Hawks sound off
Shortly after the San Jose Sharks met the media, four Hawk stars did the same, plus Joel Quenneville. The following is a transcript of Saturday's question and answer session with Quenneville along with Duncan Keith, Brent Sebrook, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane.
Q. You have a huge task ahead of you. They're big, strong, couple of lines, best in the league, some guys are saying. How crucial does it make doing the little things, making sure you clear the puck as often as possible?
BRENT SEABROOK: I think we just got to play our game. Have five guys out there willing to do the job, coming back, coming back with good sticks and speed.
I think taking care of the top line. They're big, they're strong. They can play physical, they can score goals, they can pass the puck. We just got to, you know, try and get in lanes as best we can, try and play them as physical as we can, have good sticks.
Q. Does it help that you just went up against a team that has a line similar to the one you're going up against in their top line?
DUNCAN KEITH: I think so, the Sedins, that line is a great line. It presents different challenges.
Obviously now with Thornton, Marleau and Heatley, it's got some different challenges that we're going to be facing, one of them being their size.
But they're all good at protecting the puck. They all have different things about them that make them great players.
You know, I think the biggest thing we can do is focus on how we play and what we need to do, what we need to do out there to be good defensively to try to limit their chances.
Q. Could both of you talk about getting to know those four Sharks players in Vancouver, achieving something special with those four guys, and now they're the enemy for the next two weeks. Didn't show a lot of mercy for the Olympic goalie last round.
BRENT SEABROOK: Obviously it was pretty cool meeting those guys and playing there. But, you know, it's different now obviously. We have a job to do. We're going to do it as best we can. They're going to feel the same way. You know, I think we picked up a few tips of what they like. Other than that, we've just got to play our game.
DUNCAN KEITH: Yeah, just like Brent said, you know, being in the Olympics was a special experience, getting to know different guys around the league was pretty neat, too. Obviously they got four guys on their team that we got to know. It was a fun time.
But now being in the playoffs, you're with your Blackhawks here. Everything is business here, trying to accomplish what we've been trying to do here as a team all year long. You know, the past is the past, and obviously you remember that. But, you know, we've moved forward. We're enjoying here. We're going to have fun playing against them now.
Q. You've played that line enough this year and in the past. Do you have a good game plan in your mind how to play Thornton now that you've played him so many times?
BRENT SEABROOK: I don't think you can make a game plan for lines like that, like the Sedins. You could never make a game plan for them. They did so many different things. With that top line of Heatley and Marleau and Thornton, Heatley can really shoot it, and Joe, he makes great plays with and without the puck, seems to be able to find those guys. You can't go out there thinking they're going to do one thing, because they change. They're a creative group. Duncan was saying they use their bodies very well, sticks, try and get position on you.
It's a bunch of different challenges when you get out there. You just got to play them as hard as you can.
SCHULYER BAEHMAN: Thanks a lot, guys.
BRENT SEABROOK: Thank you.
DUNCAN KEITH: Thank you.
Q. After giving the guys the day off yesterday to do a little sight-seeing, were they back where you wanted them to be today?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: It was a good practice. They had good energy, want to get back on the ice, play some games. I think it was a good diversion yesterday getting away, spending some time together. I think we're chomping at the bit to get going tomorrow.
Q. Joel, from talking to Bolland and Keith and Seabrook, it sounds like they'll be the group for Thornton's line. How tough is that choice given how Pavelski's line has produced?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: I don't know how they know it. We haven't talked to them about that yet (smiling). Certainly it's an option. I know they have the assignment here late in the year. I think they relish that challenge and that opportunity. I thought they did a nice job against the Sedins. This matchup in this series is going to be a little bit tougher. They have two lines you have to be concerned about.
When I say 'tougher,' you don't know how you're going to get that matchup. We had three pretty good offensive lines in that last series. I'm still not sure exactly what is going to match up. I think Keith and Seabrook will match up good against that line.
Q. What does it mean to you to have this opportunity to go farther than you have as a coach in the playoffs?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Well, it's not easy to get here. We like the way things have progressed in these playoffs. We've been fortunate each and every round to get through in different situations that kind of highlighted how we got through. At the same time, the challenge going forward even gets tougher.
We're facing a team that's probably in the same place we are. They want to get to the next round. We know they got some obstacles that we got to address, too.
I think we shouldn't feel satisfied. We shouldn't feel like we've accomplished anything. I know getting back to where we got to last year, it's where we wanted to be. But getting to the next round is what we're all about. I think that presents a great challenge for us. But that's the motivation. That's our objective. That's what we're here for.
Q. What has impressed you most about Antti?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: I just like how cool and patient he is. I think his approach every day, very patient in the net. Nothing seems to bother him. I think he has the same disposition every single day. He comes to the rink, looks forward to the next challenge, next shot. Seems like a very quiet guy, good teammate, smiles and goes about his business. He's not stereotypical goalie you see. He's so relaxed and kind of quiet about his business, you appreciate what he does, how he moves forward.
I think he's handled that situation exactly the way he seems as a person.
Q. Rob Blake yesterday was talking about Byfuglien. They weren't going to try to move him. They didn't want to add an extra screen. When you hear that, they'll try to lift his stick on the rebounds, what advice do you give to the guys in the middle, if that's the case?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: We'll see how it all plays out. It's tough to forecast how the position is going to work itself handout.
I think Byfuglien, he's a big body guy, try to play net when you go in there and present a screen, present traffic. I think we're better on the second and third opportunities. I think that's our mindset, be it Byfuglien or all our other forwards that go to net and try to find traffic, try to find him or look around the screen.
Q. With your team having been here last year, the Sharks having problems in the past, who do you feel has more pressure on them going into this?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: I don't know if there's pressure. The way I look at it, we're excited. At the start the year, I think everybody expected us just to get here. We knew how challenging it was during the regular season and each and every round we're at to get here today. We're fortunate to be here.
Pressure, I think we welcome the opportunity to move ahead. We welcome the opportunity. When games seem to be bigger, we respond. I think that's what I like about our team. I think last year's experience can only make us more comfortable in this situation and create more of an appetite for us, as well.
Q. You had six Olympians, four of whom played right up to the final day. Did you do anything different with those guys to make sure they weren't overtaxed when they returned?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: We tried to gauge that as best we can. I know our team game slipped a little bit coming out of the Olympic break. We tried to monitor their ice time a little bit, cut them back a little bit. At the same time, you're in the winning business, trying to win the game you're in. Maybe you can get a little bit of a breather in the next game.
Every game was kind of different. That was part of our thought process, give them a couple days off here and there and hopefully they could replenish their tanks. We're very happy with where they're at right now. Seems to be a lot of energy in these guys.
Q. The Blackhawks have lost the playoff opener in the past four series. How can you reverse that? What can you really do?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Well, I think we can just look at the two prior series. We got a better assessment. Maybe it's the way we prepared going into both games against Nashville and Vancouver. We had about five days of practices. I don't know if we got a little bit stale going into it. I think our mindset, approach, changing up our scheduling last couple, three days, keep us fresh and motivated. Let's make sure we can recapture the momentum that we exited Vancouver with and the way we played that game is how we want to begin this series.
Certainly it's been a topic of discussion within our group here. We want to correct that.
Q. I know you haven't been there since you played in the last regular season game. Heard about different ice surfaces. How is the HP Pavilion? I know you haven't been there in a while, but what's your recall?
PATRICK KANE: I think it's pretty good ice there. From what I remember, it's a pretty bright rink there. It's always nice when the lights are pretty bright. We had some pretty good games there. 2-0. We had a big win there, too.
I think for us, we'll probably see it. I know they had a concert there Thursday and tonight. We'll see how it is. But I don't think it's anything you need to worry about.
Q. Jonathan and Patrick, do you get a sense the guys in the room realize how big a deal this is as far as getting this far with this team? Some guys have never been this far. Do you get a sense of the urgency, especially with what might happen, that this is your one opportunity?
JONATHAN TOEWS: We all understand that. We had a great playoff last year; no one expected us to make it this far. But, again, all year coming in during the regular season, even in playoffs, everyone's expected us not only to get back to this point, but even to go beyond it.
I think we all understand how difficult it is because we've all been through this season with the pressure and the expectations. We've battled all that type of adversity to get where we are now.
So we have this opportunity. We're here to take advantage of it, nothing else. We definitely want to start this series on a different note than we have the last two, so we're looking to be ready tomorrow.
Q. You have guys on the other team that you were on the Olympic team with. Thornton said he enjoyed meeting you, John, but can't wait to hack you tomorrow in Game 1. What is the mindset from sharing those special weeks with a guy to he's the enemy for the next two weeks?
JONATHAN TOEWS: No, he's a good guy. I'm looking forward to giving him a few whacks, too (smiling). You know, it's a special thing. It's a short-term thing to spend a couple weeks with new guys, new teammates at the Olympics. Come together so fast, win a gold medal, silver medal, doesn't matter. It's still a special thing.
Now you're back with your teammates. It's something you worked towards all year, is to win a Stanley Cup. I think with this type of team, you go through so much more together. I think when you win, it means a lot more in that sense, too.
Hopefully we'll get the best of him this time.
PATRICK KANE: I got to know Pavelski pretty well. We shared some funny stories about Adam Burish. They played together in Wisconsin. We talked about him a lot. He's a good kid. He's obviously really hot right now, a guy we have to eliminate.
Like John said, it's kind of nicer when you're with a team for the whole year, you have a chance to win, instead of two weeks. It would have been great to win that tournament. Meet a lot of new friends there. But this one will be way sweeter, I think.
Q. Along those lines, the prevailing idea was that playing the Olympics would somehow take all the gas out of everybody's tank. There are 14 Olympians in this series. Did it in some ways helped that experience?
JONATHAN TOEWS: Well, I think the experience of being there and playing under that pressure, that microscope, definitely helps when you get to this time of year. You look at their team, you look at ours, the reason we're both still standing is obviously there's a great supporting cast, great players, that obviously weren't at the Olympics that had that two-week break.
I'll admit, the last handful of regular-season games were tough to get through. We all kept pushing because we were kind of looking forward to the playoffs. Unfortunately, we came close first place in the regular season, but that's behind us now. We got as much wind in our sails as we need right now.
Q. The Blackhawks have lost the first game of each of the past four playoff series. What can you do to reverse that? Everybody says just try harder. How can you really do it?
PATRICK KANE: We tried some different things for this series as far as preparation. Hopefully that works. I mean, last couple series, like you said, we haven't had great success in Game 1, which is no excuse. But for three out of the four series we prevailed, played pretty good, obviously won the series.
It's a different time of year right now. It's fun. I know both teams are going to have their rest. Both teams might come out a little sloppy, but I'm sure we'll find our game pretty soon in the series. I think it's going to make for a great series. I think there's a lot of great players. Two interesting teams.
Every time we play together, I think this year at least, there was an interesting story from each game, especially a couple overtime games.
We're feeling pretty good. I'm sure they're pretty confident after getting through a lot of, I wouldn't say more like media slack on them where they've kind of been all over San Jose, but they've got through the first couple rounds, seem to be playing really well right now.
Q. John, you guys came up against a pretty veteran team last year in Detroit. You were considered the younger team. What do you think the biggest lesson you learned from that series, watching the way that veteran team that had won before, went about their business?
JONATHAN TOEWS: The number one thing is you look at the way we played, won those games, won those first two series in the playoffs against Calgary and then Vancouver. It just seemed like no matter how many mistakes we made, we still found ways to win games. Especially against Vancouver, we gave up a lot of leads. I think we were down, if I can remember correctly, 2-1 in that series. We somehow just kept coming back. Against a team like Detroit or San Jose, that's not going to fly. You got to correct a lot of those little things.
We were a young team. To everyone, that was our knock. We didn't really buy into that. We kept playing hard, played for each other.
But I think this year we're much more mature, much more solid as far as the way we play, and win games. We understand what it's going to take to win this time of year. I think we got that extra push I think that it's going to take to get through this series this year.
PATRICK KANE: You know, I think it's more of the same thing. Like Toews said, last year we came in, it was almost like we weren't supposed to be in that situation. We found a way to get there. We were playing an experienced team like Detroit who kind of took it to us that series, teach us a lot about our team, how far experience goes this time of year.
This time of year, it seems like we've had a pretty long year, went to Finland, long regular season. Obviously some of us played in the Olympics. Now you're two rounds in and it seems like you're just getting started.
I think it's a pretty exciting time of year. You love to play at this time. The experience we gained from last year is huge.
Q. Even though you guys are still the younger team this year, do you feel like because you were here last year there's more pressure on you to get to the next round than it is on the Sharks?
JONATHAN TOEWS: Well, I think, like Kane said a second ago, you look at the Sharks situation, the criticism they have to undergo for how good they do in the regular season, the past couple years, things haven't worked out for them past the first round in the playoffs. They have the pressure on them, and we have pressure on ourselves as well. Two teams that want to win.
But again, yeah, that experience to us definitely helps us. I think right now these last couple days thinking about that series against Detroit, a lot of people ask us about it. It's definitely fresh in our mind, even though it was pretty much exactly a year ago. It's up to us to find a way to use that experience and to remember what it feels like to end up losing what you feel like is a premature loss, I guess.
We got to believe we got what it takes to get through this round, but we're not going to look too far ahead. We'll take it one game at a time starting with tomorrow.
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