Penguins head coach Michel Therrien did a media conference call Friday, looking ahead to Game 5 of the playoff series against the New York Rangers. Game 5 will be played Sunday at 2 p.m. at Mellon Arena and televised nationally by NBC.
Q: How did your team react mentally after the loss last night and do you think this will be the first real test of their composure in these playoffs?
A: At the end of the season when we were battling for the division, their composure was really good and I believe it will be the same for the playoffs. I have to look at the big picture over the first four games; we played two at home, we played two on the road, and we have the lead 3-1 so we have to feel pretty good about ourselves. I think it is a great start. We know that we are playing against a team that is very competitive and that is very good with a lot of experience. Getting to play Game Five and have a chance to clinch the series…we have to feel pretty good about that.
Q: How do you deal with the ice time for Malkin and Crosby? Is it something you have in your mind that you want them to play a certain amount or is dictated by how a game is going? How do you apportion that?
A: It is always dictated by the game. Do we have the lead? Are we trailing? I have confidence defensively in all our centermen. If the centermen is doing such a good job defensively, you always want to make sure you have fresh players on the ice. In the meantime, when you are trailing by one or two goals, you want to have your offensive weapons out there like we did yesterday. If you look at the ice time of Malkin and Crosby in the first three games, they were about 18, 19, 20 minutes. Yesterday they had a little more ice time because we were trailing by one or two goals. That is the way we are doing things. Those players have a responsibility offensively and defensively, not just those two because it goes all along the lineup. Look at Jarkko Ruutu when he have the lead. He (Ruutu) have been playing a good defensive game and so far he was playing anywhere from 14 to 17 minutes, but yesterday his ice time was a little less because we were trying to get that extra goal. So it always goes with the way the game is going whether if we are ahead or trailing.
Q: A couple days ago one of the Rangers, I think it was Lundqvist, said the pressure was all on the Penguins and everyone had a good laugh about that. Does the psychology of your team change that they (Rangers) are now a bit back in the series?
A: He said this comment after the first two games at home and even after the third, so you know what, I am not buying into who has the pressure and who doesn’t have the pressure. This is playoffs, they have the pressure Sunday because if they don’t win, the series is over and we have the pressure because if we don’t win, we have to go back to New York. That is the playoffs and all teams want to win those games. That is why it is so fun because both teams have something on the line.
Q: Regarding Malkin and Crosby more long term without looking at it from a financial standpoint. There has been a lot of situations with two great centers on a team such as Gretzky and Messier. Is there enough room over the long term with ice time and such for these guys to co-exist on this team?
A: I surely believe so. They proved it this year, they proved it last year. Any winning team would like to have a 1-2 punch and this is exactly what we have. We are fortunate that Ray Shero make fantastic moves at the trade deadline to pick up players that are the caliber to play with Sidney Crosby. When Crosby was hurt, there is no doubt that Malkin, Sykora, and Malone were carrying this team to the top of the division. That is the type of discussion we had with management…if we could find that type of player to play with Sid and lot of credit goes to Ray Shero for making those moves. Those are two young men who play really well for their team and want to win and they know it is that time of year, especially, it doesn’t matter who scores as long as they win. That is their philosophy. Sidney knows that he needs Malkin to be successful and Malkin knows he needs Crosby to be successful, so they work together very well.
Q: TSN had a question for their panel last night on who would you pick to build your team around, Malkin or Crosby, and it seemed like something that may not have even been a question a few months ago, but the way Malkin has played are you getting those questions on who you would take?
A: You know what, I have two kids at home. I got my daughter and my son and I am not going to answer a question on who I would keep at home, my daughter or son. That is the type of question I can not answer because they (Crosby and Malkin) are both a part of our hockey team.
Q: Having this 1-2 punch, improving 47 points last season, exceeding all these expectations…what is it like to be in charge of this thing? Coaching a team that could be really good for years to come?
A: As a team and as players, they are still in a development program, believe it or not. I know down the road those players will get better. We are talking about players like Crosby who is 20 years old, Malkin who is 21, and Jordan Staal who is 19, so there is a lot of teaching that is still involved. They have a lot of natural talent, but I know over the years those players will get better and our team will have a chance to get better because of those players getting better. You can’t ask for a better challenge for any coach to have an opportunity to work with those kinds of players and the potential that they can bring. That is why I am so proud about where they are at such a young age. Jordan Staal is 19 and he could have played juniors this year, instead, he is competing against some of the best players in the world game in and game out. What a challenge for him. It is fun for a coach to work with a young player like this and the same thing with Crosby, Malkin, and Marc-Andre Fleury because we know the potential they have. We have big expectations for them. It is not about pressure, it is about when they are going to reach their maximum potential over the years. This is where it is fun for our staff.