With a recovery day today, the team feels they will be ready for any challenge they may face for Game 4.
Head coach Rod Brind’Amour as well as Sebastian Aho and Max Lajoie spoke with the media via Zoom Saturday afternoon. Here’s what they had to say:
On moving past a hard loss in a double overtime: To be honest, those are harder loss. If you’re going to lose you’d rather lose five to nothing or something because you can easily park that. When you lose a game like that with kind of everything that went on it definitely sits with you more because just one play here or there makes the difference. But that’s why it’s nice to have a little day in between here where there’s no practice and we’re not going onto the ice. It’s just looking up old video sessions and I think you get a good sense to regroup and come at it again tomorrow. That’s how we approached everything all year. It’s one day at a time and I think we’ve moved on already.
On his comments on officiating: I wasn’t sending any message. It was just the facts. These guys are great by the way. I’ve said this all year and all the time. It’s an impossible job that they have to do. Absolutely impossible job. You can not ref this game live. It is impossible. Everything looks like a penalty, everything looks like not a penalty. You stick a video screen down here and two seconds later I go, “Oh, that’s not a penalty.” They don’t get that look. Even the over the glass thing. It doesn’t make any sense. 20,000 people or however many all get a review of it. We’re all seeing it and reviewing and they have to huddle without a review of it. Not sure how you’re supposed to call that. The common sense part is where I’m just like, “Really?” It doesn’t make sense. Then that leads to a 5-on-3 and they get it, by the way we lost by a goal in overtime. Doesn’t matter what happened in the second period. Everything adds up and that’s the frustrating part and what the frustration is with players and everything. It blows over to me, and it’s nothing against the referees. These guys are awesome. I know these guys. Talk to them after games. You run into them. They’re the greatest officials around. They have an impossible job.
On if the team changes anything about the nutrition when players are logging an additional 30+ minutes of game time in a day: That’s a good question. Our trainers, Billy Burniston, were scrambling to be honest with you. You could see it after regulation games. Now, we got to get their nutrition going. They’re doing the shakes, they’re doing the food. You could see them in hyperdrive trying to figure out, “Okay, we’ve got to keep these guys energized.” That’s why today is just a recovery day. It would have been anyway, but it’s important to manage that whole thing. Your rest and your nutrition so you can be your best tomorrow.
On Alex Nedeljkovic starting tomorrow: We haven’t met with him yet. We have a small group going on the ice right now and then we’ll make our decision off of that on kind of who goes in goal. The concern is not his play, but just the mental and physical grind because we really hadn’t given that to our goalies this year. We’ve really spaced it out. So that’s the discussion we’ll have here shortly.
On guarding his frustrations with officiating from the locker room: How do you not think about it. I’m just on the bench like you watching it. They’re the ones out there losing their minds that this is going on. I think they want someone to say, “Hey, help me. Stand up for us,” to be honest with you. It doesn’t effect us. They’re still going to go out and kill another penalty. They’re going to do it. It’s clear to me, and I said it last night, that something’s not quite right. If these are penalties, I can guarantee you that I can find them, because we did. Went through the whole game and they were happening the other way too. So something wasn’t right over these last two games. That’s all I’m saying. No problem on the penalties, but if you want to call them here, they better be called the other way. And that’s where you get this frustration on my part and the player’s part. It’s done. We move on and we’ll see how it goes.
On any regrets on making his comments on officiating public and the Jordan Staal fine: I thought I was very nice about it. I’m just telling you what happened from our point of view. I’m not blaming anybody. I’m just saying this is what has gone on. These are the facts. I’m not being critical, I’m just saying it happened and that it didn’t seem right to me. It’s not critical. And Jordo getting a fine on that play. I don’t handle any of that stuff. It’s just again between the players. It just seemed weird that he would get a maximum fine for that when I’ve seen a lot worse stuff going on here. I don’t know how they come up with all that.
On having his player’s backs: When it’s warranted, you want your coach to at least say what you’re feeling. Again, I’m not being critical of the officiating, I’m just making light of the point that in the last two games, we’ve been killing 25 minutes of penalties and getting six minutes of power plays. That doesn’t seem right. It’s not like they are blowing us out of the water and the ice is tilted like this. It just doesn’t seem quite right and that’s what I’m saying. We’re moved on. Tomorrow’s a new day. End of story.
On Jake Bean and the game-winning goal: That’s tough. Those high flips, they got two goals on them. It’s a nothing play, but it can become a very valuable play. Everyone’s doing them. Just flip it out. It’s hard to defend and it bounces crazy. You saw it in the Florida and Tampa game the other night in overtime. The exact same thing. Just a flipper out and then how it bounces. Does he have to play it a little differently? Yep. We’ll go over that with him, but it’s hard to put blame on him. It’s one of those things that happens. It’s part of hockey. He’s going to have to deal with the ups and downs of hockey. That’s part of being a pro.
On Rod Brind’Amour: First of all, he created this culture we have right now. It’s mostly because of him. There’s other guys too and players have to buy in and stuff like that, but he created that. It’s been great for us. He set the bar high from day one and that was the great thing. For me individually, he’s been helping a lot especially when he moved me to center. Obviously he was one of the best when he played and he knows a thing or two about playing center in the NHL. He’s helped me a lot and he’s been a great coach for me and the team and our organization.
On playing system hockey: We play a pretty similar game with all four lines. Through the lineup, the system is there, but then again it’s hockey so you can’t control everything. There’s going to be chances and when you get them you want to use your skill and make the plays. That’s how I feel. It doesn’t tie me up. We play a grind game, but I still can use my skill whenever I have a chance with the puck. It’s not like the system doesn’t allow me to make plays. It’s just whenever there’s a chance, I try to make a play and create some offense.
On sticking with their game: I don’t think we have to worry about any of that stuff outside of playing hockey and trying to win a game. Every game is important and you just want to do your best to help your team win. That’s about it.
On dealing with the tough loss in double overtime: To me, it’s just one game. We lost it and they won. The series continues. In the past, it was different for us because it was a Game 7 and the series was over so the stakes were even bigger. But they got a win and tomorrow is a new opportunity for us to get a win. Everything just continues.
On the officiating from Game 3 and Brind’Amour’s comments sticking up for the team: I heard the comments, but as a player you just do your own job. To me, I just think I want to play a good game tomorrow and do my best. We’re a tight group. We’re not going to let any of that stuff get into us. We’re preparing ourselves to be ready tomorrow and no matter what happens in the game, we play our own game and do our best.
On the quick turnaround for Game 4: We have this whole day to relax and recover and tomorrow is a new day. I don’t think it affects us in any way. We’ve all played afternoon games before and I don’t think it matters at all.
On stepping right into a playoff game that went to double overtime: It was pretty cool. I never really experienced it before, the playoff experience. That was really fun and to have a crowd like that to hear was nice. I thought we played pretty well, but it just didn’t go our way in the end.
On his expected responsibilities coming in: I wasn’t too sure what to expect to be honest with you. They told me that I was going to play and they just told me to play my game. That’s what I wanted to do. It’s nice to see that they have confidence in me to be out there for those faceoffs in critical times and be on the ice against the top lines.
On his shot that went off of Juuse Saros’ helmet and if he thought it was going in: I did. I wasn’t sure if it hit his helmet at first or the crossbar, but yeah I was hoping that was going to go in for sure.
On the timeline for finding out he was going to play: I talked with Rod and then did some video with [Dean Chynoweth] and he told me that I was going to be in. That was nice to hear after a tough year with the COVID situation in the AHL and no playoffs. I was really happy to get the chance. We weren’t sure at first just with Slavin being possible to get in. So he told me just to be ready. I just planned on being in, but at the same time I wasn’t sure. I was really happy to get in.
On the Chicago Wolves being split with the Hurricanes and Predators: It was pretty good. We had a good team and a bunch of good guys, so that was awesome. But played against Jeannot and Carrier last night a couple of guys that I knew and then Duchene and Harpur who I knew from Ottawa. It’s kind of weird at the same time, but it’s playoffs, right? You’re going against everyone.
On the limited number of games he got to play this year: It wasn’t a lot of games with COVID and all that. We had some weeks were we had to cancel games and reschedule them. But I tried to be as ready as possible for last night and I thought I felt pretty good.