In this week's edition of Bruce Bites, Wild.com's Dan Myers sits down with Wild coach Bruce Boudreau to talk about playoff hockey, Martin Hanzal and the evolution of Joel Eriksson Ek:
Dan Myers: Other than participating and winning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, what is your favorite part about playoff hockey?
Bruce Boudreau: The intensity is way up. It's amazing how you watch a regular season game and you think you're really going, then you watch a playoff game and you realize how much people really have left to give. The tempo picks up, the thought process and the thinking of everything you do picks up. Everybody that plays hockey knows that this is what counts. So everybody is better.
DM: The last few years, you've been playing out on the West Coast, so you're playing in the last game of the night. Now, you'll have a game to go home to after yours. Will you find yourself on the couch after games or watching the other playoff games on off nights?
BB: I do that every night all year long, so why would I change? I mean, [Tuesday night after the Carolina game], I watched both San Jose and Anaheim when I got home. But I do that every single night.
DM: You've talked a little bit lately about the balance between resting guys over the final few games and playing them in an effort to maintain their edge. Have you tried each of these approaches in the past and what has your experience taught you about each?
BB: Well, last year, we sent [Anaheim goaltender John] Gibson home the last week, and [Ryan] Kesler, and it didn't work out good for us. Other years, we've rested guys and it has worked out. So I don't know if there is any known science of what's the best thing to do. [Blackhawks defenseman] Duncan Keith didn't play [Tuesday] and got rested, but I'm sure he's going to play in the playoffs and do just fine.
DM: It seems like Martin Hanzal has really emerged as of late. Is he understanding the system better? Expectations? Comfort with teammates? What do you think?
BB: I just think the comfortability of getting to know the players is really an important issue. And now that he has his family in town and he's settled in, I think that makes a big difference. It's tough going to a new organization when you've been somewhere for 10 years. He's settling in quite fine right now.
DM: Speaking of settling in, you talked about how different Joel Eriksson Ek looked from when he first arrived, having put on some muscle. How have you seen that translate now that you've seen him play a few games?
BB: It's amazing. There's no such thing a rookie, really, this time of year. For him, he's played the whole year. These guys have gone through a year of growth and he knows what the NHL is like. He played professional in Sweden for half the year, so I think he's a better player now than he was when he was a wide-eyed kid that came into training camp.