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Off-Day May 14 Quotes: Michel Therrien

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Q.  Sid was talking about how the series could be the opposite of what it is right now, bounces or just not as lopsided as it seems when you look at it being 3-0.  Do you like that mentality that your players have, that they haven't lost maybe the perspective of how hard it is to be where they are?  It isn't as easy as it looks?

COACH THERRIEN:  When you get to the playoffs, they're all tough games.  I believe yesterday we got some breaks.  The first goal was a break.  You need breaks in the playoffs, but if you stick to the plan, if your work ethic is there and you do the right thing and you're disciplined, most of the time you're going to get those breaks.  But there's no doubt there's times we've got breaks and it's helped to win some hockey games.

But I like the mentality of the players.  They're never satisfied.  And for us, nothing changed.  You know, we try to concentrate about the way we can play.  We try to concentrate about taking one game at a time, and we don't want to look at the picture.  It's tomorrow night.  Yesterday we're concentrating about yesterday.  Now we won that game.  We're in good position.  We're pleased with our position right now in the series.  But tomorrow we understand it's a cliche, but it's going to be a tough game to play.

They're going to be desperate.  But in the meantime for us we're going to focus on what we have to do.


Q.  I went back today and looked at your famous tirade from two and a half years ago when you were early on behind the bench here.  And what you said that night kind of proved to be somewhat prophetic with lack of defensive commitment and so on.  How far has this team come since then?

COACH THERRIEN:  Well, when I came to Pittsburgh, the team was in last place.  And there was no commitment at all.  When you're in last place, there is a reason.  I believe they got some good players at times, really good players.

But the commitment, not only defensively, but the all-around commitment was not there.  And if you want to have some success, we had a change everything, the attitude, work ethic, and commitment, because we weren't going -- we were going the wrong way.  Pretty simple.

When I got there, I tried to be positive a lot with the players.  And that was, after a month, it was the same result.  So how long I was going to wait?  And I decided to be, at that time, I decided to be tough with the hard way, and it's never fun.  It's never easy.  It's not fun when you have to breakdown mentality of a team.  It's not a fun thing.  But look at where we are right now, and pleased that we did it that way.

We'll try to change the mentality of everyone, because to be a winner, it's tough.  It's demanding to be winners.  I believe right now we're starting to be recognized as winners.


Q.  Can you talk about the change in Marc-Andre's game since you started working with him?  And is he now becoming or has he become one of the game's elite goaltenders especially during these post?season playoffs?

COACH THERRIEN:  Well, Marc-Andre Fleury, this is the best I've seen him play in the NHL.  Even though he's only 23 years old, he went through some experience through his career right now, and he gained experience with some ups and downs.  This is how you gain experience.

He got some good moments in his early stage, and he went through some tough times as well.  But right now, I think with that little experience that he's got, it's helping him to have that success.  The game slowed down in front of him.  He's more in control.  Controls his rebounds.  He doesn't have to make those spectacular saves like he tried to do early on in his career.  And that's a great sign.

You look at great goalies, the Marty Brodeurs, the Patrick Roys, all are pretty easy for them because they're always in good possession.  And they see the plate a lot in front of them.  And Marc-Andre, I think is right there with those, the Brodeurs and Patrick Roy.  But definitely he's going through that direction, and that's a good sign for a young goalie.


Q.  The game after your speech about your defense, you went to Columbus and lost by a lopsided score.  Were you, at that point did you say, oh, my goodness, what have I done?  They're playing even worse than they did against Edmonton?

COACH THERRIEN:  You know what, that was the first.  Sometimes you can't judge a team with results.  The next game, they looked like a team.  They looked like they cared.  And even if we lost that game, it took us some time to get results, but that was the little light at the end of the tunnel.  I started to see it that day, the next game.  They showed a little bit more character during that game, and, honestly, I remember that game like we just played yesterday.  But that was the first step to get where we are right now.

Sometimes you've got to do those things.  But that was, I would say, the game in Columbus, that was the first step.


Q.  Back to Marc-Andre real quick.  Was one of the best things that happened to him when he came back from his injury, he had to compete for his job with Ty?  Was that he had to show you that he deserved to be in net?

COACH THERRIEN:  There's no doubt.  Because Marc-Andre's the first pick overall.  We give him the number one job.  He didn't have much competition to be the number one guy.  Because we've got faith in him, and we know what he's capable of doing, and we want to work with him.

Due to the injuries that he got this year by the way that Ty Conklin played, we have a lot of respect for Ty.  He was phenomenal.  He's one of the reasons why we made the playoffs.  If it wouldn't have been from Conklin, maybe we wouldn't make the playoffs.

So, Ty was playing pretty well when Marc-Andre was ready to play.  But we decided to send him down to the minors.  He was healthy enough to play.  And that gave us a chance to send Marc-Andre to the minors and work on his game.  When he came back, we didn't give him the net right away.  We wanted him to earn it.  For the first time in his NHL career, he had to earn it.  He had to fight to get that job.

This is what you're looking for from your team.  Not only your goalie, your defenseman and your forward.  You want to have some inside competition.  Inside competition is always, I believe, a good thing.  Because it forces the athlete to perform and make sure that they're not losing their job.

Q.  The trade deadline deal that this team has made has obviously worked out and paid dividends.  But was there ever a time that you were worried that the trades that were made would not get you to this point?  Trades that are made don't always work out.  Was there ever a time that you were worried that these were not?

COACH THERRIEN:  Well, lot of credit to Ray Shero first of all.  He did a fantastic job.  Before the trading deadline, we had meetings and we were looking for the needs of this hockey team.  Like all the team was battling to make the playoffs, and all that stuff.  But he found the right way to make those deals.

When you're capable to make those deals, first of all, it gives confidence to the players and to the team that the organization gives a tap on the back and we've got your support.  We want to win.  We don't want to win in two, three years.  And that was big for a young team.  That was probably the first time they were saying like we've got the players.  We believe in you guys and you guys did a great job so far.  We're missing a few pieces of the puzzle, and Ray Shero certainly with his staff did a great job to have those pieces to the puzzle to the team.  It definitely brought a lot of confidence to the team.


Q.  You talk about that first step of them going to that defensive process, and learning that.  Not only have they bought in because you told them to do it.  They bought in because they believe in it and seem to take pride in the defense as well.  Can you talk about the maturation process from that first step till now?

COACH THERRIEN:  We talk about before every game, about the defensive game at the first day of training camp.  That's a process.  It takes time.  It doesn't come naturally, especially with skilled players.  But they buy into it.  This is why they understand, and they play well defensively.  They stick to the plan the way we try to play our system.  Well, they're going to get rewards.

It's not about not playing well without the puck.  We try to teach the young guys to play well when they have the puck, too.  We talk about puck management, it's really crucial for us, and where to position themselves on the ice.  But the players really, really buy in.  Even at this time of the year when they see the guys on the bench see one of the guys on the ice not doing the job, they know right away.  And the players let the players know that you're not doing the right thing.

So just to show maturity for such a young team, usually you're going to see that with veteran players.  But you heard the comment of guys that are 20 years old, 21 years old saying you shouldn't have been there.  You didn't do the right thing there.  So that is leadership as far as I'm concerned.


Q.  You talked about how mentally the trades helped the team in their mindset.  Just talk a little about how good Gill and Hossa have been on the ice in the playoffs?

COACH THERRIEN:  Well, they've been great.  You know, it's like a guy like Hossa always has been a little bit criticized about his playoff performance in the past.  Right now he's playing his best hockey in his career in the playoffs.  And, you know what?

Sometimes it can be a fit.  A player will fit well on a team how they play.  How they play their system.  Do they have the speed players to play with, play with that type of player.  And I really believe that a guy like Hossa is the right fit for him.  The way we try to play him.  It's the right fit to play with Crosby.

He's having a great time right now.  You can tell.  He comes to the rink, he's got such a great attitude.  Gill the same thing, the way that we play him, I think it's a great fit for him to be successful.  He's finally getting recognized that he's a good shut down guy.  He's killing penalties really well.  And Pascal Dupuis, as well.  All those three guys that we brought in, it's a great fit for a team.  But sometimes, you know, you could bring in some players that's not the right fit.  But right now with those three guys, it's just a perfect fit for our needs.

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