On Monday’s 9:00 a.m. practice:
We’ve had this set up for a couple months. We have a group in town that’s going to do some team building with our group today. We’ve got about a 90-minute session planned here this morning, and then we’re going to head out into the field and present the guys with some challenges. It’s a group I’ve worked with before. We were productive, and it really helps with some problem solving models and cohesive chemistry, those types of things – understanding personality and all that stuff. … [Reporter: Is that something that this team has done in the past, or that did with the Flyers?] I’ve done it before. I’ve used it before both in the American League and the National League, and they’ve done lots of work with different NHL teams. As a matter of fact, they’ve been here in Los Angeles years ago. They’ve done lots of work with different teams. But we’ve used them before, and very effectively. We actually looked at trying to do that right at the start of the year, just with training camp and travel. We saw the schedule and kind of the days we had at the start of the year, so we felt this would be a good time to utilize it. [Reporter: What’s the name?] Matishak Group. Rick Matishak’s the founder, and I think Roger Neilson brought him into Philly when I was coaching in the minors, and we used him as well, and then we brought him back, and now he’s coaching there. Just really fun, productive. The lessons are obviously once they get done with their challenges. It really relates to working together around the rink. [Reporter: Any example of anything that they’ll do?] There’ll be some challenges, they’ll have some guidelines that they have to work through, and if you don’t pay attention, you start to get penalized when you don’t follow the rules, so usually chaos sets in. They’ll have big areas roped off where they might have to rescue something from the middle where they can’t access it. So you’ve got to figure out a way to access it. They’ve got to get through a web with restrictions. There are several different things that they’ll do, along with some trust exercises and some personality communication exercises that they’ll do. One guy will have pieces, the other guy will have the picture, and he’s got to explain how the pieces go together to paint the picture, so communication becomes a real factor. There’s a lot of little things they do that are pretty dynamic, and again, the lessons are obvious. Guys are competitive and are usually timed, and they’re going against each other, so it ramps up the intensity of the situation, so it’s good. [Reporter: The coaches, will you take part in it?] We’ve got a team, yep. We plan on being first.
On any indications early in Saturday’s game that there would be a good outcome:
San Jose’s M.O. is they’re an extremely efficient forecheck team. They don’t mess around. They’re getting the puck up and in, they’re going to turn pucks over below the goal line, and I thought we did a really good job of playing fast, getting back quickly and breaking the puck out efficiently, and we didn’t allow numbers to create that forecheck look that they’re so good at, so the fact that we weren’t spending a lot of time in our zone and were creating really good quality chances the other way, I just like the way we started the hockey game. We weren’t giving up a lot, and we were creating. When they did create, that first goal was vintage San Jose. Puck turned over, low-to-high, people to the net, and that’s something that we want to avoid. Fortunately that wasn’t something that happened a lot in the first period, but it’s something that we were definitely aware of, and I thought we did a good job of neutralizing it and creating new opportunities the other way.
On the Clifford-Shore-Lewis line:
We just think they play the game the right way. Anytime you’re trying to reinforce systems, they seem like they’re in it all the time. They do everything right, they’ve got a lot of detail in what they’re doing, and they’re getting rewarded with some really good looks offensively from it. We just think structurally, they’re as sound as a line can be, and they practice that way and they play that way, so we think their attention to detail has been excellent.
On what Jake Muzzin has done “skill-wise” to take his game to “another level”:
For me, Muzz’s game starts without the puck. We think he’s been a lot firmer in the way he defends, he’s been heavy along the walls and really good down low. Anytime he plays like that, it seems like there’s confidence in the rest of his game. He’s played big minutes the first couple games. We’d like to see that number come down a little bit, quite honestly. But I think MacDermid has started to earn the trust of the coaches and has done a good job for us, and I think he’s earned the right to play a little more now that we really alleviate some of the extra minutes on the left side.
On the amount of investment in Kurtis MacDermid, and whether teaching happens off ice and in pairs:
It’s all of that. Reinforcement. There’s a lot of work done in the course of the summer in development. He was paired with O’D (Sean O’Donnell). He followed up with contact with the coaches. We do a lot of system review as a group this time of year, but certainly in his case, whether it’s on the ice – or if you want to call it ‘the classroom’ – we have access. Guys all watch their own shifts, we touch base with them, let them know what we like, what we’d like to see better, so there’s constant feedback. But Kurtis is a really good student of the game. He really works hard at becoming a better player, and I think we’re starting to see that in the fruits of his labor.
On whether the team hopes to get Alec Martinez back on the ice this week:
He’s actually feeling a lot better, so I would think that it’s coming soon. We thought there was a chance he’d skate today, but there’s no sense rushing him back and pushing it. I think a day right now might save you a week moving forward, but I think he’s close to getting back on the ice. [Reporter: Thanks. Was it something that happened at practice last week?] Yeah. It was right at the tail end of practice, which was unfortunate, but there are probably as many injuries in practices as there are in games anymore.
-Lead photo via Don Smith/NHLI