“I don’t think any one thing (won this game). I think an important part of the game was when they score late to make it 2-1, I don’t think we got rattled. We just went out and played and found our way. We played the way we need to play and we found a way.”
“I thought their top player was dangerous every shift. I thought we did a better job in the second half of the game on him. … I thought we scored some opportune goals. I thought we kept it simple. Our whole gameplan was not to overpass, just to keep on shooting pucks and look for rebounds, because we thought we could get some rebounds. We were fortunate to score goals at key times and I thought we just kept our patience and stayed with it.”
On waiting for their fate:
“I’m not anxious. It’s a little frustrating in how this has played out. First of all, our inconsistency put us in a spot of losing control. But it’s frustrating when you end up with 44 wins and a team that may end up with 41 gets in and you don’t. I guess I’ll leave it at that. I have quite a few thoughts as far as how this could happen. Anxious, sure. Frustrating? Yeah, a little at both ends, how we let the control get away, but also … I’ll just leave it at that.”
On what Drury did today:
“That’s good stuff. That is. I’m so happy for him. He catches more (carcillo) out here, all different ways, and I couldn’t be happier or more proud of him as far as how he handled himself. That’s really good stuff.”
When I told him what Lundqvist had said about this being a good or bad season based on tonight’s game, he said:
“I don’t agree with him. Not at all. If for some reason we don’t get there, I don’t agree with that at all. I’m a coach, remember. I look at it differently. As a player, I can understand what he’s saying. He wants to get in. I think he looks back at last year, and he’s tasting it. He wants an opportunity, and I totally understand that. I’m certainly not arguing how he put it or how he thinks. But as a coach, I have to look at it another way. I know what we’re doing here as far as our plan, as far as our organization.
“I’ll tell you right now, I am not going to be talked into, and I am not going to be talked at. I am not going to listen to any bull(cooke) as far as what type of year this was if we don’t get in for some reason. Because it’s bull(cooke) because too many good things have happened with this club and we are on the right road and we are doing it the right way. So don’t even bother asking me. Write what you want, but don’t ask me about that.”
(I later sought him out to make sure he understood that I would be the last person to suggest this team has been anything other than a success, regardless of what happens tonight, and he said he knows that, as you all do).
On the good things this season:
“It’s just our whole … I think we have a plan. I think it’s very important to have a plan. I think the youth that we’ve infused, our own, the way we’ve used our minor-league system this year with McDonagh, just where we are as far as the guts of this team, the foundation of the team, are mostly our guys. They’re at a really good age, and are going to get better. I think we have created an identity that the players, like I tell them … I said, ‘You screwed yourselves here as far as how hard you have to play. You’ve created that identity and that’s how we’re going to be successful.’ So I think that is on its way.
“I’m not going to lie to you. I think along the way our skill has to be upgraded if we’re going to get where we want to be. But I think we’re doing it the right way. We’re in the middle of a process and I’m going to defend the hockey team to the bitter end, no matter what happens here. Because too many good things have happened here with this organization.”
On McDonagh’s timing, his first NHL goal being a game-winner:
“He’s just what we’re talking about as far as development. He did his time down in the minor-league team, struggled at first down there, and has slowly come along. Home-grown guys, well, not home-grown — it’s a great deal we made to get him. Him and Sauer, it’s two very important pieces as we continue to build. And good for him scoring his first one at a key time.”
Asked by someone else to clarify the point he made about what Lundqvist said … about how making the playoffs or not doesn’t change his opinion of the season:
“I know where … you’re going to try to play with my words …”
Then the question was rephrased, does making the playoffs or not have any bearing on how he evaluates the team:
“Oh, sure. Oh, sure. Yes. But I’m not going to listen to this team being called clowns because they had a bad game. I’m not going to listen to the (carcillo). I’ll tell you right now. But I understand what you’re saying. Yes. Ask the question again.”
Does whether you make the playoffs or not make the playoffs have a bearing on how you evaluate the team?
“Yes. Yes, it does. Yes. And I may be jumping the gun a little bit.”
He stopped there and then was asked if he has any money out to his buddies in Tampa (jokingly, of course).
“Do I? Not cash, but …” He was laughing, as was everybody.
“Listen, I’m pissed off, not at you guys. I’m pissed off at the whole circumstance here. I’ve kept my mouth shut through it all. And, listen, understand me, I know we make our own bed in losing a little consistency, especially at the end of this year with some clunkers. That falls on us. I just don’t get it. I don’t get it. Forty-four wins to 41 maybe, and we’re picking our ass somewhere when we should be in the playoffs. I don’t get it. I hope we’re … well, I’ll leave it.”
On sitting Zuccarello and Christensen late:
“Coach’s decision. I’ll be honest, with him and Erik, they didn’t do anything wrong. Erik struggled on one play along the wall on one pretty key play and Hank made a save. But I went in with a mindset that I was going to go with those three (lines) and I was going to move Dru in in certain spots as we got the lead, and that’s what I stuck with.”
On winning Game 82 with a 19th different guy getting the game-winner:
“Yeah, and that’s the way we’ve won. That’s what we are and that’s the way we’ve won. I think that’s helped our room. I don’t think there’s been any real game-breaker for us. It’s been a group and I think that helps your room as you try to build a team.”
“Look at what (youth) I’m putting out on the ice there in certain situations. I go back to (the previous questions). That’s something that I think is very important for this team, is to get in, because I think that’s part of growing as a team, getting experience in playoffs. Do I think our team is ready to run through four rounds and win a Stanley Cup? No. But you never know what happens. You watched what happened with Philly last year. I still think they were a different animal than we are right now as far as development of our club. But that’s very important for us. That’s how you become a better team, is to play playoff hockey. I hope we get the opportunity. We’ll see what happens.”
“We’re kicking ourseleves because we let something get by with a couple of clunkers here. That falls on us. Make no mistake about it. That’s where we lost our control. So we’ll see what happens at about 9:30 tonight.”
Asked of he might text Vinny Lecavalier:
“That’s tampering, isn’t it?” (again, laughing).
Told Vinny Prospal could do it, he smiled and said, “There’s always ways. There’s always ways.”
“I’m not watching it.”
I asked him if he thinks teams have the responsibility to play hard even if they’re out, or locked into their playoff spot, as Tampa Bay is.
“Yes. Yes. And I know they will. I know they will. I know they will. I’ll tell you right now, no matter what happens tonight, I know Tampa has handled the situation the right way. I have friends in the organization, and it’s not tampering, but I am close to a number of players there and I know it’s going to be handled the right way.
“That’s good for the league. I hope it’s good for us.”