Penguins Report: Practice 4/29/10
Thursday, 04.29.2010 / 11:00 AM ET / Penguins Report
By Sam Kasan
Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin was available for a media conference at Montreal's hotel on Thursday. Here are some of the highlights from what he had to say:
On shutting down the Pittsburgh power play:
There is no doubt the Penguins have a tremendous power play. When you look at the people that make that power play go it is going to be a big challenge for our team to try to neutralize them. The best way to do that is to stay out of the penalty box.
On the momentum of their three-game winning streak overcoming the lack of rest:
I think whatever you are given that you deal with the facts. We had a day off today. We will have a meeting this evening to get the group thinking about this series. We will skate tomorrow morning and be ready to compete tomorrow night. We know this is a big challenge. We are here to compete. We know it’s going to be a tremendous series.
On the team not being so dependant on Halak:
For sure there are certain areas of our game where we need to improve. I think we are going to address that with our team and hopefully we are better in those areas tomorrow night.
On Pittsburgh playing similar to Washington:
I think they are similar in their attack in that they have the firepower that Washington has. They may have different nuances or strategies in the offensive zone, but it remains that they are a very offensive hockey team.
On the confidence level of the Canadiens:
I think when you break it down over the season I think we should be confident about our defensive ability. We were 11th in the NHL this year in terms of goals-against average. When you break down the special teams – that is another area where we have some strengths. We were a team that was decimated by injuries to key people and we still found ways to stay in the battle. We were able to get into the tournament on the last game of the season and faced the best team in the NHL. Now we have the challenge of playing the Stanley Cup champions.
On blocking a lot of shots:
I think it is two-fold. One, I think it is a credit to the players. I felt that our leaders, a lot of our players that had been there before, were a big part of leading our team in Games 5-7. A lot of that was blocking shots. I think that was a big factor.
On the health of Jaroslav Spacek:
We don’t have an update. He is still the same. We will see how he is tomorrow. It is a day-to-day situation.
The Penguins traveling practice team, known as the "Black Aces," played a little soccer while the Big Penguins practiced on the ice Southpointe.
On what the team has learned from Ottawa’s ability to block shots in the first round:
I think that after Game 5 and halfway through Game 6, we were still talking about how (Ottawa) did a good job at blocking shots. We’re going to face a similar situation when and if we can get to the offensive zone and play there. There are certain aspects involving what you do in the offensive zone to deter teams from blocking shots and getting by what they do with their strength and exporting the fact that they are all looking to block shots. Part of it is execution. Part of it is having guys away from the puck. That’s something that we tried to adjust in the Ottawa series and will continue to try to work on if it plays the factor in the next series. Montreal showed that they were going to block shots, not just by their defensemen but by their forwards, as well. There are some adjustments execution-wise that we can make and need to make if that’s going to be a factor. When you play a goaltender that is playing great, you can’t rely on one shot to beat him, and you can’t have a mentality that every shot that you shoot is going to be the one that gets by him. You have to play a certain way and work to get pucks in and around the crease and work to get opportunities after that initial shot. That’s something that we did better in Game 6 in Ottawa. It’s something that we’ll have to work on if we get that zone time and they continue to block shots like they have been.
On Montreal having little time to rest in between series:
It’s always something that we’ll talk about after series or after Game 1 to see how that played out. There are advantages to staying in the rhythm of playing and getting right back into it. I could give you a few history examples of situations where a team got done playing and got right back into the series against a difficult opponent and played well. Rest works both ways, as well. We played a physical series. We could have used the rest, and we hopefully did with our days off and the way that we practiced. We also have to be real conscious that we’re playing a team that is going to be really confident right now in the way that they played and the way that their system worked for them and how they won hockey games against a really good team. They’ll be in that playoff mode of playing every other day, and they will be ready to go on Friday. We have to maybe ramp up to get to that point. We’ll tell you after the series exactly how that panned out, but we needed rest. We got some rest. We now have to be focused on our start and getting to our game against a team that did a really good job of beating a pretty tough opponent.
On playing in Montreal during the postseason:
I think that Montreal is unique, and we have and will be aware of some of the situations in their building. I don’t know if I heard a louder building on TV than I heard in the Montreal game during Game 6, just through the TV. That’ll be a challenge with the fans and the media attention, some of our players being from Montreal. That would be different if it were another city. Each round has its own media attention and situations. This one is a little bit different. We’ll talk about it and try to be aware of it. We’ll do everything we can to be focused on the game, where we’re playing and how we need to play regardless of how loud a building may be or what city we are playing in.
On Crosby’s media workload:
We as a staff talk, long before the playoffs start, about our accessibility to the media for all our players. Sidney has a unique spot on our team for how he is accessible to the media. We talk about as we go through the different rounds. It changes with different opponents. I don’t think you’ll see a change in the way we approach things at this point. We certainly are aware of the situations we are getting in with all our players. This series will change for some of our guys close to Montreal, because of proximity and because of the city. We will take that into consideration. It’ll be much the same but it has already been give consideration.
Forward Tyler Kennedy was back at practice Thursday at Southpointe for the first time since leaving Game 4 of the quarterfinals with a lower body injury.
"It was nice to get back out there for sure," he said. "You know it’s always painful watching the team so it was nice to be back."
Despite being back on the ice, Kennedy was not ready to give a time frame for his possible return to the lineup, although he said that the decision will be up to the team's coaching and training staff.
"I think it is just waiting to get back out there," he said. "I think at this time of the year I think I know what I have to do to get back and be ready. I’m just trying to be ready."
Sounds heard around the locker room:
On beating a trapping team and teams that play a similar style:
I guess the biggest trapping team we play is New Jersey. I think the first few games there we were a bit stubborn. We tried to find ways around it and found out the hard way that there is no point in forcing things. It only makes it more difficult. I think we realized it takes hard work, a lot of time in the offensive zone and chipping pucks. Those are a lot of things that seem really simple but things that you really have to enforce. They may not show right away but as the game moves on they can.
On Montreal blocking a lot of shots:
I think that is something they are committed to. You can’t change a whole lot you still have to just shoot. If you have enough time then you can fake a shot or get them to commit or whatever the case is. You have to remember too, when guys commit that much to blocking shots, if they don’t block it then that leaves space behind them too. We have to focus on getting our shots through. I think last series was a great thing to go through for us because we had to face similar things with Ottawa trying to block shots too. That will be a challenge again here in this series.
On the difference between teams giving up a lot of shots and good scoring chances:
I think no matter how many shots you get it is important to shoot the puck. I don’t think you can get too caught up in blocking shots and evaluating your game on shots. You have to realize that those tough areas don’t change whether you have 20 shots or 50 – you try to get to those tough areas. You always have to get there to score.
On the emotions in this matchup:
I think the playoffs are always emotional. This just adds to it. I have never played Montreal in the playoffs but I can imagine what it is like. I haven’t been there yet so I can’t tell you. I would think it is going to be pretty emotional. Watching the games on TV they play pretty hard at home. We saw a lot of big starts up in Ottawa. Their crowd was behind them so we expect much of the same.
On the rest and how it benefited him:
It was good. I don’t think anybody was complaining about it. It is great to get practice in. I really like to practice, work on skills and go over details. As a team, that is important when you get to the playoffs – those details. We had some time to work on those so we should be well prepared and well rested.
On the enjoyment of watching the Canadiens win:
I don’t think I ever find myself rooting against a team. I don’t like to do that. I like to watch and be as neutral as I can. Watching that game I thought (the Capitals) were going to get it. I thought they kept pushing and pushing. They even got that one late and were pressing. They just ran out of time. Montreal, you have to give them credit. They were blocking shots, they were in desperation mode for three games. That is something we have to make sure we are aware of. We have to realize the desperation they play with. They believe in their team. We have to make sure we are ready for that desperation from day one.
On facing the Montreal Canadiens:
In the first series, they played a pretty complete team game. They have some forwards who are capable of scoring a lot of goals. It seems to me that their main focus right now is their team defense and the way that they’re playing in their own end. We know that it’s going to be a challenge.
On the success of the Penguins power play thus far in the playoffs:
The power play has been pretty good. We work hard at it. We weren’t happy with the way that it went most of the season. In the second half, it was much better, and we made a conscious effort to do it. I like my role. I like being out there with those guys. It’s a good spot for an old guy like me to be in. I just try to get loose pucks and be in front of the goalie at the right time and chip in.
On playing in Montreal during past playoff seasons:
I have played in a couple (of games) up there. This is my third or fourth time playing against them in the playoffs. I played in the old building and also played maybe two games in the new one. Honestly, it’s a great atmosphere. It is right in the heart of hockey. They love it up there. They’re just passionate fans.
On what the team has learned from playing Ottawa and watching Montreal this year:
The Ottawa defensemen were experienced guys. They know how to clear people out. They know how to get loose pucks and clear them out. Montreal did a great job of letting Halak see the puck. I thought that they did a good job of clearing guys out for rebounds. They just played a solid series.
On Montreal playing well in the first series:
I’m not surprised. I think that they played a team game more than Washington. They didn’t rely on three or four guys. They relied on everybody. You could see the way that they were coming back into their own end and how they were playing with desperation and not making high risk plays. I’m not surprised at all.
On Montreal capitalizing on the few scoring chances that they got in the first round series:
In the playoffs, you have to have timing. Good timing is better than anything. They got the right goals at the right time. That’s big. That’s better than scoring a million goals in one game.
On the Canadiens blocking a lot of shots:
Obviously we have to know what they do. We have to know what to expect from them. They are blocking shots a lot. We have to make sure we are moving to open up the shooting lanes. They are playing very well defensively. It seems like they are doing everything right. We are going to have meetings to look at is but I’m sure we are going to have to move around and not stand stationary.
On how Gonchar’s Russian team attacked Halak in the Olympics:
It’s a secret. The Olympics are different because a lot of the personnel is different.
On what the Penguins have to do to get at Halak:
You have to get traffic in front of him because when a goalie is playing well you have to have traffic and get a lot of shots.
On the emotion involved with playing Montreal in the playoffs:
It should be fun. I know that the crowd is pretty crazy up there, and I’m sure they’ll travel to Pittsburgh. I’ve always been a fan of the Canadian teams, so it will be a little bit weird to see them this time around. I’m looking forward to getting started, and we’ll try to beat them.
Assist Caitlin Kasunich
Maxime Talbot and asst coach Tony Granato (left); Sidney Crosby (right)
Bill Guerin and Evgeni Malkin (left); Jordan Leopold (right)
The Penguins were a much healthier group on the ice at Southpointe for Thursday's practice as they had their full compliment of skaters. Forwards Chris Kunitz and Tyler Kennedy and defenseman Jordan Leopold, all skated for Pittsburgh. It's a great sign for the Penguins on the injury front.
Leopold practiced Wednesday for the first time since suffering a head injury in Game 2 of the quarterfinals against Ottawa. Thursday's practice was Kennedy's first since leaving Game 4 at Ottawa with a lower body injury.
Kunitz hasn't missed a game, but has been absent for the team's last two practices. He is listed as day-to-day.