Discounting the final 19 seconds of the second game, there had only been five minor penalties called in the first two games of this series. Do you think the officiating started has changed from the regular season, and does this favor one team or the other in this series?
I think the standard that’s been called in the game has been fair. I mean, is there penalties on each side?? as a coach, you can go through the game and say that was a penalty, that wasn’t a penalty. But if you’re honest, you can usually say that about both sides. You know, as a coach, you typically want to point out the ones that their team does against yours and you rarely want to point out the ones that your team does against theirs. So I think the standard on the ice has been pretty consistent for both teams.
There’s two ways of looking at the plight your team is in right now, next shift, next game, or you have to beat the Red Wings four out of five to win the Stanley Cup. Do you choose door number one for your guys?
That’s an easy one to pick. The great thing about a seven game series, it’s either a testament of the best team wins quickly, or if you can draw it out, it’s a battle of will, and endurance and determination and right now that’s what we need to turn it into. They have two wins, and we need to get back in this series with a win here tonight. If not, we face the prospect of being down 0 games to 3.
One of the things that your players just said was that last year they didn’t play well in the first two games. They felt they played well in the first two games in this series. Just your thoughts going into Game 3 on the specifics of what they have to do better in Game 3 in order to get that puck in the net?
Yeah, we’re talking in some cases we’re talking about burying the chances that we do have. We can talk about posts, and that’s something we can do better. Their goalie has made the save or we haven’t taken advantage of really good opportunities. I think the one thing that they’ve been better at than us in this series is in and around that net on second chances and loose pucks. They’ve gotten those goals. Whether it be off the end board or on rebounds, they’ve created them. We’ve had situations where we’ve had it there. The pucks been in the crease on top of goalies, behind the goalie. We just haven’t gotten enough pucks in by them, and we have to be better in that area. We can also get better in maintaining possession in the offensive zone. They’ve done a good job of playing defense. But too many times it’s 10 seconds or less, 15 seconds or less, we need to get more shifts of the 30 second variety. One of the strengths previously for us was getting shift after shift in the offensive zone makes it tough on defensemen, and we need to do more than that.
I’m sure that Justin Abdelkader was familiar with you when he was growing up. Were you familiar with him and his success when he was growing up just a few miles away? And can you just talk a little bit about how he’s played, and how he’s developed?
I never had a billboard in West Michigan, Justin did. I don’t know if he still does. So I was fully aware of this kid from Michigan growing up. Even when he was young. Then where he went from there and then on to Michigan State. And heard talk about where he was going to rank as a pro. Was fully aware of him. Never got a chance to meet him until this year in Grand Rapids where I met his family. I was fully aware. Again, I saw the billboard, and a little jealous I never got one. Not that I’m a billboard type of guy in West Michigan. But he got it.
Are you going with the same lineup tonight, Coach?
It will be game time decision. It’s playoffs. We’re dealing with the bumps and bruises, and we’ll make some decisions at game time.It’s been talked about after the last couple of games about Fleury and maybe there being a tough one that he’d like to have back?to?back breaking goal. Fair or not, whatever. How do you think he’s handled whatever criticism has come his way, and what are your expectations of his play in this pressure situation back home?
This is not the first game that Marc-Andre’s faced criticism from outside and questioned whether he played in the big game or late in the year and carry a team or play in the playoffs. He’s answered those questions pretty dramatically with his play both the last two seasons at the end of the year. He came up with big games in the playoffs. The losing team always has questions to answer on their play. And Marc-Andre is the goaltender, he’s going to take some of that criticism and field some of those questions. But I’m confident that he’s always come back with focus and determination on playing his best game, and I anticipate that will be the case tonight.
He seems pretty loose and until he has a loss at home I guess that’s fine. I liked his point about the officiating. Expect a big game from the Pens tonight.