Following their thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 5 to stave off elimination, some of the Chicago Blackhawks were available to the media on their off-day in preparation of Game of the Western Final series with the Los Angeles Kings.
Along with head coach Joel Quenneville, Brandon Saad, Michal Rozsival and team captain Jonathan Toews gave their insights on how Game 5 went and what to expect from Game 6 as they aim to force a seventh and deciding game back in Chicago on Sunday.
An interview with:
NHL Public Relations
May 29, 2014
Q. Andrew Shaw finished the game. Making sure he's good to go.
COACH QUENNEVILLE: He's good to go. He was real good for us all game. He came back.
Q. Did you get much sleep last night?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: A little bit. Not as much as in general, but it was good.
Q. Marcus Kruger, he took a heck of a knock. He's fine?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: He's fine. It was a good hit. He wasn't going at full speed. Saw him at the end. Probably looked worse than it was.
Q. Ever seen anybody more able to take a hit and get back up?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: He takes some tough hits. Last night, looked like he probably got crushed or killed, but it wasn't that bad. It was right in front of us. I got to see it.
Sometimes you're making contact with the boards. Sometimes you can get hit pretty hard. He's pretty good about absorbing it, rolling off it. But he's pretty tough, too.
Q. Didn't play Kris Versteeg. Expect some lineup changes?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: We could. Don't expect many.
Q. Talk about the challenge of going in there and winning?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Obviously we have to go in there and win. I thought in the six periods in there, I thought we had two good periods a game, did some good things.
I think the one thing we have to shore up is the goals we're giving up. That's the area we have to tighten up, make sure those little details, whether it's a puck hanging around our net or off the rush, let's make sure we're cleaner.
Q. Rozsival talked about Saad, said he looked like he wanted to be the guy last night. Is that part of the maturation?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: He was amazing last night. I thought he's had some games like that over the course of the season where he takes it to a different level.
Young kid, consistency, putting it all together, that's what we're looking for. But he has that ability to play a high-level game, almost like an impact player. Throughout the league, not too many guys that can make an impact on a game like he did last night.
He has that ability which was great last night, that consistency we look for. He had one of those games you always remember.
Q. Versteeg, do you think it's physical or mental?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: It was a tough night, the one shift particularly. Just got to battle through it. It's a competitive game. Not a lot of time, not a lot of space. You got to do whatever you can to advance the puck and contribute.
Q. Your defensemen were a lot more offensive than they've been in a while. Still have the green light for Game 6?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: All playoffs long it's a situation where we want our ‘D’ activated because the rush game, creating off the rush in all three series, is not there. We need their activation to get through the middle of the ice. To get to the center sometimes is a good play.
We were a little bit more active off the rush, off the points, as well. Against this team, anything we can do to add a little offense is what we're looking for.
Q. Is that tough considering the scope of what this game means tomorrow night?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Well, I think when we're on the attack, five-man units attack, we got help coming back. It's not like we're going and giving up odd-man situations. That team is going to make you pay every time you do that.
We're finding the balance there, not changing how we play, just get more support offensively from the back end.
Q. Is there a residual advantage with other lines that are affected?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Tough to say. The matchups, four pretty good lines. Pretty agile, mobile ‘D’ that are pretty good. No breaks no matter who is coming over the boards for them. The matchup will be what it will be.
Last night there were a lot of sequences where it didn't matter who you were out there against. Very big shifts, very important shifts as well.
I don't think we have a lot of time to think who you're out there against. You're playing your game, with your linemates, trying to contribute in the best way.
Q. Obviously if you don't win, you go home.
COACH QUENNEVILLE: Same approach as last night. I thought we had a real good start to the game. We were kind of loose. Had nothing to basically lose.
Same approach tomorrow night. I think that's where we're at. We need to win one in their building. Comparable to the way the first two series went. Let's go.
Q. (Question regarding pucks in the crease.)
COACH QUENNEVILLE: That's an area where we want to make sure we're better at. The quality of goals in front of our net, those are plays you don't even have to make a play. Let's clean it up, fight the next battle.
Those loose pucks are somehow finding a way in there. I think we can be better. That's what we have to improve.
Q. Did the hockey fan in you enjoy what you saw last night?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: It was a great game. Overtime was one of those you'll never forget. It was an incredible pace. You could see the series take on a different pace in last night's game. It really elevated. Our team was where we wanted them to be.
Q. On Corey Crawford.
COACH QUENNEVILLE: I thought he really settled down. After the fourth one there, I thought he did everything we were looking for. Really showed composure. I liked the way he battled through it.
I think after that fourth one there, we needed him to be great and solid. He delivered.
Q. Nine forwards played a lot of hockey last night. Any concern?
COACH QUENNEVILLE: I would say their nine forwards played just as much. There wasn't any deviation between either teams, how much, how little. So that's where we're at.
Q. Talk about the challenge going into their building again, getting the win?
BRANDON SAAD: It's a tough building to play in. We've had success there before. We can use that experience and hopefully win tomorrow.
Q. Have you come down from the fantastic game last night?
BRANDON SAAD: Yeah, it was an exciting game. We all enjoyed it last night. It's a new day and we have to focus on tomorrow.
Q. What is it about you and Patrick Kane that works so well together?
BRANDON SAAD: I think we both have some skill. With hard work out there, he creates a lot of space. I just try to get open and he can make the play.
Q. Joel talked about that being a line for a long time to come.
BRANDON SAAD: It was fun last night. Hopefully we can continue having success and stay together.
Q. You made that pass and then the game was over.
BRANDON SAAD: I tried to buy some time and look for options. I saw him coming down the middle. He was open. Made a great play off his skate, a great play to finish off the game.
Q. How do you balance desperation and confidence?
BRANDON SAAD: I think from past experiences. Our backs are against the wall, facing elimination. But we're staying relaxed. Knowing we've been through it before, that definitely helps.
Q. Where does the confidence come from on the road?
BRANDON SAAD: We've had success on the road before. L.A. is definitely tough. We're not going to let that end the season. We can't make any excuses whether we're playing home or away.
Q. How do you do that? You want to build up momentum. How do you balance it?
BRANDON SAAD: I think you want to take that momentum. Momentum is huge in playoffs. You want to try to ride that as long as you can.
I think going into their building, getting off to a big start will definitely help that.
Q. What has this series done for you individually in your development?
BRANDON SAAD: I felt pretty good all playoffs. To be able to produce and help out the team, that always helps with confidence, bringing your game to the next level.
Q. When you're a young guy out there, milestone marks along the way in your development, you feel you've passed the test.
BRANDON SAAD: You always look for new challenges. Any time you can elevate your game, produce, help the team win, that obviously helps out with your confidence and moving up.
Q. Did you learn anything about yourself as a player last night?
BRANDON SAAD: Yeah, I feel that was one of the best games I ever played on one of the biggest stages. It was nice to help the team win in an elimination game. I'm looking forward to going forward.
Q. Do you know if the momentum can carry you forward?
BRANDON SAAD: Momentum is huge. They strung three wins together with momentum. After last night, we want to keep that momentum as long as we can.
Q. Do you find that that momentum carries from game to game?
BRANDON SAAD: I think it carries game to game. Even with a couple days off, you're always thinking about whether you win or lose. You always feel better on the winning side.
With that win, I think we can feel good going into tomorrow.
Q. What is the pressure like knowing you can go home if you don't win?
BRANDON SAAD: It's a lot of pressure. At the same time you try to relax and take it like any other game. Anytime you think too much into the future, it tends to hinder your game.
I think staying relaxed, having fun, playing the game, it's when you're at your best.
Q. Who relaxes the people in the room?
BRANDON SAAD: I think everyone through past experiences. Obviously we have a lot of leaders that help out along the way. Going through it in the long run, that's what helps the most.
Q. Do you feel that's the bar now, where you need to play?
BRANDON SAAD: Yeah, that's the game I want to play consistently every night. It's tough to do. I want to play that way, skating hard. Hopefully the production comes every night.
Q. How difficult is the turnaround?
BRANDON SAAD: Travel day with the long day and long travel. Both teams are going through it, so there's no excuses.
Q. You talked about your line bringing energy early in the game. How much harder will that be going into their building?
BRANDON SAAD: I think we have a deep team. Even though our line ended up scoring last night, there's a lot of lines that can be a threat. Who knows how the matchups will go. But we have to bring our game.
Q. Is it starting to feel like it was when you were a junior, where you're just playing hockey, you don't have to worry about the speed of the game?
BRANDON SAAD: I feel good. The more you go through things, the better you feel. Going through the playoffs last year, I'm feeling comfortable, confident. That definitely helps in your game.
Q. On his beard.
BRANDON SAAD: Yeah, I don't know. I'll have to look at pictures. I think it's getting worse every year (laughter).
Q. How do you weigh the pressure of winning a hockey game, but also having the confidence you can win it?
MICHAL ROZSIVAL: I think it all comes from the character in the room, the personality we have on our team. There's always been belief. We know we have the right tools on the team to do anything.
We believe in ourselves. Even though we had our backs against the wall, you know, we were never short of unbelief. I think that's what it is.
Q. (Question regarding changing of the lines.)
MICHAL ROZSIVAL: I think it was kind of surprise to all of us. I mean, it worked, right? Still give up four goals, but we end up winning the hockey game, which is the most important thing.
Sometimes things like that can spark something in a hockey team. Whatever it did or didn't do, it doesn't matter. The end result is the most important thing.
Q. You got to see Brandon Saad a couple years. How would you rate how his game has steadily improved and his performance last night?
MICHAL ROZSIVAL: Yeah, Brandon, definitely what I saw last night in him was probably one of his best games I've ever seen him play, just the way he played with so much confidence. Looking at him, he looked like he wanted to be the guy, the guy that makes the difference in the hockey game. He did.
He was strong on the puck. He was skating. He was being physical. He did everything, you know, through to the end to help us win the hockey game.
It's a big improvement last year. When I saw him last year, he was a quiet guy in the locker room, feeling everything out. But, yeah, this year he has been playing great. He really elevated his game in the playoffs.
Q. One game at a time, but talk about having the confidence of going into the building and winning tomorrow night?
MICHAL ROZSIVAL: I mean, yeah, we all feel pretty good after winning the big game yesterday in such a fashion, double overtime. We feel like we have the momentum on our side. If we can have the same start as we had last night, it would be nice.
It's going to be tough. It's always a tough building to play in. But, you know, we're all excited to go there. We just need to win another one.
Q. Corey was good down the stretch there. What needs to happen defensively to stifle this Kings team?
MICHAL ROZSIVAL: I don't know. Looking at both series, a lot of goals being scored. I don't know what needs to be happening. Definitely maybe try to be a little more physical in the battles, winning those battles. Sometimes it bounces, sometimes it doesn’t.
I don't really know. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. We need to win the hockey game, whether we get five or ten goals. If we score 11, that's fine.
Q. Seemed like you were having difficulty clearing the crease of loose pucks. Is it more difficult these days because of what they're doing or what you aren't doing?
MICHAL ROZSIVAL: Yeah, I don't know. I think that's their game plan. If you look at it, they try to throw a lot of pucks into the crease, into the feet, kind of crash the net. They scored a couple goals like that last night.
Sometimes as a defenseman or a forward, you're lucky to find the puck and clear it, sometimes you're not. Just kind of keep it simple. If you have the chance, muck it out into the corner, that's the best way to do it.
Q. You’ve been stepping up a lot more on the offensive end in terms of pushing forward, bringing the puck in. What are the pluses and minuses to that?
MICHAL ROZSIVAL: Yeah, I mean, we've always tried to help our forwards offensively. We ask them all the time to come back and help us defensively. I mean, it's got to be two-way street.
We have to, you know, do the same thing for them to kind of try to jump up and create different looks for their defense. It loosens everything up a little bit, it seems like, so that's what we're trying to do.
Q. Talk about the position you're in.
JONATHAN TOEWS: Well, we're going to work on getting our first win on the road against this team. We want to stay with mentality, that we're putting all the pressure on them. It's going to be tough for them to close it out and win that fourth game against us.
We showed how resilient of a group we are last night. We're going to do it again tomorrow.
Q. (Question regarding Brandon Saad.)
JONATHAN TOEWS: I think his first season, last year, everyone asked me about him. Biggest thing I saw with Saader was not only his skill and his ability at his age, but also that element that he always wanted to improve and get better and better as the season went along.
I think you see that same kind of idea come in in a game like last night where he's never satisfied. He wants to be a difference-maker. I don't know if I can think of a game that I've seen him play in better than last night. He was unbelievable.
That's what it takes. That's basically what we need. To find a way to win against this team is guys like that stepping up. We got it from Saader last night.
Q. Do you think he has a natural chemistry with Kane, as well?
JONATHAN TOEWS: Yeah, I mean, Saader, physical presence, he can hang onto the puck, he can score, make plays. I don't think there's a whole lot that can go wrong when you put him with a guy like Kaner. Nice to see the chemistry last night.
Q. You talk about how you're not the only one who can lead by example. Was Brandon the perfect example of that?
JONATHAN TOEWS: Absolutely. I think Saader is the biggest example. But look across the board throughout our lineup, every single guy stepped up and wanted to win that game last night. If we don't have that, we're not going to survive in this series.
I think everyone took it upon themselves to play better, look for that extra notch that we're looking for as a team to have success in this series.
Q. How difficult is it to play a hockey game knowing for whatever reason if you don't win you're going home, long summer ahead of you?
JONATHAN TOEWS: I guess there's part of that that you want to, I guess, have in the back of your head going into the game. But you can't be thinking about it a whole lot during the game. You have to have that desperation. We showed it last night.
At the same time we, like I said, tried to remind ourselves that the pressure's on them. That's the way it's going to be the rest of the series. We're just going to keep fighting to stay alive.
Q. You talked about the legacy of this team. You have a chance to win two in a row. Do you ever think about that maybe in the quiet times when you're not on the ice?
JONATHAN TOEWS: I think we're going to consider ourselves a team that has a chance to win every year every time we reach the playoffs for a number of years after this year. But it doesn't mean, you know, that we're going to be satisfied with that and say, Okay, maybe this year isn't our year.
I think we have a group that understands the opportunity we have. It doesn't make any sense to pass that up. We know what we're capable of in our room. We're not going to throw it away. We're not going to go away easy.
We want to take advantage of it. We made it this far. We're going to keep fighting and play as hard as we can.
Q. Does the experience of knowing you've been through this a couple times help motivate and drive you to stay calm in the storm?
JONATHAN TOEWS: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think there's times in series where you're up a game or two and everything feels great. It feels like, Okay, this is meant to be, we're going to move on in the next round, things are going our way, we're going to keep it that way.
There's other moments where you're down, two games to one against St. Louis, three games to one against L.A., and that thought creeps in your mind that maybe it isn't going to be that way.
You have to fight that, kind of overcome it, fight those negative feelings when you're down in a series. Just see the positive in it and find ways to win.
We just have to win one game. That game is tomorrow night. We're not worried about more than that.
I think the game that we played as a team last night gave us that good feeling again. As far as I'm concerned, we're back on the horse. We're excited to play again tomorrow night.
Q. Kane and Saad, Joel made a point of saying the pressure was on them.
JONATHAN TOEWS: I think they were probably thinking they were in a great situation last night. I don't think any team, if you have the chance to eliminate somebody, you know, the last thing you want to do is lose that game and have to play another one.
So, like I said, we have that good feeling in our room. We need to kind of let that snowball, kind of slide our way, and hopefully it can go the other way against them as well. I think that's part of it, that when you have that momentum, it's pretty much all mental and you have to use it as much as you can. Hopefully it goes the other way against the other team.
Q. On playing at the Staples Center.
JONATHAN TOEWS: I think we played a handful of good periods. When we didn't play so well, it was almost disastrous.
I think we've got to avoid that and understand there's going to be moments where they're going to come at us hard. We might get calls against us, or they might score. We need to swallow that pill and move on.
I think some of the guys have said already, we need to keep an even keel. We haven't necessarily done that on the road against this team yet. We know we're capable of doing it. We'll just think about that, play a tight game, a patient game, like we did last night.
Q. (Question regarding faceoffs.)
JONATHAN TOEWS: It's been tough. They understand as much as we do that winning faceoffs is a big part of maintaining puck possession, trying to carry the play in this series.
We're focusing on it. I think we improved a little bit last night, but it's something we can still work on.
Q. Compared to last year against L.A., does it seem like there's less time and space?
JONATHAN TOEWS: I don't know. I think it was a tough series last year. I don't think it necessarily means that we won in five games that there wasn't a whole lot of space. It was still a hard-fought series.
I think we know what type of team they are, how they like to play. At the same time we know they're probably playing a lot better hockey this time around. They want it that much more. So it's been a tough job for us.
We got to be equally as difficult to play against as they have.
Q. On the Kings referencing how beat up they were last year.
JONATHAN TOEWS: Not really. Are they making excuses for last year?
Q. On the Kings not being afraid to talk about how beat up they were last year.
JONATHAN TOEWS: Let them say whatever they want to. It was a good series last year. We're in a heck of a series this year. We got a lot of respect for that team. We know it's going to take our best to beat them, as well.
*Transcript courtesy of ASAP Sports