Before the Stanley Cup Finals begins tomorrow at the Prudential Center, it was time for each team to get prepared on their last day prior to the series. They didn't just have practice, they had to deal with: the media. Yes, today was Media Day and so there all kinds of quotes, quips, and clips of various members of the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings out there. In addition, there are good stories put together like this one by former ILWT writer and current SBN-NHL writer Steve Lepore about Martin Brodeur. There are also good story streams like this one at SBN-NY that you can follow.
Now, I wasn't present at today's Media Day due to my day job. Nevertheless, the NHL PR department was gracious enough to send me transcripts from today's press conferences. I figure that it'll be a nice change of pace to have something other than previews and analysis ahead of the series.
For those of you who do want a comprehensive preview of the Stanley Cup Finals, then please check out this series preview I put together earlier today. If you're into listening to podcasts or me tripping over my own thoughts about the upcoming series, then you're in luck as I've done a number of them over the past few days. In addition to my usual work on Talking Red, I was a guest on the recent NHL Numbers podcast to preview the Stanley Cup Finals along with Brent Morris and the Jewels from the Crown people. I've done two shorter appearances: one with on Backseat Sports with Zac and Tully and one with the All the Kings Men podcast, which has yet to go live as of this post. I'll be doing something with Hockey Prospectus that should be up tomorrow. For interesting quotes from various Devils and Kings players and personnel with sparse commentary, please continue on after the jump.
Interesting Kings Quotes from Media Day
Q. You have been stealing games for your team in the Playoffs...
Quick: No. I wouldn't say I was stealing games. I think it was a team effort. We're a great defensive club. We've done that well for years. So I wouldn't look at it as stealing games. My job's the same as it was in October. Got to stop the puck. That's it.
They've been great in the playoffs, so it's fair. I'd agree that he really hasn't been stealing games given that the Kings have been the more dominant team in possession.
Q. Growing up in the area as a big Ranger fan, what do you remember about the Devils – specifically 1994?
Quick: Yeah, I was. I was rooting against Marty then (smiling). You know, obviously it's pretty cool playing against him. But, like I said earlier, it's about the teams. It's the Kings versus the Devils. It's not an individual sport, obviously.
And everyone's hatred of Quick just risen.
Q. What do you have to do to beat them?
Brown: From a hockey standpoint, I think it's important, again, our forecheck is probably the key to our game. To follow that up is getting through the neutral zone successfully against them is probably a key. If we can get through there, we can get on the forecheck. Again, our forecheck has probably been the reason we've been so successful. We need to play like we have been the first three series. Top to bottom, we've had contributions from everyone.
Brown states what most were thinking going into this series. I suppose whoever establishes the forecheck and succeeds will have a decided edge.
Q. The penalty kill has been so aggressive in the playoffs and successful. Has it been that way all year? If not, when did you go to a more aggressive style?
Brown: Our PK, it was good all year. I don't know what we finished at the end of the year. Top five, I think. I don't think we had that many shorthanded goals. We made a couple adjustments going into Vancouver, playing a wedge as opposed to three across. It will obviously be a little more aggressive in the neutral zone and up-ice with the way the support works. I think our up-ice, how we defend the rush, has allowed us to maybe create a few more turnovers, get more opportunities.
A) Brown is correct about his team's PK performance. They finished the regular season fourth in the NHL with an 87% success rate. B) A wedge, you say? Hmmm...how can the Devils play against a wedge?...
Q. There's talk about similarities between the two teams. Do you see that?
Doughty: Yeah. We're both really good teams from the back end out. Both goalies are two of the best goalies in the whole league. Both teams kind of have that defensive system they play. But at the same time, they jump on opportunities on turnovers to create offense. Both teams are going to work hard, finish checks, play hard in every area on the ice. I think it's going to be a real battle to try to win this series.
This doesn't seem interesting until the next quote.
Q. Is there a benefit for both of these team having to fight to get into the Playoffs?
Doughty: Yeah. We both kind of had subpar regular seasons. I think both teams have kind of got on a roll. Watching the New Jersey/Rangers series, I thought New Jersey just dominated them. You could just tell that everyone was clicking on the team, they felt good as a team. I think we kind of did the same thing. Like I said, it's going to be a tough match to beat these guys.
Kind of subpar? Brad Doty, the Devils finished with over 100 points! They finished 10 points ahead of #7 Washington and #8 Ottawa! They knew their playoff fate well before the last day of the season! Unless you have some incredibly high standards, that's not subpar.
Also, as much as I love shots being taken at the Rangers, I'm rather shocked at the second statement. The Devils dominated them? Did Doughty pop in tape of the Flyers series instead of watching Games 5 or 6 against New York?
There's also this exchange:
Q. Has it been hard with the Lakers and the Dodgers? Did you almost feel like you were in the shadows?
Doughty: I think we kind of were in the shadow. I think that was one thing that in a way we all kind of liked about playing in L.A., is that you could be a normal person, not have to walk around being recognized everywhere, having to talk about hockey all the time. But the team hasn't been a great team for so many years that you can kind of see why we were kind of in the shadow.
Q. You don't blame the people of L.A.?
Doughty: No. We still have those diehard fans who have been fans since day one. They've always showed that support and we love that. Now that we're winning, it seems like we're the talk of the city. It's amazing.
Q. Is this a chance for hockey to elevate itself more in L.A.?
Doughty: Yeah. In L.A., hockey's definitely not something -- what do you do? Play for the Kings. Sacramento Kings. No one knows anything about hockey. It's a great thing that people are finally coming to games. There's so many times when I hear people telling me it's their first hockey game and they had so much fun. It's great that we can kind of put L.A. on the map as a hockey city. To come down here, have that rivalry with the East Coast, it's going to be great for hockey.
It's not the people, except when it is the people. Drew Doughty: great defensemen, not-so-great speaker.
Q. Question on facing Pete DeBoer
Richards: Yeah, he taught me to be a professional. That's what he did when he was in junior. He ran things with what you would expect from the NHL. That four years he taught me a lot. Probably one of the guys who taught me the most about the game in the sense of coaching-wise.
I suspect things like hitting-guys-after-a-whistle or throwing-shots-in-scrums were self-taught.
Q. People say L.A. is not that great of a hockey town. How is it different from East Coast Philly to laid-back L.A.?
Richards: Might not be as many people. I don't know how many people. You're going to have six million hockey fans. Even when I look in this room right now, 20 hockey fans, a hundred people, it's still a huge market. Like I said before, when we had the opportunity to wrap up the series against St. Louis, that was probably the loudest I ever heard a building probably for that two or three-minute span.
The loudest ever? As said by someone who went through a Stanley Cup Final run with Philly in 2010? In your faces, Flyers fans!
Q. Is there a time you can point to when this team started to turn it around?
Richards: Not really. I couldn't pick out an exact time. I think there came a point in the season where you're starting to get used to teammates, start feeling more comfortable, but you're still not yourself. I think there was a point, I came back from injury, you start getting your legs under you, you start feeling better, you start just being yourself around the rink, feel comfortable with everybody on and off the ice, you have the confidence to go up to somebody and say something about what you want on the ice, and vice versa, people have the confidence to come up to you and say different things, too. I think there's just a feeling-out process at the beginning of the year once you're traded. Probably mid February, a month after my concussion, you start feeling better on the ice and confident.
Mid-February's a good time frame for a turnaround. I'd specifically suggest the 23rd of February, though.
Interesting Devils Quotes from Media Day
Q. I'm sure you just want to get through this day and get to Game 1 tomorrow night. Talk a little bit about the experience of being here, what it means to you, especially given where your career has come over the last couple years.
Kovalchuk: It's great. You guys are doing a great job. I think the NHL is doing a great job. It's a big event. First time I’m ever here. It's great. We have to make sure we're ready tomorrow night.
Kovalchuk isn't just leading the league in points, but also gratitude. I'm surprised he didn't say he thought the transcribers were doing a great job.
Q. We heard a lot about your forwards. Tell us about the D on your team. Not a lot of talk prior to the playoffs about how good they are, Salvador, Marek played great, Greene. What are they doing right?
Kovalchuk: Yeah, I heard you call them bunch of no names, they got upset (laughter). Like you guys said, they really stepped the game up. Salvador, you know, he's got 11 points offensively. He's putting the puck in the right place, make some great decisions with it. Zid was good for us all playoffs. Fayne, Volchenkov, those guys grind it out. I don't think anybody block more shots than Volchy did. We just want to prepare as best as we can and go for it.
I, for one, think it's great someone asked Kovalchuk about the defensemen. To be fair, no defensemen took to the podium and the only other defensemen-related question asked was with respect to Marek Zidlicky. By the by, Kovalchulk was right about Salvador's points, but the leader in blocked shots by the Devils is actually Andy Greene - who wasn't brought up at all.
Q. Did you think you’d be here at the beginning of the season?
Parise: I mean, you always believe that you do and you always hope right from the beginning that you've got a good enough team. But it was hard for us just because we didn't have Travis right out of training camp. Jake got hurt. Right away the guys they penciled in as one and two centers were gone. Once Travis got back, really gave our team a lot of depth. Once he got comfortable playing again, we strung together I think six or seven in a row at the end of the season. It's about peaking at the right time. I think the way we played against Philadelphia really, really made everyone believe that we had a really good chance, just as good a chance as everybody.
That Philly series will be seen as a stepping stone and Parise's not the only one to have brought it up. I repeat: in your faces, Flyers fans! Also: Jacob Josefson is called Jake, apparently.
Q. On Quick…
Parise: He's playing with confidence. We ran into the same thing with last series with Lundqvist, with how well he was playing. Lundqvist had been playing great all the way up to the series. It's the same. Every goalie in this league is very good. More often than not, if they see the puck, they're going to stop it. You're always saying the same things: get traffic around them, get rebounds, make it hard for them, stay deep. Looks like he's playing confident. You can tell how aggressive he is with shots, how he's challenging the plays. You can tell he feels really good about the way he's playing.
Parise's comparison of Quick to Lundqvist is appropriate. Let's see if he and his teammates can crack him the same way the Devils did: good bounces, good plays to get guys open, and getting in close on rushes.
Q. How much has Kovy changed as a player since he came in till now?
Zajac: He's always been successful wherever he's played. Coming in, he wanted to work on different parts of his game, you know what, all ends of the rink. He's a responsible player. He back checks hard. He's great in the D zone. He recognizes when he has to chip pucks in and when he can make a play. He's still going to go out there and make a great play and be a dynamic player. Right now he's responsible at both ends of the ice. He's basically a complete player for us.
I'm still trying to get past the first sentence. "Successful wherever he's played?" I guess Zajac never paid much attention to Atlanta?
Q. Lou was here and he said he felt this team was good enough all along. He knew you needed a few pieces. You had some tough times this year. When did you look at this team and think you could do some damage in the playoffs?
Elias: I think at the deadline, Lou did a great job bringing in Marek Zidlicky. We were missing a piece like that on our back line, having a guy that can make that final play, bring a little bit of skills for the power play on the back there. I think that helped. From that point on, with the game plan we had as a team, Pete brought in being aggressive, skating well, playing well defensively, I think it took a few months obviously under Pete to get adjusted to the game. But in the middle of the season, we start feeling like if we play to our potential, we can beat everybody. You come to the playoffs, you never know how you're going to do. I think as the playoffs went on, we saw what happened in Florida, they made it difficult for us. That's how the matchups are. Against Philly we played great hockey. We found a game plan that really worked against them. I think in the Philly series we really got a great confidence that we can beat this team and move on. Even if we play Rangers or Washington, that we can be successful against these teams. I'm going to say again, the series against Flyers really turned things around for us.
A great confidence, huh? Well, I'd have to agree, though I'm a fan. When they beat Philly, I figured that they can take on inferior teams like New York or Washington.
By the way, the questioner wasn't being fully accurate, but I'll get to that later on in the question.
Q. Anything the players need to improve?
DeBoer: Sure, every player needs to improve different things. I think with our group, it's a constant learning process, little things we can get better at. I think our systems are in place. Everyone understands where they should be, what they should be doing. There's details every game guys have to improve at and he's no different than anybody else.
I love this mindset. Better is always better than good!
Q. Can you talk about what your impressions were of Martin Brodeur before you got here and now that you've coached him?
DeBoer: Impressions before was just what everyone else's impression was of him. Arguably best goaltender of all time, has won everywhere he's been. When you're around him every day, I think you realize what separates him. It's not sheer talent. It's talent combined with a real knowledge of the game and a mental toughness and composure at stressful times that I haven't seen before. It separates him from other guys.
Sorry, but Brodeur is just slightly above average. Get with the times, coach. Psh.
Q. On acquiring Zidlicky…
DeBoer: Well, with Tallinder going down, we needed a top-two defenseman. Minutes-wise we needed a right-handed shot for the power play, and also so that we could have three lefts and three rights on the back end, and a guy that could compete defensively against other teams' best players. That's a big shopping list to throw at Lou going into the trade deadline. Get me one of these guys that can do basically everything. He fit the bill across the board. Lou paid a heavy price to go and get him. For me, he's been worth every cent.
While Zidlicky has been great in the Florida and Philly series and far better than I expected, I struggle with the notion that he's a top-two guy. The acquisition is turning about to be well worth it; would Kurtis Foster and/or Nick Palmieri help the team get this far? Probably now.
Q. Take us back to the beginning. Did you ever think the team you assembled would be to this point this year?
Lamoriello: You like to think every team you ever have has a chance. I don't think we ever did until halfway through the year.
Hey! That's a big admission! It's also before he made the moves to get Alexei Ponikarovsky, Zidlicky, and Steve Bernier. So it's also a bit confusing. Maybe I'm focusing too much on the literal halfway. Either way, that question to Elias was wrong, Lou wasn't initially confident! In your face, media guy!
Now, I'm going to cut off Lou's answer because it's rather long and I'd rather focus on the part that explains the prior quote I pulled:
Q. I know you set the tone wanting to win every year. You made a lot of subtle moves this year that a lot of people don't recognize. Maybe you can talk about that, like Zidlicky, like Ponikarovsky.
Lamoriello: I think every time you go into the season, because you have the summer, you feel you have the team that can have the success because of the way we think. You get halfway through the year, you see what you need, who hasn't really adjusted, who hasn't worked out. The young player maybe hasn't developed the way you thought he was going to develop. Maybe the veteran is having an off year. You have needs.
What we saw when we got to halfway through the year, we didn't really have the depth on the lower end of our lines. No disrespect, but to do maybe some of the things that you could take ice time away from the veterans. We had our veterans killing penalties, maybe giving too many minutes. Our focus was how can we get our fourth line better, where they could take some of the top minutes away if we could continue to use our top players. ...
Lou then went on to talk about the various acquisitions. But this put Lou's original answer of halfway in better context. Lou admitted what we all knew: the depth wasn't very good. Mattias Tedenby is likely that young player that didn't develop because, well, he didn't. I'm not sure who the veteran that was having an off year was right off the top of my head. Interestingly, the acquisitions of Ponikarovsky, Zidlicky, and Bernier met those needs except for the one about getting the fourth line better. All Lou had to do was to order Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen to the press box - and that didn't happen until the last game of the season.
Q. Did the players make you change your style? Right now you are entertaining as heck to watch. You're one of the most fun teams in the NHL to watch. Did the coaches make the change or...
Lamoriello: I think the offensive players, really they didn't say anything certainly, but I think their styles sort of really told us, without saying anything, that we should. I think I felt it. With the young players, we had Joe, Travis, Zach, Kovy, you have to give them what they have. Too, I always take offense to the teams that the people thought were defensive, those years they were second and third in scoring. I always look at the differential of goals that win championships. A lot of high-scoring teams can win games. I never worried about that. But we would still have that style if the players here, that's what we needed to win. We're going to do whatever we need to do to win and we're not going to apologize for it.
Hmm, Lou called out Josefson (there are no other possible Joe's on the team) in that group. Interesting.
In any case, I think this is more telling into why the team plays the way it does. The players' style fits into it better than a conservative, defense-first-and-second approach. It's good to know that Lou is flexible enough to know that adjustments are needed as the players change, rather than force the players to fit into a particular system. It may have been necessary given the changes in coaching and in the game as a whole.
There was so much more, including interviews with other guys that weren't in the transcripts. Nevertheless, I found quite a lot that I found interesting from the provided transcripts. Maybe it's because I'm not familiar enough with Media Day to get cynical about it? Either way, I hope you appreciated this different kind of content. A big thanks goes to ASAP Sports for transcribing Media Day and the NHL PR department for emailing me these transcripts. What did you make of these quotes? What would you have asked? I would ask why everyone was in official team hoodies, but that's just me. Please leave your answers and reactions in the comments. Thanks for reading!