Yesterday, 23 May 2014, the Montreal Canadiens met with the press to discuss several topics, namely the Brandon Prust hit on Derek Stepan and how that event may, or may not, have altered the momentum in the series. Everyone danced around the topic of whether he believed the hit was clean or good. They alluded to evening the score for Carey Price being injured and lost from their team for the series. Coach, Michele Therrien,even tried to play the “what are you talking about” game. The idea of retribution was brought up and quickly rationalized by the Canadiens. Evidently, the Canadiens don’t realize they already removed the Rangers’ top producing center from action. The news of Prust’s suspension came after these interviews were conducted. It would interesting to see what the players think now.
Q. Did you hear about Derek Stepan’s jaw? Apparently it’s broken, and he’s in the hospital getting surgery now.
TOMAS PLEKANEC: Yeah, you don’t want to see guys getting hurt. It’s part of hockey, and with Price, the same thing happened to us. It’s unfortunate. You don’t want to see that, but it happens.
Q. Getting a good amount of emotion in the series now, maybe not to the Boston effect yet, but getting up there.
TOMAS PLEKANEC: It’s Conference Finals, so you’ve got to expect that something’s going to happen. Those are big games.
Q. Did you stay alive last night with that overtime?
TOMAS PLEKANEC: I tried. I tried. No, it was obviously good for us. We know we didn’t play our best, but at the end of the day it’s the same win as for them in the Game 1, 7-2 or whatever. So we take that, and we know we have to play better.
Q. How did you feel about the play of your line specifically before the overtime goal went in the net?
TOMAS PLEKANEC: Like I said, we know we can play better. You know, every game you have to be at your best. You get ups and downs in the playoffs and that’s what happened to us the last couple games. But we won the game as a team, and that’s what the most important thing is.
Q. Do you have to encourage Alex to shoot more?
TOMAS PLEKANEC: Yeah, I’ve been telling him all season long. No, he’s a young kid. He’s a good guy. He can make a lot of plays. He can pass the puck anywhere you ask him to. Obviously, shooting the puck, it’s not just him, but all of us should do it more. That’s one of the things we’ve got to get better at that in this series for sure.
Q. How important is it for him to get a critical goal, a big goal a couple of games after being out for six weeks?
TOMAS PLEKANEC: It’s huge. It’s huge, like I said, being a 2-1 series or a 3-0, it’s a huge swing. We take that. We take that and we’ve got to be better next game.
Q. For Alex in particular though?
TOMAS PLEKANEC: He came back strong, and he played a good couple games and he’ll be even better. He’s going to get game time kind of things. He’s a good player for us.
Q. In your mind and in the minds of hockey players, when Brandon Prust isn’t penalized for that hit, is that the situation that happened with Dorsett — is that something that has to happen because he wasn’t penalized for the hit?
TOMAS PLEKANEC: I don’t know. Those things happen, and you usually expect some kind of answer from the other team when those kind of things happen. It goes both ways.
Q. Have you heard about Derek Stepan’s broken jaw? Does that change the way things go forward here with Brandon expected to be suspended?
LARS ELLER: No, not for us, it doesn’t change anything. We’ll have to see later today what the NHL is going to do, but it’s been an intense series. There have been losses on both sides, and that’s just how hockey goes sometimes. It’s the playoffs. It’s intense, and things like that they’re going to happen once in a while. But it always sucks to see people getting injured. Nobody wants that.
Q. Do you feel the intensity ratcheting up and getting stronger?
LARS ELLER: Yeah, every game.
Q. Do you feel like the series really changed being 2-1 now instead of 3-0? Obviously, not the score, but just the feeling you have?
LARS ELLER: We have a better feeling today than we did before the game yesterday, but I think both teams are not looking too far ahead and really taking one game at a time. That is how you have to approach it.
Q. How long does it take to create a rivalry between a team? Against Boston, it was easy. Against the Rangers, I guess this starts now?
LARS ELLER: That’s something we talked about before this series. Naturally, maybe there is not that rivalry or that hatred for each other the same way that we have with Boston. You have to hate them, yeah, you have to hate them. It shouldn’t be hard to get motivation for the Conference Final, but it is a little different. There is no problem getting motivation now.
Q. It has served you well against Boston. Do you feel like that sort of event that happened yesterday, did it bolster even more your motivation from this point on? LARS ELLER: Yeah, I think things like that add up. It all adds up and builds that hatred. Yeah, it does.
Q. Lars, how do you think this is going to play out in Game 4, the added animosity that there is now as a result of the broken jaw?
LARS ELLER: I don’t know. But it doesn’t change anything for us. We’re happy we came out of here with a win last night, and hopefully we can continue to build off that. It doesn’t change anything for us who is going to be in the lineup for the other side. It’s really all about what we can do.
Q. What did you know about Dustin Tokarski before the series?
LARS ELLER: I didn’t know anything, honestly. But he’s been — it’s not easy getting thrown into an environment like this, but he has a real coolness to him. It doesn’t faze him. He doesn’t seem to care much. I mean, he cares, but he’s really cool about it and that’s what you’ve got to be as a goalie, I guess, and he’s handled himself terrific so far.
Q. When you look at the first two periods, Lars, in the final result, do you give yourselves full marks for the win or do you dissect the first two periods and realize there was room for improvement there?
LARS ELLER: There is always room for improvement. I’d say the good thing is we came out of there with a win, and we have to be a lot better. We have to improve. We have to be better. It almost seems like the roles were reversed from Game 2 to 3, and the Rangers probably had a lot more scoring chances in Game 3 than we had. But at the same time, goal 2 and 3 is a good example of us winning battles in front of the net and getting those ugly goals. We had the chances in Game 2, but we didn’t win the battles in front of the net, both in front of our net, and yesterday in front of Lundqvist’s net, we were able to win those battles. I think that made the difference yesterday.
Q. When you say you didn’t know much about Tokarski, and you had not a great start to the game yesterday, was that part of it? Had this team started thinking about it with Price out?
LARS ELLER: I don’t think so. It always starts when you lose your best player. You can’t replace Carey Price, but Tokarski is going to have some terrific goaltending. He gave us this chance to win Game 2, and he did yesterday again, and that’s what we’re going to need from him going forward. I think we were rallying around him, and it brings us extra motivation. Now that Carey’s out, we can battle back to this, and that would be huge.
Q. Emotions run deep for every game in a series like this, but do you feel last night like they took a giant leap emotionally?
DAVID DESHARNAIS: Absolutely. With that hit (Prust) set the tone, and they’re not happy about it, but you set the tone for the game and it creates a rivalry right there.
Q. Does it create kind of a danger? Everyone says we’re going to play whistle to whistle. We’re not going to try to retaliate, but guys do retaliate. It happens, and it can impact a series. Does it worry you that that could happen?
DAVID DESHARNAIS: It can impact the series, yeah, for sure, but you need to be the team that’s going to be disciplined and doesn’t retaliate. So that’s going to be the challenge.
Q. What is the view in your camp of that first hit? That it was fair game?
DAVID DESHARNAIS: Yeah, the game is fast. Like I said, Prust wants to set the tone to that game, goes, hits the guy. I thought it was a good hit.
Q. A little late maybe?
DAVID DESHARNAIS: You know, it’s pretty fast out there. You never want to see a guy injured like that. But like I said, we were fighting for our lives yesterday and wanted to set the tone.
Q. So it’s a matter of whatever it takes at some point in the playoffs?
DAVID DESHARNAIS: He’s not going out there saying I want to injure that guy, I want to break his jaw. He just wants to get the guys going.
Q. You mentioned setting the tone with the hit. We saw him on the bench very demonstrative. Did he get you guys fired up after that?
DAVID DESHARNAIS: Yeah, absolutely. They were not happy about it. Everybody got a little chirp here and there, and the game was on.
Q. Does that style favor you guys if it does ratchet up into that kind of series?
DAVID DESHARNAIS: It’s just emotion. If you can keep your composure, I think you’re going to have the best outcome, I guess.
Q. Does it help when that emotion ramps up and all of a sudden the fever rises a little bit?
DAVID DESHARNAIS: Yeah, well, it helps both teams. But you just need to keep the right emotion. You can’t go retaliate. Like I said, you keep your composure and that’s the playoff. You need emotion but at the right level, I guess.
Q. Can you respond to Vigneault’s comments about that hit?
COACH THERRIEN: You know what? If there is a team that can understand the loss of a player, it’s us. We lost Carey Price in the first game of the series with the hit on Kreider when he hit Carey Price, and we felt frustrated at the time. We’re still frustrated not having our goalie, our number one most important player, because those type of plays, usually players like that when they go to the net, something bad could happen like that so fast, and they don’t go as fast for icing or they don’t fall on the boards because they’re going to get hurt. So they know if they fall on the goalie they’re not going to get hurt. The only guy that can get hurt is the goalie. So, hey, you never want to see players, first of all on our side or even on the other side, get hurt. You don’t want to see that. You want to make sure that both teams are competing hard, and at the end of the day no one wants to see players get hurt. You want to see players competing and playing hard and playing the right way. But I believe sometimes even we get frustrated as coaches, and at times players get injured.
Q. Did you feel that Prust hit was clean?
COACH THERRIEN: You know what? His intention was not to hurt anyone. Like Kreider, his intention, even if he was going hard to the net and then laying on Carey Price, I’m sure his intention was not to hurt Carey Price. Brandon Prust, he tried to finish his check. His intention, honestly was not to hurt Stepan.
Q. What did you feel about the way Brandon was playing after that point, before that point?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, you know what? He’s a guy bringing intensity to our team, and he’s killing penalties. He’s a good teammate. He’s a good leader. I thought yesterday he had a good game.
Q. Is this something that maybe can help this series right now having a little bit more animosity? There was a lot more hatred with the Bruins. We haven’t seen that much in this series. Is this something that will have an effect on Game 4?
COACH THERRIEN: Both teams have one goal in common and that is to go to the Stanley Cup Final. So for sure game after game there is going to be emotion that’s there. For us to be able to win last night, that was a huge game for us, we all know. Tokarski did a fantastic job, and without his job we probably wouldn’t have won that game. And Lundqvist did the same thing at the Bell Centre. He was phenomenal. And if it wouldn’t have been for Lundqvist, probably we would have won that game. I’ve been with both teams, and, yes, the compete level is going to get higher and higher because we all understand the purpose of every game.
Q. The decision to go with Tokarski was, some people say it was a gamble, maybe less of a gamble with what you guys knew about Tokarski. But was there a moment yesterday where you kind of breathed a sigh of relief?
COACH THERRIEN: No, honestly, it’s not about that. We’ve got confidence in the kid. The kid’s a gamer. He battles. He’s proven it in the past. He’s proven it in the past and that’s why we based our decision. We’ve got the luxury to get three good goalies. We’ve got the luxury to have Carey Price, one of the best in the league, obviously. We all know that. We’ve got the luxury to have Peter Budaj, good teammates, working hard, great attitude. He’s won some big games for us this year, big games. We threw him out there in Boston this year and he won those games. He’s been a good teammate, and right now we’ve got a young goalie who is doing a phenomenal job. We’ve got three great people and three great athletes.
Q. It could have backfired though. I mean, he’s a young kid, a lot of pressure. It must have been a relief that he did come in ask approximate get the job done?
COACH THERRIEN: You know what, we’ve got confidence. When we take a decision, we’re confident we’re doing the right thing.
Q. I know you rely on the advice of other people when you make that kind of call. But how well have you known Dustin whether at training camp? Have you gotten to know him at all?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, we started to know him when he joined our organization last year. We knew his track record, and we knew that he’s a kid that competes and battles hard and is capable to play those big games in the important times of the year. This is what he proved in his career. This is what, again, he’s doing right now for us in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s why, for us, when we took the decision, it was not an easy decision to make, but we’re glad we did it. I think this is going to be good for his confidence the way that he was capable to seal the game last night.
Q. Coach Vigneault suggested that the hit itself really changed the momentum in your favor. That it was something the bench took notice of it and it was a big hit and it helped the team?
COACH THERRIEN: The hit?
Q. The hit that Prust made. That it brought good momentum to the bench and the team.
COACH THERRIEN: You see, like I said, Brandon Prust’s intention was not to hurt Stepan. It was to try to finish his check, and sometimes it’s less than a second that a player’s got to react. It’s tough. You never want to see, like I said, you never want to see a player get hurt. You never want to see a player get hurt. But it was a good hit. It was a hockey hit, you know. Obviously, Stepan got hurt on it, but did it change the momentum of the game? I don’t know. I can’t say. I thought we started to play better in the second half of the game, not right after that hit. Even the first period we were a little bit on our heels. I know probably I won’t say it’s because of that hit that we started to play better.
Q. I heard you mention in French that you had to talk to the leadership group about the decision to go with Tokarski. How important was that?
COACH THERRIEN: When we take a decision, the decision to go with Tokarski, you know, for sure personally I sat down with our captain, Brian Gionta, and Josh Gorges and they understand and they felt good about the decision. That’s what it was for me. Yeah, the players really bought into our decision.
Q. A different type question. Two of your key guys are both shorter guys, what is it about hockey now that players like that can still be effective even in playoff time?
COACH THERRIEN: Yeah, what’s the most important thing is it’s always whether you’re small or big, you play big games. Even Desharnais competes, Gallagher competes, and they’ve got success and they’re always in traffic. For me, it’s the way about the competing whether it could be a small player or a big player as long as you compete this is not negotiable with us. This is something I tell our players a lot. Competing is not negotiable. You’ve got to make sure when you wear that jersey you’ve got to compete.
Q. The Rangers obviously are unhappy about the hit. Do you have to stress discipline to make sure that whatever they come back with in Game 4 that there is no retaliation?
COACH THERRIEN: Well, when we lost Carey Price, we were frustrated, so we all know the purpose of every game and what every game means and what is the goal. Both teams want to go to the Stanley Cup Final, so I don’t know what they’re going to do. I know what our focus was when we ended up losing Carey Price, and I want to make sure that we play hard, we compete, we play the right way, and that was our focus.