June 9, 1999
DALLAS, TEXAS: Practice Day
Q. Do you feel as though you won the game but you didn't get the result?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Not really. To be honest with you we watched Buffalo and I have said this before: We watched Buffalo play a lot. I don't think yesterday's game is anything different. I am sure if you would phone Jacques Martin today, he feels the same way, that they are a team like us on the road. You hang around long enough, if the other team doesn't create a big enough gap then you give yourself a chance to come back. I think that we played two great periods and we really started the third period with a real high level of determination but I thought in the third period really from about the 12-minute mark on we got conservative. We tried to protect a lead and I think that really was to their benefit. They have been in that familiar territory. Your best players hang you together so that your team can get up and running and I think Hasek is their best player and he hung them together so they can get up and running and once they got up and running it was competitive. I thought that we really came back in the overtime and played great in the overtime and when you are in overtime it is such a crapshoot, there is no justice; usually that happens in overtime. One team, the team that loses, usually thinks they can win it all the time there. But I thought we just -- Once you start to, at least with our team, once we start to back off a little bit, then we start breaking even in the critical areas on the ice, both front and nets, dots to boards, once we start breaking even, then we fall out of what our strengths are because that is where we are a really strong group. I thought in the last half of the third period we are just 50/50 in those areas and for us to win, it is not good enough.
Q. You were not punishing them along the boards as you wanted to?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I thought we did a good job of controlling dots to boards in the first two periods and really did a good job the first five shifts of the third period. But after that was pretty even. They were able to take advantage of things that way. I thought that, you know, we got a little bit concerned that maybe we weren't going to score another goal. So that we were going to have to have this thing hold up and then I thought we backed off and when we stopped skating and we started to play the chip-out game; then you are on your heals a little bit and I thought we got on our heals a little bit.
Q. Did you lack intensity last night?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No, I thought our first, probably 45, 46 minutes were really sound, really solid, a lot of good things happened. They had to take some penalty because we were out-battling them in the areas. We just -- maybe we didn't make them pay. I think the biggest difference was that we didn't make them change their game by getting that second goal or that third goal which would have created probably a little bit better gap for us. But as far as intensity, I thought for the first game of a series where two teams really don't know each other, we do a little bit now, but I thought it was a really hard played game by both sides.
Q. Does it force you guys now to think more about shot selection, play selection going into (inaudible)--
KEN HITCHCOCK: He had an easy night. I mean, I don't care how many shots you had, he had an easy night. His night was not filled with second and third opportunities. I thought that we had a lot of first shots, but at this time when you get down to this level where you have got goaltenders like Roy and Belfour and Joseph (phonetic) and Hasek, they are going to make all those first saves. I don't care if it is just you and him. I mean, we had our shooter and him probably 15 times yesterday, but those type of goaltenders are going to make those saves. I think we have to make life a lot more difficult for him and I don't mean to the point where we are running him. I don't mean that at all. What I mean is that we have to get in a position where the loose pucks in and around that area, we have to own. That is our game. We are not a first-shots team. We had more first shot opportunities yesterday than we have had in probably any game in the Playoffs. But it doesn't matter. He is going to make a lot of those saves. We need to get those second and third ones and get them out of position if we are going to score like any good goaltender.
Q. You have got a catch-22 there, though because they are hooking and holding, they are preventing you from getting those second shots on the powerplay.
KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't think it is anything different than -- to me that -- I said this at the start of this series, these two teams that are playing right now are the best two teams in the League that contest the blue lines, critical areas on the ice. Their defensemen do a great job in front of their goaltender. Our defensemen do a great job in front of our goaltender. But both teams contest the blue lines as good as any team in the National Hockey League and those are the critical areas during the course of a game. Like I said, we really did a good job of controlling it for almost two-and-a-half periods but when we backed off, then they started to control. You look at the first goal they scored, they controlled the boards. They controlled the slot area. And the second goal they scored they controlled the front of our net. They controlled our defensemen in front of the net and it was a great goal by Primeau, so those are the contested areas. Both teams have tremendous passion. To defend in those areas it is going to take work. You are not going to score unless you go there and you are not going to score unless you win those puck fights.
Q. Can you compare the Game 1 loss to Colorado and the Game 1 loss last night, how your team felt.....
KEN HITCHCOCK: The Colorado game was a little discouraging because that is probably for -- until that stage that was as well as we had played all Playoffs. I think we felt like we played okay yesterday but I also feel our team recognizes that for us to beat this team, we are going to have to change our attitude for 60 minutes. I mean, that we are now playing a team that plays identical to us. They recognize the importance of those important areas like we do. It is going to be quite a fight in those areas. It will be interesting to watch those areas as things move on.
Q. Well, are you disappointed, angry that your team would need a wakeup call in the Stanley Cup Finals?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't know that it is a wakeup call. If you haven't followed our team all year then what happened yesterday and the closeness of the game, that is our team. I mean, we could play the same tomorrow and win in overtime and who knows, but that is our team. We have been on this right side of one-goal games all year, but it has been a very, very fine line all year. The only distance that we have created has been in the series as it's moved along. But I am sure the three teams that we have knocked out all feel like they might be here too based on playing us. It is just that we have had this ability to find a way to win. I got a feeling that that is the same attitude that Buffalo has because they don't overwhelm anybody. They don't out-play anybody. They just hang in the -- fight longer than you do. That is what is going to make for, I think, a very competitive and very interesting series.
Q. What was the -- I know you scored (inaudible) didn't do as well, why? (inaudible) --
KEN HITCHCOCK: We had 21 scoring chances on the powerplay which is a lot for us. I know we didn't score, but it is very difficult to criticize our powerplay with the opportunities. We didn't finish on the powerplay which is what you want to do but we had a ton of chances and if we can continue to get that type of puck movement and that type of precision then we would be happy. Our powerplay for the last four games has been better than it has been in any of the Playoffs and if we can continue on that same path, we are going to be pretty happy.
Q. As the game wore on did you feel (inaudible) --
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think that we are a diagonal group. We aren't a group that just pulls it back to the point and hammers it. We are a group that really relies on seams and we found those seams. We found in the two powerplays that we were given in the overtime, we found great seams. I mean, we have scored 20 goals like that, those cross-ice passes to Nieuwendyk or Modano or to Hull or Lehtinen. We have scored a ton of goals like that all year and that is who we are. We have got people who can make those plays so we hopefully take advantage of them.
Q. You really don't want to go to Buffalo now -- (inaudible) --
KEN HITCHCOCK: You might have an easy time. But we are in a desperate situation, trust me. Our players recognize it. I think the desperate situation is always there in Game 2 for the home team either to create gap or get back in it. I think our team recognizes that as well as we played yesterday, we have another gear we have to go to beat this team because they are as desperate as we are. I am sure they gained some confidence by the way they played in the third period so we are going to have to take that back. But I think our team recognizes that the areas that we controlled at the start of the game, we have to control those areas for the full 60 minutes to be able to beat this team because if you give up a little bit -- I think the one thing that you don't recognize playing Buffalo is that they have a number of skilled players who can score goals. They have got people on their fourth lines who are 30 goal scorers, guys like Stu Barnes and they use a guy like Primeau who is a powerplay guy who is a fourth-line player. They have got a number of people who are capable of scoring goals if given the opportunity. That is what I said: They hang in the fight long enough. They don't need a lot of chances to score. They can create them just based on their skill. So we have to be able to control that tempo a little bit longer for our level of play to continue at that high end.
Q. Are you concerned at all about any disciplinary action as far as the head butt --
KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't even know what you are talking about.
Q. The head butt on Varada?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't even know what you are talking about. You would have to talk to the League. They must have one guy around here somewhere.
Q. What it is about the Stars that -- (inaudible) --
KEN HITCHCOCK: We got a group that really likes to be together. We have got a group that really likes to win. We have got a group that has hung together for a number of years now for two or three years, and they just feel as a team that this is as good as it gets. This is the great time of year. It is a terrific group of people together and I think that we feel like we want to just keep it going forever if we can. We recognize that somebody in this series has got to win and lose, but we feel that our group, when we face adversity we pull even tighter together and we are in that situation right now. I think, as well as we played yesterday, I think you are going to see us play better tomorrow.
Q. Before the series started you said you didn't think that Buffalo -- do you think you challenged them at all last night?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think we did. I think we gave them a push. I think that they were on their heals for a long time but they hung in there. What was it, 25 to 9, after two periods but they hung in there. That is what good teams are made of. I think what Lindy has done with that team is he has developed an identity of sticking together. I think that they have gotten through some adverse situations like we have and he has helped that team hang together so that when you get into this critical time, that you don't blow apart and disintegrate and that is exactly what happened. Their goalie was good for two periods. He hung the group together; then their team started to take over. That is a sign of a good team. They will be a tough nut to crack if we are going to crack them, real tough.
Q. 70 shots if it had to (inaudible) do you have a goal set on --
KEN HITCHCOCK: Not on the total shots but I think what we have to do is we really have to be a lot better on second and third. I think if we can get into that neighborhood of 15 and to 20 second and third shots then that is when our offense starts to create problems. But I think it is more controlling the critical areas. That is when we seem to get on the roll. We have to be a little more determined for a longer period of time to do that stuff.
Q. More desperate when (inaudible) --
KEN HITCHCOCK: You mean like are we going to get swept?
Q. Is that a concern?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Not really. If it happens, it happens, but I am not going to worry about it. That is a few days away. I am just worried about tomorrow.
Q. Do you have the lineup for tomorrow?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Yeah, we have got some people that will come in tomorrow that we will look at doing. Don't put your notes in, because I am not telling you because I am the coach and you are just the writer.
Q. Any chance you might put Hatcher in front of the net --
KEN HITCHCOCK: That is going to be looked at tomorrow. I think we will make a couple of changes. If we -- referees are fortunate enough to give us some more powerplays tomorrow.
Q. There was an inference on the other side that -- (inaudible) --
KEN HITCHCOCK: I have heard that from Dixon since he has been ten years old, so it doesn't surprise me. As a matter of fact I heard it from his father before Dixon was born, so I heard it from Dixon Senior too, so it was the same stuff. Actually Dixon was great at it when he was in minor hockey so he must be teaching some of our players.
Q. Play for you or against you?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Against and around and I have known the family for a long time.
Q. Do you think that is getting into the heads of the referees at all? They were very cautious in the faceoff circles (inaudible) wanted to make them think about the faceoffs, ended up being 52-48 --
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think our faceoff percentages were what they were. I think the one thing that Buffalo did better than us though, the pucks that were up for grabs, they won more of those than we did, those loose puck battles in and around the centericeman, they won a lot more of those. They were quicker on those pucks and they were able to take advantage of that as the game wore on. They had some offensive opportunities even as we won the draw. They were quicker off the wall and into the circle than we were. It is something that as this series moves along we are going to have to address because in the third period they took advantage twice and created scoring opportunities from pucks that we had behind us already.
Q. Do you think the media chatting gets into the heads --
KEN HITCHCOCK: Media?
Q. Using the media to talk to the officials?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think sometimes, but I mean, if I was them and I wasn't a 50% faceoff team, I would be trying everything I could, especially that we are in the 60s, I would be doing everything I could to try to gain some type of advantage or at least get it in somebody's head that you are cheating. But to say that Brian Skrudland cheats is a jab, really, and it is a personal thing between Lindy and Brian that goes a long ways back that they were teammates -- not teammates together, but coach/player and they both are similar personalities. So it is really Lindy just saying hello to Brian is all it is.
Q. Looking in peoples' faces you were the only one that was smiling out there --
KEN HITCHCOCK: You guys got to go and work. I mean, I am going for coffee right after this. So I am done.
Q. With all the pressure, all the scrutiny (inaudible). . . .
KEN HITCHCOCK: This is what I do for a living and I love it. But there is other areas that are going on in this world that are a little bit more important than what I am doing right now. I just feel I have got to take advantage of this because it might never happen again. I need to enjoy it. I was told by a lot of coaches that you are so consumed by wins and losses your whole career, when you come to this stage you need to just look around and enjoy what is happening. Just because you have a good team doesn't guarantee that you are ever going to be here again. I think the other thing is that the pressure, as coaches - as coaches we can handle the pressure of competition; the pressure of preparation; the pressure of the game, and of talking to you people unless it is a guy like say Bob McKenzie (phonetic) or a guy like that which is tough on anybody (laughter). It is the area -- it is the area of expectations and responsibility that is really hard. For instance, from our standpoint, the series against Edmonton was very emotionally draining for everybody because it is -- this is what happens if we go out in the first round. It is very hard on you. When you have high expectations the debris surrounding the Edmonton series was very difficult, personally and professionally for me and for the coaches because you are thinking, boy, if we don't win this am I going to get fired; what is the media in Dallas going to say. But when you get here you are what you are. The game is the focus; once you get passed all this stuff and we can do this. But the pressure of expectations and responsibility diminishes because you have got two great teams going at it. I know everybody said if we were the 7th speed then all the pressure is on Dallas. But the players don't feel like that. They just look at this thing as four wins for a great opportunity, but they also have the ability to look back and say, look, we have accomplished a lot to get here and to give ourselves this opportunity and I think the coaches feel the same way. So we have been told by everybody, players that have won and players that have played in this thing, don't take it for granted, go out to enjoy it and have fun with it because, you know, it might never come back.
KEN HITCHCOCK: It hit a stick by a defenseman just on the corner of the thing and went the other way a little bit, yeah, it did. That is unfortunate because it was, you know, it was one of those plays where we had already moved up the ice assuming that the rim was going to be down there and Hatch got a heel of his stick hooked on the ice, those things happen.
Q. Any chance (inaudible) --
KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't want to make humorous of this but I am not going to tell Buffalo what is coming into our lineup tomorrow. I told everybody changes are going to be made. We are going to make changes -- changes are going to be made. Hrkac is ready to play; Plante is ready to play so we are going to be looking at making some changes within our own lineup to help us. I think the one thing that we found against Buffalo is that they have more than two lines that can score. They really get offensive production throughout our lineup. I think as a team you have to be prepared to match that throughout your lineup. So we have got some people who are offensive people that we probably look at leaning on them.
Q. Despite the fact that he hasn't played for you for a while (inaudible) --
KEN HITCHCOCK: He has brought a high level of speed and determination. We are pretty deep there, though, and when Hrkac got hurt, Hrkac was a great player for us and has been all year. When he got hurt, Carbonneau happened to come back, we kept Skrudland and Carbonneau in the lineup and we kept winning so we didn't want to change. I think right now we are in a position where we have a chance to make some changes here and additions, so take advantage of it. I think the other thing is with older players, we played a very emotional search game series, very emotional six game series and it might be a chance to get some young legs in there and quickness. If we are smart we will take advantage of it.
Q. This time of year it is more a player's -- (inaudible)?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I like the way our team interacts. I think you just it is just fun for coaches to be around the players right now and to watch them be together as a group and stick together through adversity and like today coming to -- coming here today, watching our level of -- nobody's head was down. Everybody was determined that we could play better; we could be better. I think when you see that stuff you really admire what your team has gone through and the sacrifices. I think when you get to this level at this time of year, it is amazing what it takes to get to this level, the sacrifice and the constant uplifting that you have to go through as a group to keep your competitive spirits alive. I think as a coach you really admire when your group is tight like ours is. You don't over coach. You really stay -- you really stay out of the X's and O's right now. You are really into kind of keeping the ship as level as you can. The X's and O's really don't become much of a factor. They do at the start of a series when you are preparing, but not as the series moves on. You are really dealing with matchups and emotional issues.
Q. When you play a team that seems to be downplaying -- (inaudible) we have seen Dominik getting ahead in other Playoffs is that part --
KEN HITCHCOCK: I think you got to remember we just finished 7 games against Patrick and we finished six games against Grant Fuhr. We know what a goaltender can do. We expect Ed Belfour to steal games for us and he has done that already. To me, our team all year has learned a lesson from two years ago with Curtis Joseph, that if you think in terms that the goaltender beats you, you don't give the other team credit. I think anybody that says to Buffalo that their goaltender won the game, they don't -- they are not looking at the other 19 guys that played. Those 19 guys have a game plan. They are not in this area just because of one player. He is a big part of their team, but they got other people that have to step up and they did yesterday. Our players recognize that. He is a big part, but he is not the only part. I think from our standpoint, he is also the guy, if we are going to win, we got to get by him and we did that against Roy, we did that against Fuhr, and we are going to have to do it against Hasek.
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