Penguins-Senators Game Day (Game 1)
Wednesday, 04.14.2010 / 10:29 AM ET / Penguins Report
By Sam Kasan
Sounds heard around the Senators locker room:
On the pressure of playing the defending Stanley Cup champions:
We knew that we were going to have to go through these guys sooner or later. The pressure is on them. We know that everyone is picking them, but we feel confident. We know that it is going to be a tough series, but we believe in ourselves, as well.
On if he expects to play a different Penguins team than what he saw during the regular season:
They beat us, 8-2, in one game, so I don’t know how much they could have stepped it up on that one. But everyone needs to step it up. It doesn’t matter who you are. We still have to play within our systems and without ourselves, but we have to raise our level. I’m sure that’s a little different than what they’re telling those guys. We need guys to step their game up, their level of play, their intensity and their focus. Other than that, we still need to play our game.
On what his players have learned from the previous 8-2 loss to Pittsburgh:
We have played them since then. We felt that we had a strong game in this building here. Following that game, there was a little bit of a wakeup call. There are a lot of things that we did well in that game. We were surprised to lose that bad, but we had a real good first period as far as opportunities, and we just didn’t capitalize on our chances. We turned the puck over way too many times, and they capitalized on it. It’s the same idea for tonight’s game. We have to make sure that we manage the puck better than we did in that game and get pucks in deep. We have to make sure that we eliminate as many opportunities as we possibly can and just try to force them as much as we possibly can.
On playing Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips against Sidney Crosby:
I don’t think that I can say who we want to match up against certain lines. You’ll be able to tell that when you watch the game. We feel confident that we have played these guys well. We’ve had their lines and have been able to go up against them. We know that they are a lot more than a one-line team. If you just strictly focus on one or two guys, then you’re going to get into a lot of trouble. They have good depth up the middle. They have a lot of threats, so we’re not just focusing on one specific individual. Obviously we know that they have two or three elite players that we have to pay attention to.
On coaching against Dan Bylsma in the AHL:
In Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, we always had competitive teams. There were always good games between them and us. I thought that when we played them down in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, they were always prepared. They always worked hard and were disciplined. It’s no different than how he has the team up here playing. We have played them five or six times in the last year. To me, it’s kind of a back and forth battle. We’ve won a few games, and they’ve won a few games. It shows that it is going to be a real good series, and it shows that we’re capable of beating these guys when we play our game. We have to have confidence in ourselves. We’re also very respectful of this club.
On if the team finds Sidney Crosby to be more of a threat since he reached the 50-goal mark:
I don’t think that it’s more to think about. Our focus is going to be the same whether he scored 50 or 48 or 49. He is still one of the best, if not the best, player in the world. We know what he is about, and breaking the 50-goal mark doesn’t change how we’re going to approach things.
On shutting Crosby down during the regular season and going into the playoffs:
We have paid a lot of attention to him obviously. If we can shut him and Malkin down, then that’s a huge part of their team. But Crosby has been having a great year since he scored a little bit more this year, so we’re going to have to work harder to shut him down. It’s never an easy task, and we know that he is going to elevate his game in the playoffs. But it takes a five-man unit to do the job and to help each other out.
On how the Senators are different as a team this year than in previous years:
Our new coach has implemented a great system that we’re all comfortable with. There’s no guess work. We know what we have to do. It’s just a matter of us all committing to do it. We know that it’s going to be a factor in this series. Brian Elliot has obviously done a great job. I think a lot of it is going to be the physical play in the series, too, and making sure that we’re initiating and making it harder on some of the guys.
On if he feels less pressure since the team is playing its first playoff game on the road:
There is pressure on both teams to want to get that first win. They’re going to be fired up, and they’re going to be ready for us. We’re just going to try to score one early, and hopefully we get one. We’ll go from there.
On facing the defending Stanley Cup champions:
No one is really picking us, and that’s fine. We know that we have a great team. We’re confident in our group and what we have to do to beat this team. We know that they are going to elevate their play. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re just focusing on what we have to do to prepare and get ourselves physically and mentally ready.
On the defense being inexperience in the postseason:
I don’t have any concerns. Most of the guys have been here the whole year. They are comfortable with the system we play. They know it inside and out. In the playoffs, everything is a little bit faster. That’s hard to adjust to. For us, starting on the road it is important to have a simple game, get the puck in deep and work ourselves into it.
On getting back into playoff hockey:
It feels great. We missed it last year and only had a couple games the year before against Pittsburgh. There hasn’t been much playoff hockey. It’s great to be back. You work so hard to get here. You want to make sure you do what you can to make this possible.
On losing Alex Kovalev:
You go through injuries. We have people that can step up, different scenarios no matter who is in for us. We know who we have and we’ll make the most of it.
On if it’s a rivalry:
I think it is a rivalry. We play each other for the third time (in the playoffs). Both teams know each other pretty well. We went to the Final. They went there two years in a row, won it last year. Both teams have had success. It’s a fun matchup. They play a fun style and I’m looking forward to the series.
On being back for the playoffs:
I haven’t played against these guys in the playoffs so it’s a little different here this time.
On not changing his game:
I will probably turn it up a notch. You just try to play the game and score more goals than them.
On having knowledge of the Penguins:
I have a good memory. I have a lot of notes. It’s just little things that can help my teammates.
On this being the final postseason for Mellon Arena:
I think it is great for them to move on from this building but it is also a great atmosphere here. Hopefully we will shut it down.
On stopping Crosby:
It is not only shutting him down but it is also the guys that he is with. It’s going to be a challenge but we are looking forward to it.
On why they have had success against Crosby:
I don’t know what the secret is. He is a great player so we are all aware when he is on the ice. He is a dangerous player. We have to key on both him and the guys he is playing with when he has the puck. Everyone has to make sure they have their guy. You have a lot of focus when you are out there against that line.
On the problems that can come with matching lines:
You have to be careful. You can get into some trouble when you are always trying to change. You can get caught with bad changes. We have a lot of confidence no matter who is on the ice. It’s just having that awareness when he is out there to key on him and not allow him to have the puck. We also have to be in his face.
On the change in Crosby’s game:
It’s easy for you guys to say because you have seen him all year but we only get to see him a couple of times. If you look at the stats and the number of goals that he has – he is not afraid to shoot the puck. He is pretty effective at that too. He is a great player and we are looking forward to that challenge.
On a comfort level having played at Mellon Arena in the postseason before:
I am not sure. You get out there and even when you are on the road you use that for excitement. I don’t think guys get nervousness because we are on the road. It is a fun atmosphere to play in. There are a lot of teams that would love to be in our position right now. We are going to go out there and enjoy it and make the most of it.
On feeling comfortable going into this postseason:
Yeah, it was tough in general with the injury and stuff, trying to come back for the playoffs and not feeling well. I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt now, and I’m really looking forward to this experience.
On being comfortable with teammates:
The guys have been unbelievable. We’ve really gelled together. We’ve been able to spend a lot of time with the guys since we got (to Pittsburgh). Being on the road, that helps a lot.
On the balance along the blue line:
We are pretty well balanced back there. We have some guys that can do some damage if there is a breakdown for them defensively in their end. At the same time we have some guys that can bang bodies and block shots in each pairing. I think it’s a nice balance that we have.
On facing Malkin:
That’s a great line so it’s a big responsibility. It’s one that I look forward to.
On the Senators’ playoff inexperience on the blue line:
Experience is an important thing. It’s not the be-all, end-all. We have a great core of guys in here that have been there and been through it. For the guys in here that are less experienced will learn some things off those guys. Hopefully they’ll bring down the panic level a little bit.
Senators goaltender Brian Elliott will make his first postseason start in his career tonight.
Former Penguin Jarkko Ruutu (right) will make his presence felt on the ice for Ottawa.
Sounds heard around the locker room:
On how this year feels different going into the playoffs compared to last year:
For me personally, I was a little bit taken aback by this particular scene last year. Today, when I was told that we were coming up to the podium, it was an exciting thing. I think that there’s an experience level from our team and from myself that makes it feel different. We’ve played 82 games to get to this point. Where we have been at for most of the year, we’ve felt like we were going to get here. We were sure of that. Now it’s different for us going into the season. We’re here now, and we know what this is going to be like. We know how important it is to raise our level of play and get to our game. I think that there is a confidence level and a knowledge level that comes with having experience in the past.
On his game plan to get to the Stanley Cup Finals again this year:
Most of the asking of advice was to get to this point. I think dealing with the team throughout the year – their mentality and some of the obstacles and hills that the 82 regular-season games brought – all of the advice that I sought was up to this point. To me, I think that this is a different ground than dealing with the 82 games. We know that we’re going head-to-head with the Ottawa Senators to go on to the next round. That is as clear as day to our players, and we know that we’re not competing for the Stanley Cup right now. We’re competing to get four wins against the Ottawa Senators. We’re racing forward right now, and they are our only obstacle to moving on for us. That is the Senators, and we have to be real keen on what they’ve been able to do to be successful against us and what they’re going to try to do tonight. The focus for us is to want to win hockey games, and that’s our challenge right now. I think that we are real clear on that.
On if he believes that the team can stay consistent during the playoffs:
I think that our players have been forced to talk about the switch that I’ve read about as a result of our inconsistency in getting 101 points this year. But our players have a real understanding of how they need to play. We have not done that as much as we would have liked. We have not done it against teams like New Jersey in terms of getting success there, but our players know what it takes to win. The question is whether or not we’re going to be able to get to our game and do that in the midst of a team that is going to play hard against us. They’re going to come after us and try to frustrate us. They are a team that is going to get to the offensive zone and play whether or not we can get to our game and execute and focus. We have not put a switch in that room and said that we’re going to wait until the playoffs to turn it on. We’ve been trying to be the best that we can be and get to that. That will be our challenge starting today.
On making changes in the team’s defensive unit:
If you have watched our practice, we have certain pairs, and those pairs are different than we maybe had a few games ago. I think that it’s safe to say that you’ll see that in the game tonight. It may change against different opponents. Probably the best results have come from what we’ve seen today and what you saw in practice for our pairs. That’s what we’re going to do moving forward.
On his experience coaching against Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston in the AHL:
I don’t have any funny stories. We butted heads a few times because of the close proximity in the division that we played in. We also have been in the rookie tournaments up in Kitchener against each other. There are a lot of people on the Ottawa side that I have either played for or coached for or bumped heads with. There is an intense competitor in Cory Clouston. It leads to fiery games, and teams that I’ve been a part of have always butted heads on the ice. There has been a cordial respect off the ice with a new coach coming in as he did into the American league and as young coaches going into the NHL, as well. When we talk off of the ice, it’s out of respect, but I know our teams on the ice and the way that Brian Murray likes to play. We always seem to butt heads on the ice, so it won’t be any different in this series.
On how the team’s forwards can help the defensemen against the Senators:
We’re expecting pressure from them trying to get to our defensemen and with puck retrievals. Going back for pucks are also extremely important. Coming out of the D-zone is going to be very important. Our first forward back in terms of going back for pucks has to work hard to get back. Having those numbers when you go back for the puck is the real key to dealing with pressure even when they make small plays and break out. When the puck comes around the wall, the defense will be there. If we can deal with that pressure and get pucks out, it will minimize the toughness of what they’re trying to do against our defense. It’s not just our defense. Our forwards have a huge responsibility in minimizing their ability to bring that forecheck and physical presence toward our defense.
On starting the playoffs:
We are looking forward to it. I think we are focused on this one. We want to make sure we start this one well.
On his goal-scoring abilities giving Volchenkov and Phillips something to think about:
Hopefully they have to respect my shot. If they are paying a lot of attention to me there is going to be somebody open. That is always the way it has been. They have always focused on me a lot. That is going to leave somebody open at some point.
On guys preparing for the playoffs:
I think that is normal. The guys know what is coming up and they want to prepare the right way. That is going to be up to us. Hopefully we will get healthier and get guys back too. That is something that is going to be up to us.
On patience being a key to the series:
I think in any series patience is going to be important. It’s going to be tight hockey. I think it is about playing the way we need to play. I don’t think we need to come and accept that we will just get the offensive zone because it’s the playoffs. We have to go after them, be physical and play to our strengths. There is no doubt there are not going to be as many chances because it is the playoffs. At the same time, I don’t think we have come this far as a team because we have accepted not producing and not creating things. We understand what the playoffs are about but we still want to get to our game.
On the goaltender being the most important player in the postseason:
It’s a team game. I always said that you win as a team. I’m just one guy.
On feeling the pressure of the postseason:
It’s a little more intense. I think that every game is a big one. It’s tough. We know that both teams will play very hard. There won’t be any easy nights.
On which players he has to look out for on the Ottawa Senators:
I think guys like Alfredsson, Spezza and Fisher have all had great years. Those are the guys who we have to worry about a little bit more.
On how this year feels different going into the playoffs compared to last year:
It’s not much different. We maybe have more experience, but in my mind we’re still the same. We still have some nerves going into it, and we still have to win.
On being more experienced than Ottawa goaltender Brian Elliott:
I remember being in his shoes not too long ago. It’s a little weird, but he has been doing great all year. He’s a good goalie. You can’t rely on the fact that it’s his first playoff experience.
On the Penguins defending the Stanley Cup:
The bottom line is to win, so we have to start from scratch like everybody else. We have to make our way through it.
On the Senators power play without Kovalev:
They are still dangerous. They have guys like Alfredsson and Spezza who can shoot the puck real well. Fisher has had a great year. They are still a dangerous group.
On getting a rush when the postseason begins:
I am a little calmer since my first playoff experience but I still get a little rush.
On playing in April:
The sun is out and we are still playing hockey. Hopefully we can win a couple and get on a little run.
On how the mentality of the team changes as the defending champs:
It doesn’t change much. I think that was a great experience for us to be able to win in the end. Now we have to start from scratch. Everybody is even. Like everybody else we have to win some games.
On if the third line might tip the scales in this playoff series:
I think that our line has to be a momentum line throughout the whole series. I think that we really have to take a page from last year’s playoffs and understand that we got points last year. We spent shifts and periods at a time in the offensive zone, especially here at home.
On attacking Ottawa’s physical defensive unit:
I think that they are the same as anybody else. Obviously they are more physical, but they are still susceptible to be able to get in on the forecheck and create some havoc that way and hang onto the puck down low. You have to be ready for the contact and the physicality from them but also take advantage of it.
On Ottawa only having two players in their defensive group who have played in the postseason:
It may matter in pressure situations and key times, but I think that we have all heard about the playoffs. We all understand the playoffs. It usually brings the best out of everybody, and you can’t expect anything less from their defense even though they don’t have a ton of playoff experience.
On if he feels ready to play tonight:
It’s not for sure yet. I’m going to see this afternoon if I stay symptom-free without headaches, nausea, blurry eyes and dizziness. I have not experienced any of that yesterday. I did some tests yesterday, and everything came back normal. We’ll just monitor today, and we’ll obviously have to monitor going forward, as well. I just think that if I get a chance to play tonight, then obviously Stu will keep a close side and make sure that those symptoms stay away.
On staying consistent in the playoffs:
I don’t think that, during the regular season, we were as consistent as we wanted to be. I don’t think that we played our game consistently throughout the year. If you look at games that were bounce-back games for us – we came out of the Olympic break and wanted to solidify our playoff spot. We played our best hockey, and we all know that it’s there. It’s just a matter of making sure that we get to it.
On if it matters that Elliot has not yet played in the playoffs:
We played against Varlamov last year, and he hadn’t played. It didn’t stop or inhibit him from playing well. I think that we want to make it as uncomfortable as possible. You need to put a lot of traffic at the net, which makes it tough for him to see the puck. You’re shooting a lot of pucks and making him deal with a lot of action.
On if there is extra pressure being the Stanley Cup champions:
Yes and no. There was extra pressure during the year because every team you play against comes ready to play. That brings a little pressure but defending champions during the playoffs, I think that’s a good thing. The Ottawa Senators know we’re the defending champions but it’s playoff time and they’ve come ready to play too.
On getting around their big D:
It’s not going around them. It’s going to be initiating. They are going to want to hit guys like Sid and Malkin. We know that. If they play in the defensive zone then it’s going to be hard for them to hit them. If we put the puck behind their D, initiate and go hit them, it’s going to be harder for them to hit us.
On if anyone can be the hero in the playoffs:
There is always going to be unsung heroes in the playoffs. That’s the beauty of it. Guys come to play, guys come to work. Sometimes it goes your way. You need your third and fourth lines to step up sometimes. I think we have that.
On seeing the Senators as a tough draw:
It’s two different teams. We don’t play the same way. I think they have two superstar-type forwards on each line. I think it is pretty even everywhere. It is going to be a battle out there. Whoever is going to bring the most intensity is going to win the game.
On the mindset entering the postseason as the defending champs:
We have a lot of a pressure, obviously. We want to meet expectations this year. We start against a good team so it is going to be a good test. They know us pretty well. It is going to be a great challenge for us.
Head coach Dan Bylsma gave an update on Matt Cooke's and Chris Kunitz's playing status for tonight's game. He was non-committal on stating if either will play tonight. Cooke was hurt during a fight against Atlanta on April 10 when his head hit the ice. Kunitz has been out for the last four days with an undisclosed injury.
"Matt Cooke couldn't play tonight if he has any symptoms," Bylsma said. "If he can't pass the test, get on the ice, practice and do the base-line testing then he can't play. He's had to pass all those things in order to play tonight. He was at practice this morning after yesterday's practice, so he passed that test as well. That would be his evaluation.
"Chris is a situation where he has to be able to play his game. That weighs into the factor on whether he will play tonight or not."
Head coach Dan Bylsma, who looked much more relaxed in his press conferences than he did last year, started his post-skate press conference by stating that there was a cell phone found in the seats at Mellon Arena during practice. Bylsma alerted the media just in case they had lost their phone.
"There was a cell phone phone found in the media area from practice," Bylsma said. "I will leave it up here."
As he was stating this, the phone began to ring, which led to a comical scene.
"And you're getting a call from 617-921....," Bylsma joked as he put the phone on the conference table.
Chris Kunitz's (left) status for the game tonight is unknown. Brooks Orpik (right) will play
The players have taken the ice for Wednesday's morning skate. The forward combinations for Pittsburgh were:
Chris Kunitz and Eric Godard took turns rotating with Malkin's line. Kunitz has missed the last four games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury. His status for the game is unknown.