Got a big, big meeting this morning, with you know who …
So, didn’t want the actual first day of the off-season to go without a post … plus I had some player quotes to transcribe from yesterday.
On getting through Game 5 with a mangled finger (he had it wrapped yesterday) and another bruise on his leg:
“It was pretty tough, but it was that time of year where we needed everyone to be playing and everyone to be playing hard. It’s just, kind of, suck it up and battle through whatever you have. Everyone’s nicked up here and there. It’s just what you have to do at this time of year.”
Does he need any further medical treatment?:
“No, just rest it, make sure it doesn’t get infected. That’s it.”
“Just got to take it easy. A couple weeks here pretty much, marinating, doing nothing, just let everything heal. Then spend some good quality time with the family in the summer.”
On what Tortorella said, that he was the best defenseman in the series:
“I don’t … I just tried to play my game, play hard, do my best to help the team win. To get that compliment from Torts is obviously, it’s quite a big deal for me as a player, that he sees my game improving, and playing well, and that he knows that I can play that way. It’s definitely good to get those comments.”
“It’s not the finish we wanted, got knocked out early. But I think we really had a good year with our resilience and staying with the gameplan and not getting away from it. We came back a lot this year and had a lot of comeback wins; obviously a lot of injuries, but guys came in and played the spots, did their jobs right. We got in the playoffs, and that’s all that really matters. Get in the playoffs and anything can happen there.
“Moving forward, we’ve got a good group of guys that have been together a couple of years. Obviously you want to get farther every year, but the main thing is to try and have a good year and get into the playoffs.”
“We do have a fairly young team and obviously we have some older guys to help us along the way, help guys like myself, Staalsie, Cally, Dubi, to start taking on some of that leadership role. And as a core group of the team, we’ve got to take responsibilty and be leaders and play well to help the team win, and not just kind of keep relying on that we’re still really young and still growing. I think we’ve got to be ready. That’s the way our team is built now, on some youth and some guys who have been here a while, like ourselves. We’ve just got to make sure we’re heading the guys in the right direction.”
“That’s got to help you as a player, knowing the team’s putting some extra expectations on you. … I love having that responsibility and being able to show what I can do under those circumstances.”
“When I look back at the series, it definitely wasn’t a 4-1 series. We were right there almost every game and we had an opportunity to win some games. But we didn’t grab it. That’s very frustrating and disappointing to lose and be out this early. We just have to learn from it.”
“Our biggest opportunities were in Game 1 and Game 4, where we had a chance to win. When you play a good team like Washington you really need to grab that opportunity. All year we were pretty good in the third period with the lead.”
“It’s always a weird feeling when it’s over. It’s really intense and so exciting, and the next day it’s all over. It’s weird.”
“Overall it was a good year, a fun year. A great group. It was a great feeling to reach the playoffs and be back there again and feel the atmosphere and excitement, especially playing at home. It’s hard to be really satisfied, though. You lose in the first round. The goal this year was to have a good run in the playoffs. And I think we had a chance. We didn’t get it done.
I asked him of the team goes into next year in a better position because the foundation of the identity of the team is in place:
“Oh, I haven’t thought about next year yet. I think, hopefully it carries over. There’s a lot of contracts that need to be signed here, and obviously we don’t know what the team’s going to look like next year, yet. But the foundation is there. We have a lot of good young hockey players who hopefully will keep improving and hopefully just learn from this year and the past years and get better and smarter. Me personally, like I said, with this year I’m happy with the way I played. Of course, some games could have been better. But overall I played a lot of hockey and I’m pretty happy with the performance.”
On progress from two years ago to this year, both resulting in first-round losses to Washington:
“I think we were closer this time, but it was a 4-1 series. It’s weird the way it works. This time around we definitely had a chance. Two years ago, I felt the difference between the teams was bigger. We just didn’t manage to get it done in a couple of games here. We had a really big opportunity to win. But when I look back at the six years I’ve been here, the team has changed a lot. A lot of new players. I feel now with the core we have, with a lot of young defensemen, really good defensemen and skilled forwards, we definitely have something to build on. But again, you start next year, and it’s hard to say we’re going to be good for two or three years because every summer a lot changes.”
“Right now it’s just disappointment. It’s hard to be satisfied when you lose this early. We wanted to be playing right now. Two weeks ago we were so excited to be in the playoffs, and now it’s all over. So it was a quick turnaround. I’m going to sit down and think about my year and about what I can do better and try to improve next year.”
“I felt good. I felt like I was in a good place physically and mentally and going down the stretch I wanted to play every game. I wanted to be out there and help the team. There was no question that I didn’t want to sit on the bench and rest. I wanted to be out there and play.”
“I think early on I got a lot of rest. It was different. I wasn’t used to sitting out, play a few games, then sit out a game. It was definitely different mentally. In the long run it was good for me, and I think in the future I just have to get used to it. Our goal is still to play for another month and a half. I think that’s the time when it’s really going to pay off.”
“This year is the first time I’ve felt, you’re not going to have that many opportnities. I’m getting older. I’m still 29, but you also realize, to get a great team together — you need some bounces too, to get there — that’s what I’m talking about, when the opportunity’s there you need to grab it. As you get older you realize you really need to grab it because you don’t know when it’s coming next time. But, hopefully I have another 1o years. I don’t know. I don’t know how long I’ll play. But we have a good group here. Yes, we need to improve, but it’s a start and we’ll see what happens over the summer. A lot of contracts are up. We’ll see how the team’s going to look next year.”
I asked him if the prime of a career of a goalie starts a little later, or lasts a little longer, than a skater’s prime.
“I don’t know. We’ll see if I get better or worse. No, I think if you look at other goalies, yeah, a lot of guys, they improve as they get older because you learn the game better, you learn how you work as a person, because such a big part is the mental part. And when you realize that — not realize, but you get smarter, how you approach games, how you approach the pressure, just being able to mentally be in a good place. I don’t think you get better technically as you get older. I don’t think you get faster. I don’t think I’m faster now compared to when I was 22. But mentally, I think I’ve grown, so I think that’s the biggest part.”
I assured him that I had covered a few goalies who got dumber as they got older.
He cracked up. “I get smarter. I don’t know about your goalie buddies.”
On getting married:
“Getting older. I’m growing up, I guess. It’s time.”
Said he would take a few days to decide on World Championships, though there were reports last night that he wouldn’t play.
Then the same guy started asking him restaurant questions. Unlike Avery, and typically like Lundqvist, he gave some straight answers, even though he didn’t look comfortable talking about his new side business.
On where he’s going to be playing next September:
“I didn’t know where I was going to be last September. So it’s the way it is. I mean, I’m not 26 anymore. So it goes from year to year and, like I said, hopefully I’ll be back here. This is a fun team to play on and I’d like to continue here.”
On his knee allowing him to get through a season:
“That was one reason I said no to the World Championship, to make sure that I’ll train as much as possible to make sure there is strength in the leg, that I’ll play as many games as possible. I don’t really intend to go through what I went through last year when it gave out on me after the first two day of training camp.”
“You can do stuff to prevent that, that’s to make sure your quad muscles are strong.”
“Let’s put it this way, I really had no time not to produce. If I wanted to play and get some ice time … when you pronounce yourself healthy to play, you have to go out there and be a factor, and even though it was like a roller coaster, up and down, I still scored some goals, put up some points, so it’s something that I was hoping for, to get an opportunity like that, because it could have gone the other way as well. Maybe I would have to tell you there’s no chance I would be back.”