I keep getting asked about the keys to our success. I say it starts with our goaltending. When you have two goalies who play the way Bryzgalov and LaBarbera do, it makes it such an easier game and you don’t have to really worry about much. Plus, our forwards and defensemen have been supporting each other at both ends of the ice and that has worked well for us.
The confidence in our dressing room is about as high as it can get right now. We’ve pulled out a few wins in the shootouts, but that comes with the territory when you work hard. We’ve been working hard and that has enabled us to have that confidence. But we can still get better in a lot of areas. We know that some of those wins were lucky. We know that sometimes putting the puck in the net won’t be that easy. Before the playoffs come around we know we still have things to work on. I think one of the best things about our team is that we realize that. Sometimes when a team get rolling you tend to not have as many meetings or look at video of opponents as much, but we know we still can get better every day. And we need to work on a little bit of everything. If it were just one thing we needed to work on that would be easy because you could just work on that one thing every day. Obviously, our power play is something we need to work on a lot. But there are other things. When you look at playoff games, it’s always going to come down to defensive zone coverage. Even the best teams in the league can always get better at that. Other areas we need to work on are communication and getting the puck in deep and not making turnovers.
Today I was asked if I expected this team to be this good when I signed as a free agent last summer. I told him I knew we would be fighting for playoffs, but realistically if you look at where the team was coming from last year it didn’t seem like it would be close to this. So, yes, I am surprised.
I like being on this team because there are no “superstars” in our room. I think that makes us tougher to play against. If you look at some of the other teams in the league, if you can shut down the top players on those teams a lot of the other players seem to follow that and they don’t really know what to do anymore because they’re so used to relying on those top players. Here, every night we have different players stepping up and winning games for us.
OK, it’s time to talk about the shootouts. A lot of my success has been luck and the timing of things. Going out there is always awesome. I still remember the first time Dave Tippett put me out there because it was the 10th round and I literally couldn’t skate because it was my first time ever in a shootout and I was so nervous. Most guys who know me know that I am a team sports type of guy and I don’t like to do things alone. So, for me, the shootout really doesn’t go with my personality. After doing it five times now, I wouldn’t say it’s gotten any easier, but it has gotten a little less nerve-wracking. I’m still nervous and I still want other guys to win it before I get a chance to get out there, but it has been fun.
If you watch those shootouts closely you’ll see I tend to do the same thing every time. It’s funny because I always go into it thinking I have to do something new, but I don’t know if it’s the way I skate in or the way I shoot, but that glove side always seems to be open...