Guy Boucher spoke with reporters in Pittsburgh following the Ottawa Senators’ Game 1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night.
Here’s what he had to say on a wide range of topics, from Bobby Ryan’s resurgence to the team’s overtime success to his expectations for a big push from the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2
QUESTION: Coach, what did you like the most about this victory here tonight?
GUY BOUCHER: Well, I think there’s a lot of things to like, but it’s just one game, so we won’t get excited too much here. I think our players did a good job in the first period. I think we had a lot of penalties there that we had to kill against a really good power play. But you know, I think our guys displayed what they displayed all playoffs and all year. They’ve blocked shots, our players are dedicated to being first on puck against a team that’s very fast, that’s got quickness to be first on puck, and we knew that. I mean, it’s the first one. We’re expecting the next game to be even tougher.
Q: Can you get a sense of just how confident this team is going into an overtime period?
GB: You know what? I don’t think our attitude changes. It doesn’t change before the game, between periods and whether we score a goal or get scored (on), what we’ve acquired over time is to stay calm, you know, regardless of what’s happening in the score, and when they scored the goal, nothing changed on the bench, nothing changed what we needed to do and it’s the same for the overtime, so I think we didn’t any extraordinary things, we just did ordinary things well and we stuck to it.
Q: Guy, Bobby was just saying that it took him until Game 82 to really figure out where he needed to be and what he needed to figure out. He said his learning curve was bigger than most. But when he got to the playoffs, it was a total refresh. I was just curious if, when the playoffs started, you had said anything to him to help kind of start over again.
GB: No, I think when … Bobby had some terrific stretches throughout the year. You know, when you’re an offensive player and, you know, you’re doing all the right things but you’re not finishing, and, because that’s what it was with Bobby. There were some times where he was just as good as now, he just wasn’t finishing, and it gets to be a mental block and then you start thinking you’re not doing the right things. Bobby had a tough year on a personal level and there’s nothing you can do about that. Some years are tougher than other in that respect. So he had a lot of things to manage, and for me, I thought the first time he came back from his first injury, he was amazing, he just wasn’t finishing and then got injured again and came back and I thought the last 12 games of the year, he was just as good as now. He was blocking shots, paying the price, a real good solid two-way guy. And then finally, the last game of the year, he finally got that goal and at the same time we’re starting the playoffs. And I just think, once, you get a refresher or some sort of schism or something like that, you get another chance to start back at zero, at whatever. It’s just your mind is a little freer. And that’s all it was, because really, he understood everything since the beginning. He was in the right places and that was never an issue. Ever. I just think that he really became a good solid, two-way player, but that what we’ve asked of all our players, whether a forward or a defenceman. It took some guys longer to be consistent at it, but we’ve seen perfect stretches of Bobby the whole year, so for me, right now, this is just the finishing part where it’s paying off. That’s it. The rest, he’s the same guy that’s done a lot of good things for us the rest of the year.
Q: Guy, could your team have possibly executed your game plan any better than it did tonight?
GB: Yeah, I think we can. I think there’s obviously a few areas that you want to improve. We’re expecting a really tough push-back on their part the next game, you know just like on their power plays, they pushed hard and when they got some space, they gave us some problems and we want to make sure we’re aware of what their plans are so we’re going to definitely be as thorough as we can to make sure we’re aware of any adjustments they’re going to make, but I think the fact that their top players can come out of nowhere and create something, that’s the biggest worry that I think you’ve got to have against that team. We’re aware of it, but it’s hard to be perfect. These guys are really, really good. That’s the Stanley Cup champions, it’s a proud group, and it’s a group that doesn’t have many flaws, so it’s hard, it’s very difficult, and we’re expecting more difficult next game.
Q: There’s two questions. The first is about Bobby Ryan – what’s happened with him and Pageau. When you put them together, did you expect to have that kind of chemistry? What’s driving the two of them?
GB: No, I don’t pretend to be a genius and know in advance what the guys are going to give me. It’s really, you know, you’ve been with us all year, I change my lines all the time depending on what I need, depending on match-ups, depending on who’s going, and that’s what happens. When you change, you figure out chemistry between guys that you wouldn’t know. It all looks nice when you put it on the board, but then life happens after and all of a sudden you get some nice surprises. But I look at it like, our players are used to that all year, and it’s given them a chance to get accustomed to each other, get different types of chemistries, but also to be open to, at any moment, we adjust, we change lines, we change pairings, and I think it’s just made our versatile, more ready to adapt and that’s just one pair that’s done well together. But we have had other guys we’ve matched up in other games in the first series – that was Brass and Bobby – and they were terrific together, and then it wasn’t the same against the Rangers, so we changed it, and it’s paid off.
Q: You mentioned the penalty killing earlier. Momentum from that, obviously?
GB: Yeah, you know, without saying momentum, we didn’t lose anything at least. To get us momentum, I think it was a steady game. After that, all of a sudden, I don’t think we took over. I just thought we were steady. We killed it, we were calm. It was difficult, obviously, because they can come from anywhere on that power play. Our goalie was solid, our players were willing to block shots and were in the shooting lanes, and you know, just like the last series, I think there’s a display of paying the price from our guys and probably the penalty kill was evident, but after that, it was just grinding our game and bringing what we brought before to this game, and nothing different.
Q: Coach, can you explain the success your team has had in overtime these playoffs? It almost looks like your team is more comfortable playing in overtime than in regulation at times.
GB: I wouldn’t say more comfortable. We’ve been good. I know one thing is that our players are really good at not fearing the outcome. We play the way we play whether it’s overtime or the third period or we’re leading or we’re trailing, we just really keep the same approach, so it’s been healthy for us, but to say that we have this great solution in overtime, that would be absolutely wrong to say that. We just play the overtime the same way we play the other periods, and they’ve just turned out for us.
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