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June 18, 2006

Craig MacTavish


Q. Can you talk about I guess the confidence level of the club right now since that Game 5 win fairly dominant display in 6 and what it means, if anything, going into the best of one here?
COACH MacTAVISH: Attention right now is high to the detailed parts of the game. I think we have developed a game plan that has been successful the last couple of games. We're a confident group going into Game 7.
But you know, it's going to be -- it's quite clear the series -- any time you are in a 7-game series you are faced with two pretty evenly matched teams, and you know, I expect them to be at the top of their game and we're going to have to be at the top of our game tomorrow to have a chance and again, it's hockey.
Normally the team that plays best wins, but not always. As I said last night, in Game 7, your goal has to be that you dominate the opposition to the point that you take good goaltending, bad breaks, all that stuff and factor that out of the equation, and that will be our game plan going in, as I am sure it will be theirs.
And I'd be surprised if one team dominates the other at that level, but that's our focus and that's our goal.

Q. Being that this series has gone the distance, how glad are you that you had that nice break before the series again? Physically do you feel that you have been able to soften them up the last few games --
COACH MacTAVISH: I think yes and no. It's hard to evaluate where the opposition is in terms of a fatigue and physical standpoint.
I think we have gotten better as the -- the break probably hurts early, but it's helping us now, and we got to continue to make that an advantage and we want to control the pace of the game. We want to jam the pace up every chance we get, and that has been our mantra from the start of the series.
We had a good game last night, but they had a good game in Game 2 here, so, again, not nervous about it, but really anxiously awaiting it. I mean, I am a fan of the game too and I can't wait to see the whole thing unfold. I said that going into Game 6, a lot of questions to be answered and the same is true going into Game 7 here tonight.
It's going to be a heckuva game.

Q. You don't have a real veteran team but you have been able to ride the roller coaster all throughout the Playoffs. Then again in this series losing Roli, coming back from 3-1, comment on the makeup of your team that allows you to do that?
COACH MacTAVISH: It seems like we may not seem like we have a lot of experience, but generally every game that we play is played with a focus of a 7th game of a Stanley Cup. We're factory tested tough in the regular season because we know going into Game 10 if we drop that game that that game may be the game that we circle after Game 82 as the game that's kept us out.
So we've really had and developed a game-to-game mentality. Maybe that's hurt us in the regular season to a certain standpoint, but I think it's really helping us now because we're able to focus on each game as it comes.
It's just a by-product of or an extension of the regular season, so we have Dwayne, a lot of experience in that respect. We don't make too many mistakes out of inexperience, and that's going to have to be true tomorrow.

Q. What separates you guys from other sort of lower seeded underdog teams that a lot of times they might be good for one upset, you know, maybe two, but then almost always reality catches up. But you guys have been able to sustain it. What separates you from the teams that haven't been able to sustain it?
COACH MacTAVISH: Well, I think, I mean, that's a long answer to that question. But I think a lot of it stems from having players that have developed through the course of these Playoffs, young players that are really came into their own and we have got at least three or four of those guys that are really developing into bona fide star NHL players.
We have had, in my estimation, through the first three series the best goaltending. We have had, you know, I think through the -- they'd probably disagree with me, but I think we have had the best player through four series. So those things, when you are starting to get those things coming together at the same time, then it can lead you to the type of run that we have been on.

Q. Why didn't it happen during the regular season? Did you guys just underachieve, or --
COACH MacTAVISH: Quite possibly. You haven't followed us all year, though, have you? So we all have our reasons, I guess, why we're in the situation we are, or were in the end of the year. I am not going to go into those right now, but you know, we knew we had a much better team, put it that way.

Q. Oftentimes a coach is going to say that in a Game 7 it comes down to the players and what they do on the ice. They have a decisive edge 7 game experience, Carolina. Is this a case that maybe you and Kevin and some of the others on your staff have had in a Game 7 can help your club?
COACH MacTAVISH: I just don't sense the experience on our part is going to play any type of factor. You can try and pass on things, and we do through the course of these Playoffs, pass on some of the experiences. You can backup some of the things that you saw through practical experience and I think that helps to a certain degree.
But I don't think we're -- I don't get the sense that we're nervous for this game. And, you know, so I don't think inexperience is going to -- their experience edge is going to be a prominent factor.

Q. How do you explain what Fernando Pisani has been able to do in the Playoffs? Did you see this progression during the regular season, or is he just in like a John Drews (phonetic) crowd right now?
COACH MacTAVISH: He's one of those players that I mentioned. He's 28, but relatively young in terms of his NHL experience, and he has got his game to another level, a level that it's never been at before.
And, I mean, he's always had a lot of skill, and now he's just putting the confidence and the skill element, he has got chemistry with Michael and Raffi, that's a big part of it. I said last night that line is like the kid line in 1990. They have just got a chemistry. They may never have it together again, but they have got it now, and now is the most important time.
It takes more than one player to have success on a line at this level. They are bringing something, each guy is a major contributor to the other guy's success.

Q. Earlier in the series you equated your team's physical player ability to finish the check to body blows in a boxing match, and that late in the fight it wears down your opponent. Do you think that's happened at all?
COACH MacTAVISH: Well, it's hard to determine. We're trying to inflict as much damage really as we can, and you know, it may be having an effect. It's got an effect on Doug Weight right now, his inability to play. That was a product of a good solid hit, so I mean, everybody makes their injuries, but most players, including ours, are all playing with bumps and bruises right now.
But the physical element has always been an area of our game that we focus on, and we want everybody finishing checks, as I am sure they do. Raffi got out of the pen in Game 5 and he did some major damage. I mean, he's fast, he's explosive and strong on his skates, and when he hits you it hurts. So I think he's done some damage.

Q. Given the history of this franchise, what would it means for players like Ryan Smyth and Jason and Ethan Moreau to write their own piece of history they have always lived under the shadow of the old Oilers?
COACH MacTAVISH: That's a good conversation to have Tuesday, I hope. But, you know, we just -- I mean, all those things and I have said this to the players before, the best thing about a Stanley Cup is the reflection of it after you win, and you know, it's tremendously hard as we all know and the players know firsthand how difficult it is physically and I have a sense of that so I know where they are at mentally and physically right now.
But so the beauty of winning a Stanley Cup is the reflection that you have and those guys, I mean it would mean a lot to me to see those players win the Cup here.

Q. I am sure there is only one trophy you care about. You are talking about Pronger being the best player for four rounds, and you talked about Pisani, what he's done. Some of us have to fill out Conn Smythe ballots. Do you want to chew on that for a minute?
COACH MacTAVISH: Other than -- not other than just reassess what I said: I feel like Pronger is the guy, but, I mean, there's an argument for Fernando. I don't want to -- I mean, taking into consideration that we win the game, I mean, that's a big part of it obviously, got to get your team -- there's still questions to be answered, I guess, going into Game 7. But for me, I think Pronger has been the best player in each of the series that he's played in.

Q. How surprised were you to see Erik Cole in the lineup yesterday? Give me your thoughts on him coming back.
COACH MacTAVISH: When I saw him out in warmup I thought there's a chance obviously, and you know, when I got the score sheet I thought you know, he was going to be a factor. I mean, I know that one thing for sure is that they know their own personnel. They won't be putting him in a situation that -- nor would he put himself in that situation.
So you have to assume he's healthy and ready to go, and he played a pretty good game last night. I am sure he's feeling a little stiff and sore this morning, but having not played a game in so long. But when you are practicing -- and he's been practicing for what, three or four weeks -- when you are practicing and you get a sense as a player, and certainly a guy that has his experience, that you can play. You are physically ready to play.
Now are you -- I mean, you are mentally ready but are you physically ready? I am sure he felt that way otherwise he wouldn't have had that discussion. Now he's got a game under his belt. He played really well.

Q. Mac, can you jut talk about the defensive play five-on-five and special teams in this series? Seems like you have really turned things in your favor by cutting down the shots against -- even in the game Dwayne went out the shots were low. Seems to be a factor at this point.
COACH MacTAVISH: We're playing better, but we're not getting led down the garden path by that either. They are going to come hard tomorrow. Like it's going to be and all out blitz by both teams, and we have seen them when they are playing at the top of their game. We have certainly have a healthy respect for the damage they can do when they are playing at that level.
I know for sure tomorrow they are getting to that level. It's going to be up to us to combat it. They are going to put a lot of rubber at Jussi, and I am sure that's going to be a part of their game plan tomorrow that they are going to try and get pucks and bodies to the net, and we have to do as good a job as we did in Game 6 trying to stop that and put pressure on them.
It's going to be -- should be a good one.

Q. Can you compare the day after a Game 4 comes up a tough loss at home difficult travel, facing a 3-1 deficit that most teams don't come back to, compared to a Game 6 --
COACH MacTAVISH: We have really handled those, and we talked about it early in the Detroit series that we weren't going to get disabled by any disappointment and we weren't going to get so euphoric that it got in the way of preparation for the next game.
So one of the reasons that we're here is we have been able to park that stuff the minute the game ends. And, yeah, I mean, you are dejected for five minutes when you lose and you are happy and excited for five minutes when you win. But right from that point forward, you part that, go over the video, go through your game plans, start the preparation for the -- preparation for the next game. That's one of the reasons that we're here.

Q. Two-part question. In the new NHL, so-called new NHL, a lot of talk about skill level -- and rightfully so. I am not suggesting for a moment that you guys don't have skill. Would it be fair to say over the last couple of games that you have almost taken the game out to the alley in terms of guys like Moreau and Torres and Harvey? That hockey is still a game that when you break it down, that it is ultimately a physical game? And the second part of the question is for the people that would say in the new NHL that it's soft and that it not as hard as it used to be. You played in hard hockey what would be your response to that now?
COACH MacTAVISH: Well, it's always been a physical game, and it still continues to be. And I think everybody that's watched the series has seen the hits and I mean, the question going in with the new rules is that going to take away from the physical part of the game that's so important to the game and quite clearly the answer is no.
I mean, there's been a lot of great hits. Everybody has a role to play on our hockey team, and same with Carolina. It's just everybody has a role to play. The physical guys, you have got to play within yourself and you have got to fulfill the role that you are set out to do and your physical guys have to finish checks and your skilled guys which we have a number of, and have played very well the last little while. Guys like Ales Hemsky, Jarret Stoll, Shawn Horcoff Ryan Smyth, those guys and the back end has been good.
Tarnstrom played very well with Matt Green, so our game plan in this series was to try and control it physically as best we can. We didn't have a lot of success first two games, but seemingly we're getting there. Now the challenge for us tomorrow will be to bring the physical play and control the physical play again tomorrow.
But at the same time trying to stay out of the box. I like the way they let us play to a certain degree last game the officials; hopefully that will be the same case in Game 7.

Q. Would you like to see those two guys back as officials?
COACH MacTAVISH: I am too smart to answer that. (Laughter)

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