NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk:
PITTSBURGH -- All these years later, a dozen since winning the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, and Dave Andreychuk is still trying to slow the game down and keep his emotions in check so he can live in the moment with his team.
"I'm obviously not a typical fan," said Andreychuk, the Lightning's former captain turned vice president of corporate and community affairs. "Some of the people watching games with me are amazed at how I see the game compared to everybody else. Do I want us to win? Absolutely, 100 percent. But the roller-coaster ride that most fans are on, mine is probably a kiddy ride compared to theirs. There's not as many ups and downs, and maybe that's the player coming out in me."
Don't mistake Andreychuk's words here. He's fully invested in the Lightning as they prepare for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). He'll do whatever he can to will his team to a win against the Penguins because that will get them back into the Stanley Cup Final for a second straight season.
Andreychuk won't let his emotions cloud the moment.
"As players, you never can look behind and you can't look ahead, you can only play for what is happening right in front you," Andreychuk said. "Our fans are now looking ahead, saying, 'OK, who are we going to play in the Cup Final?' They're doing things that players just can not do. It's not healthy. We've got to win Game 6. We've got to worry about Game 6 right now."
The Lightning have a 3-2 lead against the Penguins in the best-of-7 series. They also had a 3-2 lead against the New York Rangers going into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at home last season. They lost 7-3 before winning Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.
Video: 2004 Cup Final, Gm6: 2OT goal forces TB-Flames to Gm7
Andreychuk talked about the state of the Lightning going into this year's Game 6 in a conversation with NHL.com on Monday.
Here are Five Questions with…Dave Andreychuk:
What impresses you about the Lightning right now?
"When you talk about their resiliency, to me what they went through last year, just being a young group, I think it's paying dividends this year. We're seeing it not only when the playoffs started, but almost game-by-game. You're down 2-0 and there's no panic. We're not just talking players here. We're talking coaching staff too. I think they got a huge amount of playoff experience last year with what they went through. It all starts with Jon Cooper and the way his demeanor is. There's no panic. There's no yelling. I think he just believes in his group. It's been kind of amazing to watch, really when you think about it."
OK, let's think about it, and let's go back to early April. Steven Stamkos is lost with the blood clot issue. Anton Stralman is lost with his injury. Realistically, did you think the Lightning had a chance of eventually getting into this position at that time?
"They have a lot of good players. I think there is great depth in the lineup. I thought the Stamkos thing we could get over because of our scoring depth. The Stralman injury was a different story. Obviously hockey people know what his value is to the team, and us that have been around this team the last two years know for sure. He's a really, really good player. He logs a lot of minutes and does a lot of good things for us. I thought that would hurt them more than anything else, but Victor Hedman has done what he has to do and there's been the emergence of Slater Koekkoek. Jon going with seven 'D' so they don't have huge minutes of ice time helps. There are lots of things, but when that happened it was pretty scary actually."
You mentioned Cooper going with seven defensemen and 11 forwards. It doesn't work for every team. It can throw off pairs and line combinations. But it works for the Lightning. Why do you think it does?
"I think it's because these guys have been together for quite a while. When you look at the group and you minus [Brian] Boyle and [Ryan] Callahan, you can see the group that started with Jon in the AHL like [Vladislav] Namestnikov and [Alex] Killorn, and the list goes on and on. I think playing together for quite a while is a reason. They've got a lot of different line combinations. I think that's what Jon uses. It helps in disturbing matchups on other teams. It gives [Nikita] Kucherov and [Tyler] Johnson more ice time. It frees up the defense so they're not overloaded with ice time. Even though Slater Koekkoek only played 10 minutes [Sunday] night, those 10 minutes have to go somewhere on the 'D' and that's sticking with the plan. We've seen it for a while from Jon now and teams just don't know what lines are going to come out on the ice. We all look down at the other bench and see who is standing up and who is ready to go, and you know what the line is going to be. Well, when 8you're looking down at our bench you're not sure if it's going to be Johnson and Kucherov together or if it's going to be Johnson and Palat, or all three. You're guessing to see who is going to come out. Jon can switch things up easily when there are only 11 guys. And also there is talent up and down that lineup, so your top nine or 10 guys are good players and they're all capable of being on the ice against anybody."
Video: PIT@TBL, Gm4: Drouin pads the lead on the power play
Were you like the rest of us in wondering if Jonathan Drouin's Lightning career was going to be over before it really had a chance to get going? What do you think of him now?
"Absolutely. I think it was a bad situation on both sides. It just was not good. You've got to give Steve Yzerman credit for being patient, not pulling the trigger, not panicking. And you have to give Jonathan credit for coming back, swallowing his pride and understanding his role on this team and what he has to do. I truly believe that he sat at home and watched games and thought to himself, 'You know what, talent is only going to get me so far. It's effort. It's determination.' He's been a totally changed player in that aspect. We all know his talent. We watched him in junior. We watched him when he came here. We know he can skate. We know he can see the ice. But you've got to have effort. You've got to have battle in you. That's what Jonathan has had since he's come back. We'll see what happens, but he's just a big piece to our puzzle right now. He adds to the depth and it's good to see from him. He's been given the opportunity to see the ice time and he's taken advantage of it."
I saw some pictures of the watch party outside Amalie Arena for Game 5 and it looked packed. What do those nights, when the team is on the road, mean to the organization and to the city?
"I think it started last year with a long playoff run. Remember, the year before we were four games and we were out. I think the memory is coming back from '04, what people experienced. And you obviously have a bunch of new people who are jumping aboard, and really they're not necessarily all hockey fans. I think they just want to be part of it. They see it and they want to be down there. I'll give you a perfect example: My daughter brings four girlfriends to go downtown for it, and those girls have never seen a game. But they want to be part of it. We're getting lots of fans. When you can get 20,000 in your building and then another 5,000 standing outside that can't get in on game nights, it's pretty special. You've gotta give Jeff Vinik credit for what he's done. It's taken a lot of hard work to get the brand where it is. Obviously team performance is a big part of that. It's been fun to be a part of."