Capuano likes Islanders' attitude after tough Game 1
Shawn P. Roarke
PITTSBURGH -- The day after, there were few signs there would be lingering effects from the dispiriting 5-0 loss the New York Islanders suffered less than 16 hours earlier to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
It was a loose group that showed up Thursday afternoon for a short, but spirited, practice at Consol Energy Center.
"You got to have spirited practices," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We have a good bunch of young guys on our hockey club and that is how we have gone about our business all year. You could see the emotion they had today and the fun they had today. That is what you have to do. There's going to be surges and there's going to be momentum playing against a good team, like I said, but you want to make sure the guys stay relaxed.
"I thought we were tentative last night, maybe a little bit tight for whatever reason, and we couldn't execute. Give them credit, they were hard on our skill, got pucks in, forechecked hard. They don't change a lot, they are champions for a reason and they have good veteran guys. For us, we just need to make sure we do things a little better than we did in Game 1."
It appears that message got through, judging by the response of the team's best player, MVP candidate John Tavares.
Tavares had a nightmarish introduction to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He did not register a shot on net, the only time in his 49 appearances this season in which that happened. He was a minus-1 and he was physically manhandled by the Penguins at time, suffering big hits at the hands of Brenden Morrow and Kris Letang, among others.
Yet Tavares was among the most active players during a small-game drill that dominated the practice session. He is already embracing the opportunity to redeem himself in Game 2 here Friday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN)
"I think we have to play a little harder, more disciplined, and realize that we are going to have to give more than we gave last night," Tavares said. "A lot of sacrifices are made. Winning isn't easy and it is going hurt a little bit. You are going to have to battle through a lot of things. We just have to make sure we establish our game a little bit more, we play a little bit quicker and not get caught up in all the stuff going on.
"That's something we did well down the stretch and we just have to refocus and regroup."
At times Wednesday, Tavares looked surprised by the intensity of his first playoff game.
"It was just a lot of emotion, adrenaline and excitement," Tavares said. "We were not happy with the way we came out. To finally get here [to the playoffs] and have that kind of start ..."
Tavares said he wasn't taken aback by the physical attack directed his way.
"I tried to be physical myself," Tavares said. "Tried to finish some hits. That's part of the playoffs. They are going to be physical on me. Sometimes that gets you going going, gets the blood pumping and gets you a little [angry]. We are just trying to play hard and fight through that stuff. We have guys that are playing physical. We still think we can be more physical."
In fact, Tavares said his club should follow the blueprint laid out by the Penguins in Game 1.
"We can't let it be easy for them -- a lot of skill, a lot of talent. Those guys they have to go through us as much as we have to go through them," he said. "They have to earn everything they get and I think, at times, we weren't as aggressive as we have been lately."
Tavares and his coach believe the Islanders will be more aggressive Friday night.
"We have faced adversity throughout the year," Capuano said. "Like I told the guys this morning, we have had some hiccups along the way. This team has always responded. The one thing about our club is that we have always found a way to get back on track. As a coaching staff and as an organization, we have confidence in these guys with the character and leadership we have in this room.
"I liked that practice. The guys felt pretty good even though we lost that game. That is the attitude we have to have to move forward."