You're leading a close series against Houston so far. You have to be happy with how your team is playing right now.
Absolutely. I think we're getting great goaltending right now from [Corey] Crawford. With them (Houston) being the Minnesota Wild farm team, they play a lot of trapping and try to frustrate you and really pack it in the 'D' zone. We've kind of stuck with our game plan, just getting pucks and bodies to the net, and so far it's been working out for us. Obviously Tuesday night and Game 1 have been low-scoring; not a lot of chances in the series so far. But the guys are playing well, especially Game 3.
Crawford only faced 16 shots in Game 3, but his numbers in the series so far speak for themselves -- 0.87 GAA and a .959 SV%. What are you seeing from his game that stands out?
I think he's squared away. I think he's seeing the puck and he's feeling it real good, too. [Goaltending coach] Stephane Waite is here with us almost every day. I think it's good to have a coach around you every day to talk with. I think his preparation with Steph has been good. He's real focused and I think also in the back of his mind, two years in a row we've been knocked out in the first round, so he wants to have a good showing. I think that's a big thing for him right now. I think it's his time. He wants to prove something to everybody.
Defensively you are obviously relying on Crawford quite a bit, how about offensively? Who are your go-to guys right now?
Kris Versteeg has played extremely well in the first three games and so has Troy Brouwer. (Martin) St. Pierre's been good, though we could use a little bit more from him and (Petri) Kontiola, but for the most part they've been pretty good. I think that (Niklas) Hjalmarsson's been real good on the defensive end, but he can help us on the offensive end too. Those are the guys we're kind of counting on. When you get goals from the other guys chipping in, it makes for a lot more success.
Have you seen Hjalmarsson take his game to another level following his successful stint with Chicago at the end of the year?
I'd seen him improve tremendously before he went and I think he's got a lot more confidence now. His first two games were tough for him because of the adjustment coming back down. But now I think the confidence level is so high because he's played so many minutes down here and in all situations for us -- first power play, penalty kill, regular shift -- and he's a guy we really count on, especially since we lost Jordan Hendry. He's really stepped in there and has done an unbelievable job for us.
What are Hjalmarsson's strongest assets?
I think his vision first of all; his competitiveness; and his smarts. All three of those things. For me, he's so smart back there. He doesn't get himself into trouble and he stays in his element. And then the other side of it is that he's good with his vision. He moves the puck up and makes some good passes and some good decisions. He doesn't always jump in; he knows when not to jump in the play and when to jump in. And I love his competitiveness. This kid wants to win. He's a warrior and he's going to have a long career in the National Hockey League. He's going to be a real good one.
You mentioned Jordan Hendry. He suffered a bad injury in the final regular season game of the year. Can you explain what happened?
He (accidentally) got hit with a stick and really got knocked out and kind of just went face first down onto the ice. He had some loose teeth and a pretty nasty cut up above his forehead. I think they had to have some plastic surgery done on that. His nose was not broken, but I think he had some cuts inside his nose from hitting the ice. It was a pretty ugly scene when it first happened, but it was probably a lot better than what everybody expected.
How is his recovery going?
He's doing great. His swelling has gone down. He's not on the trip with us but he's feeling so much better. I talked to him yesterday and he's feeling better. He's eating whole foods now and he said he can smile without any pain or anything. All the swelling is going down and there was no real concussion there. He's doing much better and he may even be able to skate by the end of the week.
So he could maybe play at some point in the playoffs?
There is a chance. I don't know about this round, but we'll keep re-evaluating to make sure the doctors clear him and everything. I would eventually think he would have to play with a full cage to protect where the scar was.
Dave Bolland was nagged by an ankle injury here in Chicago at the end of the year? How has he been since rejoining Rockford?
He still has a little bit of that. We're really trying to treat him the best we can everyday and rest him on the days off. Right now he's only playing games, but he's been good in the games; his work ethic has been there. He's good on draws. He's had some chances to put the puck in the net. He's been very, very good for us and and he's playing special teams, power play, penalty kill and regular shifts. Adding him was real big for us because he just gives up more depth.
You commented on how bad Crawford wants to win this time around. With the first round exits the last few seasons, how hungry is the team in general?
I think they're real hungry. I see a little bit different attitude from the guys who have been here -- guys like Fraser, St. Pierre and Crawford who have been around for the last couple years. We have a little bit different make up this year and I think last year was real disappointing for a guy like Brouwer and the other guys I mentioned, including myself. Everybody's got a little different attitude this year. We're hungrier. I think we're more focused on what's at hand. We don't want to get too high after a win and we don't get too low after a loss. That could have been a devastating double overtime 1-0 loss in Game 2 but we responded and played real well last night. We have to continue to do that and look forward and go at it one game at a time.
What has your reaction been to all the positive developments that have taken place in Chicago this season, both on and off the ice?
I think it's been outstanding. I think it first off shows our depth with the young talent that we have -- all the guys who have come up and made the Blackhawks and impacted the Blackhawks. Then we had some guys come up to fill in and the team didn't seem to miss a beat up there. To have all those injuries and still be, going into the last weekend, a successful team up there in a playoff spot I think is outstanding. To have two teams, one in the AHL playoffs and one in (contention) the last week, it shows you the depth of this organization and the direction the organization is going in. It's fantastic to be a part of and I'm glad I am. It's fun to be a Blackhawk right now. The future looks great.
With all of that depth, some players are inevitably going to be frustrated by the fact that they're probably ready to be in the NHL and there just isn't the room for them. How do you manage those egos -- and maybe ego isn't the right word -- but how do you manage those situations as a coach?
I think it is a little bit of egos. You have to sit them down and communicate with them and be honest with them. Our job here is to get them ready to play. You're going to deal with a lot of frustration when they get sent back down or another guy gets called back up and it could have been them or should have been them. It's a situation where you have to be honest with guys. You have to have a real good handle on your team and sit them down and talk to them about it and tell them that it's their career. They have to perform and be ready to go; the next call could be for them. Once they understand that the frustration level kind of goes down, but if you let it fester I think it could hurt your team. You have to nip things in the bud and you have to hit it head-on and be honest with them and explain to them that they have to be ready for the next call because there's going to be a next call. The guys this year have done a great job with it.