are not willing to accept the responsibility of it or they are not going to be hard on themselves or they don't think it's a problem, but knowing Matt, he's a guy that you have to help through that because he's going to be too hard on himself and feel too badly about it. Charlie, he reads that very well and I think that the vote of confidence for him will go a long way -- Matt is not even a better player down the road, but more confident player tomorrow night.

Q. Can you assess how Todd Harvey he did in Game 4, and how that translates into tomorrow night's game?
COACH MacTAVISH: That's the devious way of asking whether he's going to be in the lineup tomorrow night, isn't it? So possibly. (Laughs).
I thought he played very well. He played six minutes, but he was a real obvious 6 minutes. He was out there very noticeable 6 minutes. And had two chances, two good chances to score, and I thought he played very well.
So he's quite possible for Game 6.

Q. Talk about Michael Peca's line and just kind of the versatility they seem to give you guys that can kill penalties, guys that can shut -- they seem to be able to do almost anything?
COACH MacTAVISH: I think if you asked for similarities with a guy like Fernando Pisani, but the real parallel is the job that Pecs is doing there, and I don't know that the game has seen a guy or we haven't seen a guy like that. He resembles the job that Esa Tikkanen used to do for us in terms of being a very diligent checker and a guy that has been good both ends of ice and making the opposition pay in the offensive zone. Very capable of making and Tikkanen, I mean, he's getting to the forecheck and doing his damage, so it's been a tremendously important line for us throughout these Playoffs.
I have a lot of confidence in their ability, not only to shut down whoever they are playing against, but also to end up on the score sheet as well. So that's a powerful combination and one we won't be here without.

Q. In talking to the players a lot of them are way too close to the focus of game by game to understand or appreciate what the level of hockey has been like. Are you far enough detached that you can appreciate how good it is and maybe how good it's been throughout the Playoffs and what causes that?
COACH MacTAVISH: Well, you always play well for a reason and you know, in the execution, the physical energy that you have, and there's always a reason why you are playing well. You just -- as a coach you really, maybe you can recognize that a little bit more than you do as a player because we watch it a couple of times at least. As a coach, from my perspective, I just want us to play our best game. I want us to go out there and, you know, if we went out there and got a bad break on the penalty kill, instead of winning the game we lost the game, I wouldn't have would have been okay with that because I really thought we played our best game. That's all you can ask of your players is to get their game to that top level and the rest has to take care of itself.
It's hockey. The best team and the team that plays best doesn't always win and we put ourselves in a position where it's precarious being down 3 to 1, but on the other hand, if we get our game to that level and maybe exceed it by a little bit as a coach you are always asking for more, regardless of what you get you are trying to get more and more. As a coach, a coaching staff, we really feel like if we can get our game to that level that it was at and Carolina was right there with us. We played very well and we get the game to over time and win in over time.
But you have to take a certain amount of satisfaction when you are watching the game like that, just the quality of the play, and the intensity because it's, you know, win or lose it's good to be associated with that level of play.

Q. You were a part of a pretty memorable Game 6 in 1994. Do you have any guarantees tonight?
COACH MacTAVISH: Yeah -- no. (Laughs) absolutely not. I -- I -- never given those things any credence whatsoever.

Q. (Inaudible)?
COACH MacTAVISH: I think it was more a product of -- it wasn't Messier, just kind of went along with a journalist headline story. And I think it was more of that, but, you know, who is the guy that made the Detroit Pistons player, Rasheed Wallace, yeah, so, it's ---for me as player -- I will tell you one thing it didn't make Mark play any harder like he knew he was going to play his rearend off in that game whether he guaranteed or not, but it never -- I don't buy that. I mean, you just -- he can't control. It's a game of hockey you can't control it if you guarantee anything.

Q. Game 1 in Detroit, how long ago and far away does that seem now?
COACH MacTAVISH: You know what, not that far. Well, a lot easier being on the coaching end of it than the playing end of it so you'd have to ask the players, it's been -- it certainly less physically taxing when you are coaching and I remember what it's like as a player when you get to this point, you are fairly beat up, but our players, it's -- they haven't been -- we didn't make the Playoffs the year before, and you know, we have had our days here and there where we have gotten some rest and we haven't been too beat up, so I think in reading them that they are still very fresh and you know, it doesn't seem like it's been a long, long trail. Seems pretty fresh right now.

End of FastScripts...

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