Will have Tortorella quotes shortly, followed by a few player quotes.
Then later on we’ll have details on two contests — the predictions contest and the Second Bi-Annual Boneheads/Paul Mara Playoff Beard Contest Extravaganza, Picnic and Parade. So bear with me.
I asked him (for my column tomorrow) if he could put into words how competitive Henrik Lundqvist is.
“Like I said yesterday, he can taste it. He started thinking about that after we lost to Philly last year, how close we were. That’s what I’ve always loved about him, is how hard he competes. And he’s not the only one, but you’re asking me a question about him. That’s a huge trait that he has, and I think it filters to our team.”
I followed up with, if Biron had been healthy down the stretch, would he have had to fight Lundqvist to get him out of the lineup:
“I had to fight him when Biron was healthy during the year, yeah. He wants to play. But I think he understands that it did help him to keep him as fresh as he is now. So I’ll have to fight him again next year. I’d rather have it that way then a guy cowering away, and you look down the bench and some guys are hiding under the bench in key situations. That’s something that’s really revealing with Hank.”
On the challenge of Ovechkin:
“And it’s not just him. We’ve got to be really careful about that. He is a top player in the league, but there’s a few others over there. We don’t have a special remedy. You just have to be aware of where he’s at and try to act accordingly, and certainly not test the waters against him. I think neutral-zone play for both teams is going to be very important.”
On the Caps not being as wide-open as they were earlier, and last year:
“I’m not going to get into too (much) talking about the other team. I’ll talk about Alex, but I’m not going to get into a bunch of questions talking about Washington. I think we understand how they play, they understand how we play. Now we play.”
On having guys like Fedotenko and Drury, and how they’ve raised their play in past post-seasons:
“It’s a matter of, it goes back to (the question about Lundqvist) wanting to be there. This is such a great opportunity for players. It’s such a long year, it is such a grind. We play too many regular-season games. And then to play in a situation … this is where you get defined — in playoffs. This is where teams get defined, this is where players are defined as far as their career. When it’s over, it’s not regular-season play, it’s playoffs. And I just think it takes a mindset of wanting to be there. I was fortunate to have Rusty in Tampa. No one knew he was going to score 12 goal (including the Cup-winner) in that playoff run we went on. I think he had seven in Pitt, did he not. So it’s a matter of seizing the moment (Editor’s note: better known as Carpe Diem) and again, just wanting to be there and feeling comfortable being in that situation.”
On the getting the young guys comfortable:
“They’re going to play. The only way they can get experience in this situation is to have the opportunity and now they do. They have an opportunity to play some games. Again, they don’t need to overthink. They just need go to out and play their game, and I’m sure they’re going to be just fine.”
“As I’ve said all year long, it’s a good group of guys. The main foundation of our team is our youth. And to get an opportunity, especially some of the ups and downs — I don’t want to say ups and downs — some of the pressures we’ve gone through in the past month, for them to get the opportunity it’s great for them personally, but it’s also great for the organization, because we need to keep on building the team. And you build your team and find your way and get where you want to be by getting these opportunities. So they need to keep their mind clear, free, and just go play.”
On the clean slate, and how that pertains to Marian Gaborik:
“I think Gabby cares. I think, if there’s one guy, it’s a great situation for him. We talked about yesterday, you need to have a short-term memory and move on. As I say, you’re not defined by regular-season play as a player. You’re defined by what you do in crucial situations, and that’s playoff hockey. I know Gabby’s willing to grab ahold of this and try to help this club try to get where they want to be. That will go game to game; it’ll go shift to shift with him. You know, it has been a struggle. We all know that. There’s no hiding that. But for players like that, it’s just got to be wide-open for him. He’s got to really look forward to it and express himself as a player, and I think he’s going to do that.
“He played well (against the Devils). Again, it’s his legs and he played well. But let’s go by that and we just want to play. I think that’s the way Gabby’s got to approach it. I’m sure he’s getting a lot of questions and he’ll keep on getting questions. I think he’s mature enough and he understands it well enough that he’s just going to concentrate on playing. And we’re looking forward to it.”
On Gaborik and the power play’s success being tied together:
“You don’t want to put it all on … it’s not one particular guy on the power play. That’s a group. We’ve kind of changed a couple of the groups around. I’m still not sure what they’re going to be as this series enters. … But no, I’m not going to put that on Gabby. That’s a whole group of men.”
If he picks up, doesn’t the power play improve?
“Sure. Sure. If he gets comfortable and plays at the level that we’ve seen him play at, in those situations, that will help. But other guys have to help also. I understand what you’re saying. Yeah, he’s probably one of our most skilled guys, and that’s where your guys are. The skilled guys are going to be on that power play. Hopefully he brings it to another level and people join in and we get our power play a little consistent as we enter the series.”
On how much his experience as a Cup-winner helps:
“It’s not about me. This is about the team. As I’ve always said, you guys rip on coaches when we lose; you give us way too much credit when we lose and you give us way too much credit when we win. This is about the men who put the uniform on. I think part of our job is what we’ve done the past couple of days in trying to prepare them, just to give them an idea of how we’re going to approach it; try to handle the surges and the situations as we go in a long series. But the guys who have to put the uniform on, they’re going to make the difference one way or another. And we’re going to help. We’re guidance counselors. That’s our role. And sometimes you need to get out of the way of the players. Sometimes we’re in the way. We need to get out of the way and allow them to enjoy this and allow them to express themselves in a situation like this.”
Asked if he’s a different guidance counselor now:
“Yes, I think as a coach/guidance counselor/teacher you’re always … now this is a new team for me. I grew with that team in Tampa. I changed over the years with Tampa. I have changed from my first 20-game stint and the playoff series in Washington my first time here. Over the past couple of years, I’ve changed, because it’s out of respect to the athletes, because they have grown and they understand how we want to try to approach that. If you’re still trying to teach the lessons and be the person that you were back then, it’s disrespectful to the players. So we’ve all grown together here. I think coaches have to go along with that, too, as your players start growing as people and players.”
On if he can tell anything to the eight guys with no playoff experience:
“Nope. Nope. The more guys without playoff experience the better as far as I’m concerned. And there’s not going to be a lot of explanation to them. We just want them to play. I think having innocence in these type of situations is really good for our hockey club. Because it’s innocence. They don’t know. I think sometimes we all turn it into something bigger and add different pressures when we don’t need to. There’s enough things going on around professional athletes to maybe have a release valve. I think innocence in approaching this is a really good thing.”
On the Staals, Girardis, Dubinskys having some experience, but this being their first time around as team leaders:
“Well, as I just answered that question, they deserve that. They have earned that responsibility. I think, as we’ve said throughout the year, you guys decide how we play, and if you get to a level then we’re going to expect it all the time. It’s the same with our young guys. As they’ve grown as people, you want them to stay at that level, especially the intangibles as far as leadership and going through a couple of weeks here playing against one team. So they deserve the responsibility, they need to handle the responsibility, and that’s experience. I think the process for our young leaders that have had a little bit of playoff experience, and now come to another playoff series, it’s great timing. That’s why it was important to get in, for those guys to keep on growing.”
On any decisions in terms of which forward or defensman won’t play:
“No, and to be honest with you guys, I’m not going to give you any lineups. That will be when the game starts. I’m not going to give you any lineups. I just don’t want to. That’s as honest as I can be.”
“That closes it? Zip?”