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Playoff Practice Quotes: April 16, 2014

by Ryan Simmons / Colorado Avalanche

Joe Sakic, Avalanche vice president of hockey operations and alternate governor

On The Feeling Around The Team: “Obviously, they’re very excited. It’s the first time here for a few of our guys. It’s the best time of the year. To start the season you have 30 teams that their goal is to win the Stanley Cup, now we’re down to 16. We all know what the playoffs are and how exciting they are and I know the players are looking forward to it.”

On How Different Is The Feeling In His New Role As To When He Was A Player: “Well, it’s the same feeling with the excitement. I’m excited for the players to begin and obviously our organization and the fans here in Denver. It’s nice, like I said: hockey there is no better playoffs than hockey playoffs and it’s great to be back in it. I don’t have any control so I don’t have to get ready for the games so it’s different in that way. The excitement is still there. Like I said, this is the best time of the year to be a player.”

On Going Into The Locker Room Before Games To Talk To Players: “Not to the team in general. You know, there’s times when I do individually because I’m around all the time with the guys and I’ll be around all playoffs, but actual speaking to the team itself the coaches, have done a nice job.”

On When He Realized This Could Be A Special Team: “Well, I mean as you watched the progress of the year there are no signs of letdown. What you see in this group, they expected a lot of themselves and there was not one point in the season where you thought they were getting complacent, that they were content with the success that they were having. As we watched the year we knew what we had in our dressing room, but to watch the players see how they believe in each other. I mean that’s a great team that never quits and believe in each other from day one. I guess after Christmas you really saw this team, you knew what this team was capable of. It’s a team that’s resilient, they’ve never taken their success for granted, they have always tried to raise the bar and that’s the type of guys we have here. We clinched the playoffs. You know what, they could have taken some shortcuts after that but they weren’t satisfied. Then they wanted home ice against Chicago. So the confidence kept growing and their belief and their expectation kept growing and we’re here. I know what the expectations are with the players and we want to win a Stanley Cup.”

On The Effects Of Youth And Inexperience In The Playoffs: “Well obviously, you don’t know how different players will handle it. This is going to be a great experience for them. What we always say: ‘You can gain that experience and win a hockey game at the same time.’ We know we have a tough opponent in Minnesota. Minnesota, just like us, played unbelievable hockey down the stretch, and they’re playing their best hockey at the right time as well. It’s going to be a great series.”

On His Personal Feeling Heading Into Game 1: “We will see tomorrow. I know I could tell you right now I’m excited. I mean I’m very proud of this group what they’ve done this year, what they’ve accomplished. But I also know this is a group that wants more. The excitement is going to be with me tomorrow night obviously, the regular season is over and I’ve said that there is no better time to be a fan of hockey, a player of hockey and in management of hockey than this time of year. We all shoot for the Stanley Cup, and every single player every single team is hoping to be playing for two more months. “

On Why Players Bought In So Quickly To Patrick’s Coaching: “Just respect. He showed the players respect right from the start. He used that term being part of a partnership with the players, and I think Patrick and the entire coaching staff did an unbelievable job right from day one when it came to teaching and getting that respect from the players.”

On The Timing Of Patrick Taking The Avs' Coaching Position: “Well, I’m sure if he wanted to do it a few years ago I’m sure he would be successful as well. I know he learned a lot owning and coaching a junior team. He was at the stage a few years ago where he just didn’t feel he was ready and especially coaching and with his kids. But he’s ready this year and ready for that next challenge and he’s done a tremendous job.”

On How Much Satisfaction He Has Gotten From What Has Been Accomplished: “Like I said: I’m proud of this group. It’s a group, like I said, that expected a lot of themselves. You know the players that were here last year obviously weren’t happy with the way it ended and got a fresh start, wanted a fresh start. With the change in the coaching staff got a lot of respect from them. It really worked well together, both the coaching staff and the players and it fed off of that. Got off to a good start this year, got the momentum going and like I said it’s a team that doesn’t quit, had injuries during the year didn’t stop them. Believing in each other and this time of year it’s that believe, sticking together and being as consistent as you can that usually decides the champion.”

On What It Takes To Win In The Playoffs: “Obviously, I think at the end of the day it’s a grind. The team that outlasts the rest of them are going to win. Really, you’re going to have adverse times in the playoffs and the biggest thing is to stick to what you know. Stick to your game plan, stay resilient, battle for one another. I think as long as you stay on that same path, whether it’s going great or you had a terrible game the night before, you’ve got to wake up the next morning and there’s a new game coming up. Probably a game that is more important than the previous game. Really your belief is staying even keel and forgetting about what happened the night before and just getting ready and focus on the next one.”

On Identifying With The Players Going Through a Tough Rebuild: “Watching, especially last year, I knew what they were going through. There is no question being upstairs. I was on some teams (in Quebec) that we had a tough time, but we were building, we were building we were going the right direction. I knew with the type of players we had, I didn’t think it was going to take that long. It’s just a matter of them believing in each other and believing what they can do, adjusting to the league. Like I said: I think Patrick instilled that same confidence in the players and we got off to a very good start this year, which was our goal. We wanted to get off to a good start, especially here with this fan base and they’ve done that. They’ve done a tremendous job on and off the ice and confidence is a big thing especially if you’re a young team.”

On This Team Being At A Crossroad Like His Last Season In Quebec: “Absolutely, and I know when I went through it the biggest thing is learning how to win. Once you figure that out, I’m not going to say it’s easy, but you know that path. The hardest thing to do with a young team is learning how to win. That’s a process but once you figure that out and know what you have to do and know how to overcome slumps and different things like that, different obstacles you’re going to face over the course of a year. When you learn that, whenever it happens, but as a young player it makes it a lot easier going down to have that experience dealing with both winning and losing.”

On His Experience Learning To Win: “Well, our team, we were young as a team and when you’re young sometimes … when you’re a young player and you have a group of young players sometimes … and you have success, you might not be as consistent as you’d like but the toughest thing is really the game management. You have a 2-1 lead and you go for it and all of the sudden it’s 2-2. It’s things like that that you learn once you start winning that you realize now this is what it takes. Then it makes it easier. I think what this group has, especially with Patrick as a coach and the coaching staff, obviously like I said, they’ve done a tremendous job with the players, but teaching them what to expect and this is how you’ve got to play on game management. Once you get that, and I think this group of players this is a group of players who’ve dealt real well with it this year and have learned and are feeding off that.”

On What Has Impressed Him Most About The Avs This Season: “Just the consistency, I believe our road record is the exact same as our home record. I don’t recall too many losing streaks here. That’s something I’m proud of this group, they were never content all year. They always, right from the start of the year they’ve played the way you need to play this time of year and that is really just to focus on the next day and they’ve really done a tremendous job with consistency. That’s the biggest compliment I can give this team because it doesn’t happen all the time.”

On His Thoughts On Roy And Opening Night: “I actually didn’t see it live, because I was coming back downstairs, thought the game was over. So I got downstairs and heard all about it and then I saw it. Obviously he is a passionate guy and just sticking up for his teammates, wasn’t his fault that the glass was loose. (Laughs) But really, blame someone else for that. Shouldn’t have happened. (Laughs) Well I’ve seen coaches snap, there’s no question but the one thing is with the players, he’s not like that with the players. He’s been very patient with the players and there’s a mutual respect and very calm and the teaching path and instill that confidence in all the players.”

On Similarities Between He and MacKinnon at similar ages: “Well, I didn’t start until I was 19 so there’s a year difference there. But similarities, I think he is advanced in the maturity. I think Patrick did a great job with him, not giving him too much right away, start him without that pressure and he’s really grown and learned the game really. What I’m most impressed with, we all know what he can do with the puck and his speed but what he’s learned away from the puck has been very impressive to me. I think having Patrick and this coaching staff and some of the older veterans he can look up to, to learn from he’s listened and learned.”

“Well, it’s learning. Obviously, now all the sudden you’re playing with men and learning how to be a pro. Obviously, I think JS Giguere’s really helped him out. He has lived with him and his family and that’s been a big help to Nathan.”

On The Need For Experience In The Playoffs: “This is a team that expects a lot from themselves and yeah we have some guys that are going to learn on the fly when it comes to first time playoff experience. But, I’m a big believer that if you play the right way and don’t cheat out there and that you can have success. You can get that experience while winning. I mean that’s the best way to get that experience and the way the team has reacted all year, expecting more and playing with that consistency is going to do them well in the playoffs.”

Head Coach Patrick Roy

On Jan Hejda's Availability for Game 1: “Like I said yesterday: I expect him to play. I mean it was clear in my mind that Jan was going to play [Thursday].”

On The Avs Being Ready To Get On The Ice After Three Days Off: “I mean it’s good timing for us to start [Thursday]. It was good to have those three days, one day off two days to practice touch a bit of things we wanted. But if we would have played today I mean it would be the same I think our team, we’re a young team. I think our guys are ready for that first round. It’s not something that we just did today. I mean this is something we’ve been preparing all year and right now it’s great opportunity to play a playoff game. I mean it’s getting tougher and tougher to make the playoff in the NHL and when you’re in you have to take advantage of that opportunity and it gives you a chance to win the Stanley Cup. This is something that we have to be ready and certainly very happy to be part of that.”

On Any Worry That The Team Could Be Too Excited For Tomorrow: “Well, I mean it’s part of our plan, I mean this is something, we want to be under control there’s no doubt about it. This is the dangerous thing in the first game sometimes a guys going to be very excited, very pumped for the first game, the first few shifts but I think, like I said, we are going to talk today about it. We are going to talk a lot about the first game, those first shifts and we have guys that have played, I mean the Tanguays, the Sariches, the Talbots, the Gigueres they have won Stanley Cup. They’re certainly going to help our group. I think we have a very good mix of different, different age obviously, but also different perspective inside of the room that could help us in the playoffs.”

On His Excitement Heading Into His First Playoff Series As A Coach: “I am very excited about it. I mean I guess for me it’s like I haven’t missed much in the way that the eight years that I played in Denver were we had playoff runs and this year it’s no different. But, I guess with time you start to realize, missing those last ten years makes me realize that yeah it was tougher to make the playoffs than it was maybe when I was here in the first place. It’s a good opportunity for our group and I’m very excited about it. I’m also excited to see what kind of adjustments we are going to have to make. I’m ready for it and I look forward to this challenge. This is a great opportunity. Am I nervous? I’m saying no, I’m more anxious to see the puck drop. I know we are well prepared as a coach. When you’re well prepared you’re not nervous, I mean you’re anxious. You want it. You want to go. You want to go out there and see that puck drop and have that first shift and see if you can generate something off of it. I’m sure our fans are going to be thrilled, we expect our fans to be giving us a standing ovation when we jump on the ice and be on their feet until the start of the game. This is a great moment. This is a great time for us.”

On The Difference Between The Nerves As A Coach And Player: “Yes, it is. Obviously, I mean as a player you’re a difference maker, you’re on the ice, you have a direct impact. As a coach, you have to watch. You have to be mentally sharp. You have to adjust if you see something happening, you can help the players to adjust whatever they are going to throw at you. I just want to make sure we are ready for all kinds of situations. We already have a B and C plan in our pocket if they do this or they do that. We want to be ready for any kind of situation. I think that has been a key for us all year, we have been able to adjust and when you’re capable of adjusting every night then I think it certainly helps you to feel good about yourself and be ready for the game and there’s no curveball that you think you could miss.”

On Expectations For MacKinnon In The Postseason: “Zero, ‘Nate, just go and have fun.’ He’s been playing hard all year he’s playing well for us. He’s having an outstanding year and whatever he’s been doing has been impressive. Then have fun this is what it should be for him. This is what it was for me when I was 20. I mean I didn’t try and say I’m going to carry this team on my shoulder and I’m going to bring this team to the cup. I mean this is only a result. I remember my first year I don’t know why but I mean I went in a sauna, I was 165-pound, I had no weight to lose, actually I should have put weight. I went in a sauna and Larry Robinson came in after he was in the shower because when I was in the sauna I saw he was in the shower and I saw him coming in the sauna and I said he’s not coming in for a sauna, he’s coming to talk to me and he said, ‘Hey Kid, the only thing I’m asking: no bad goals.’ From the first game I was not thinking about winning the Stanley Cup, I was thinking, ‘No bad goals, and then having fun, and that’s what Nate has to do.”

“I understood what the players wanted. They just wanted me to play my game and not try and let in any bad goals and that became my objective. I guess it’s a lot easier for Nate because I’m asking him just to go out there and have fun. If there’s some adjustment in his game we have to make, we will make them it’s as simple as that.”

On MacKinnon’s Season: “All year we tried to tell him that, don’t think about the Calder or being a rookie. Think about being a veteran out there and playing up to the other guys and I think he has been doing just that. As an 18 year old, I mean he’s been put in any kind of situation. Put him on left wing, put him on the center, put him on the right side. He played PK early on. He played the power play. I mean he touched pretty much everything then I think that prepared him really well for the playoffs. You’re right I mean he just needs to be himself. When he is himself he’s performing at a high level. I mean I saw him in the playoffs and one thing I like about him, he’s going to be level. He’s going to play hard every night. You’re up, you’re down doesn’t matter. That’s what he did against us at the junior level we were up 3-0 in the series we lost in seven games and he was very dominant.”

On Keys To Dealing With Minnesota Defenseman Ryan Suter: “We are going to have to finish every check we can on him. I mean it’s very simple. If he plays in our end he might play 45 minutes. If we play in their end, and we finish our checks, we force them to battle when we are going to the net. He needs to push guys around. We want him to play big minutes. I mean he’s a special player, let’s not kid ourselves, but we are going to have to force him to play big minutes.”

On Other Teams Following The Avs’ Plan Of Former Players Leading Their Front Office: “Probably they love what’s going on here. Our ownership deserves a lot of credit for it, I mean Mr. Kroenke and his son (Josh, Avalanche president and governor) have given Joe an opportunity to step in and be the VP of this organization, but I think it’s been great for this franchise. I mean I’m sure guys like Trevor Linden or Brendan Shanahan I’m sure they’re going to do a great job as well in their new organization.”

Defenseman Tyson Barrie

On How He Is Feeling After Leaving The San Jose Game With An Upper Body Injury: “It was a good hit. He got me good but I feel good now. No symptoms. I feel 100 percent so I’m excited to get started tomorrow.”

On What The Excitement Is Like In The Locker Room: “All the guys are ecstatic right now. You can just feel it in practice. I think we’ve been waiting three days now, feels like a week. So we are really excited to get this thing started tomorrow, can’t wait to step on the ice.”

On The Need For Experience In The Playoffs: “Yeah, I mean we’ve got some youth but we’ve got some guys that are young but they’ve been in the league four or five years. Obviously, we have guys like Sarchy, Jiggy and Tangs (Corey Sarich, JS Giguere and Alex Tanguay) who, you know, they’ve won cups so we’ve got some experience in here and we’re not I don’t think we’re too nervous for tomorrow night. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

On His Knack For Game-Winning Goals This Year: “Yeah, I mean there’s obviously a bit of luck to that. I‘ve been fortunate to you know get out there, coaches trust me to put me out there when we are down a goal or whatever and whenever we need a goal. So obviously, that’s a big part of it is being out there and then just kind of get lucky to get a few past these guys in the late part of the game.”

On Talbot’s Comments About The Team’s Confidence: “Yeah, absolutely. I know I’ve talked to Talbot about it too just to kind of pick his brain because he has been there before. He’s a guy that obviously knows what it’s like to be in the postseason and he thinks we got a real good feel in here, and it feels like we have a pretty special team. We will see what kind of damage we can do in the playoffs.”

Defenseman Nate Guenin

On Minnesota’s Changes Since They Last Played: “Yeah, you know they added some pieces there to their team. They have really good depth. They have scoring all through their lineup. They have some guys that eat up, eat some big minutes so it’s just a matter of playing our game. We’ve prepared, we’ve studied them but we believe we got a really good group in this room and you know it starts with us.”

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