As the playoffs go deeper, the media sessions get more formal. Today, each team brought in three players, as well as the head coaches, to face questions in a podium setting. Coyotes general manager Don Maloney also answered questions, but Dean Lombardi did not show up, even though it’s supposed to be a mandatory session. Rather than break up all the quotes, here’s what the Coyotes players said this afternoon about the start of the series against the Kings…
Q. Shane, just a quick question. There you are in the cafeteria after 15 years, you’re in the finals, taking all this in. Your impressions.
SHANE DOAN: It’s been pretty cool. We’ve enjoyed the run. When it hasn’t worked, you’ve been told that it can’t. It’s nice to be able to say that it can.
We’re pretty excited as a group – very excited.
Q. Mike, I was looking your name up on Wikipedia.
MIKE SMITH: How many came up (laughter)?
Q. It said you’re the only goalie in history to get a shoutout, get in a fight, and score a goal in the same game.
MIKE SMITH: No, false information. I scored. I got a shutout and a win, but I never got in a fight. The Gordie Howe hat trick is out.
Q. East Coast?
MIKE SMITH: Yeah, first year as pro. I don’t like to fight (laughter).
Q. Shane, the break between games. Do you want to ride the coattails of momentum off the last series?
SHANE DOAN: I think a little bit. You’d like to. We definitely enjoyed a little bit of a break. The last series started fairly quickly. We went six games and I think we started three days later.
At the same time it’s nice having the break. It’s not like anyone’s really complaining too much. They’re on as big a roll as anyone ever has been on I think in the playoffs. It would be nice to be playing maybe yesterday, but having till Sunday, it’s okay.
Q. Keith, could you talk about the goaltending matchup in this series, two hottest goalies in the league. The fact that you have the ability to get a few past Pekka Rinne, a pretty good goalie, in the last round?
KEITH YANDLE: Yeah, we faced two good goalies so far with Crawford and Rinne. We’ve been able to solve them. We know Quick is a good goalie, great goalie, playing well. We got more confidence in our net minder than theirs.
SHANE DOAN: And he’s friends with Quick.
Q. Shane, could you talk about the value of having another guy that’s been around this league for a long time, Ray Whitney.
SHANE DOAN: He’s a lot older (laughter).
Q. Just the value of him, and also the value that he’s been through already.
SHANE DOAN: You know what, it’s funny. Everybody on our team for the most part hadn’t been past the second round, I mean, other than Ray and Raffi in the past, Vermette. Those guys are the only three that have been passed.
It’s been nice to talk to him. At the same time we got a pretty good veteran group of guys that are pretty comfortable. But Ray offensively has been our best player probably throughout the whole year. He’s been unbelievable in the playoffs, getting huge goals, just keeping it kind of like a businesslike approach. We all make sure we follow along.
Q. Mike, you have yet to lose on the road. Coming in tomorrow, how do you keep home ice as an advantage?
MIKE SMITH: Yeah, no, they’ve been an outstanding team on the road. It’s obviously going to be huge for us to not think about that too much, worry about what we have to do.
The first 5, 10 minutes is obviously going to be a huge part of momentum swings in the series. When you start off on the right note with a good first 10 minutes, good start, go from there.
Q. Everybody is saying how similar these two teams are. They appear to be. When two teams are alike, what can make the difference in the series?
MIKE SMITH: They said that about us and Nashville, too. I think in playoffs, every team is going to have some similarities. Everybody is going to be working hard, blocking shots. Everybody has a good goaltender.
I think in that aspect, teams are similar. But we have our own identity. We’re not trying to worry too much about them, just kind of play our game.
Q. Mike, what has Barb said to you?
MIKE SMITH: Barbs (LaBarbera) is such an easy guy to get along with. I think everybody knows he doesn’t say too many bad things about anyone. It’s been a very easy transition coming here and working with a guy like him. He works super hard in practice, very easy to get along with off the ice.
Obviously that relationship is huge. I’ve been with guys that haven’t had the same kind of relationship as I have with Barb, so it’s been everything I can ask for.
Q. He came up with that handshake?
MIKE SMITH: He did. I can’t take credit for that.
Q. Along those lines, timeouts, seems like you’re talking to him.
MIKE SMITH: We’re talking about golfing (laughter).
No, like I said, he’s an easy guy to be around. He’s calming to be around. When I get a chance to get a few words in with him, kind of calm myself down by being able to talk to someone like that.
When you’re in the heat of the moment of the game, you’re nerves are working against you. When you get a timeout to go to the bench, get to chat with a guy like that, it’s a calming influence.
Q. (No microphone.)
MIKE SMITH: Probably not this long of one. I’ve played well in the past, but never been able to find that consistency I have this year.
You know, goalies go in and out of hot streaks. Obviously you have some games where you don’t play your best. But this year I found a way to play well when I haven’t felt my best and tried to get out of slumps quicker than I have in the past.
I think that’s been a big part of my success this season.
Q. Shane, coach joked after Game 2 of Nashville that he’s happy for you to do your own thing in Phoenix, nobody has to notice. Can’t fly under the radar anymore. What is it like to get more recognition now nationally?
SHANE DOAN: I’m pretty sure everyone is probably picking against us anyways again. It’s where we want to stay, pretty low-key.
Here in the valley, it’s been great. We’ve enjoyed the way that it’s kind of worked out for us the last couple years here. We’ve had success as a team. It will be fun to experience.
Again, I think that’s where we’ll go back to a guy like Ray, guys that have experienced it. Coming in here and talking to you guys, I haven’t done that before, it’s kind of nice.
Q. Mike, your goal in the HCHL, the reason I would want you to go back into your memory bank, to get your thoughts on it, because Jonathan Quick, when he got his first win in the HCHL, he also scored a goal.
MIKE SMITH: Really? I didn’t know that.
Q. You both have that in common. Do you remember it?
MIKE SMITH: Oh, yeah. Tough to forget. The bad thing is, once you score once, you want more, so…
That feeling of obviously scoring when you’re a goaltender is like nothing else. But also can work against you, too. You’re only thinking about it when their goalie’s out. The number one job is to keep the puck out of my end. If it does go in the other end, that’s great, too.
Q. Mike, can you give us a sense of the way you are before games. Are nerves something you need to battle? Are you pretty easygoing before games? And, Shane, what is your sense of him?
MIKE SMITH: I want Shane to leave me alone anytime. He’s a pest anytime I’m around him (laughter).
No, I’m pretty easygoing. I get nerves obviously this time of the season. I think everyone gets nervous before games. I don’t think I show it. I think I just try and do my thing and enjoy the moment, enjoy playing this game that we all grew up playing and dreamt of being in the NHL playoffs, just trying to take advantage of the situation.
It’s been fun so far.
SHANE DOAN: Yeah, he’s as competitive off the ice as he is on the ice. We all play in a two-touch game that is pretty intense at times. Usually we’re arguing with him whether or not he’s out or not.
MIKE SMITH: Because Shane is always right (laughter).
SHANE DOAN: It doesn’t matter, every game, doesn’t matter if he’s on a roll, it’s the exact same thing. That’s one of the great things. It doesn’t matter how everything is going, he’s going to make sure everybody around him, it’s still the same. It’s nice when you have your starting goalie to be like that. We enjoy it. We have fun with him.
KEITH YANDLE: Yeah, I agree. I think Smitty is a guy, he sees the game well. He’s a goalie, but he sees the game well, as if he’s a defenseman or a player back there.
You know, you can talk to him about hockey or anything before, during or after the game. It’s fun to have a guy like him around.
Q. You guys are obviously keeping it lighthearted here. What role does humor and being able to jab at each other relieve some of the tenseness of the game coming up? Second part is, who provides the best humor in the locker room?
SHANE DOAN: I’d say Jelly (Yandle) does. He’s usually got something going on. When things are going on, he keeps it pretty lighthearted.
We got a great group of guys that really enjoy each other. No one is afraid to give it to anybody. I think it makes it fun. We all enjoy it a lot.
MIKE SMITH: Especially this time of season, it can get pretty nerve-wracking. To have the group we have, to keep it light, especially before big games. It takes a lot of energy out if you’re serious all the time.
It’s been a fun year. It’s been a very easy transition for me to come into this group. Obviously we have great leadership. Everyone in the locker room gets along. That’s a huge part of why we are where we are right away.
Q. Divisional rival for the first time. The style of this series going to be any different than Chicago or Nashville or closer to one or the other in the way it’s played?
SHANE DOAN: I think we’re pretty familiar with each other. I mean, we’ve had some pretty intense, physical games already. I’m assuming that it’s just going to kind of go up even more than that. We’re pretty comfortable playing each other. I don’t think there’s going to be too many surprises. They got Carter late. That’s about the only thing that’s changed since the last time we played them, three or four times when they didn’t have him.
It will be a fun, intense playoff hockey. I think the third round, as a fan, I think the intensity goes up so much after the second round, because the second round, you’re happy to get into the second round, get out of the first round. Sometimes there’s a little bit of a lull.
Third round, you recognize how close you are to achieving your goal. From watching it way too many times, that intensity is fun to see and will be fun to be part of.
Q. Keith, could you address, out of the All-Star break you went on a great run, That kind of turned the whole season around for you. Can you point to any particular reason why that time of the season was when everything started to click and why?
KEITH YANDLE: I don’t know if there’s something you can really just pinpoint. We came together. I remember having some meeting, Tip telling us how much the next 15, 20 games mean to our team. It was a rush to get into the playoffs. It was so tight in the west, we knew we had to play well to get into the playoffs, get the highest seed we could get.
I think it was the coaching staff getting us together and pinpointing that we really needed to step up our game. I thought we did a real good job of doing that.
Q. The All-Star break preceded that. This is your longest break. Is there something to be said to be able to use that time to rest? Can you see any connection between what you were able to do, All-Star break, taking that time, to now kind of refocusing again?
KEITH YANDLE: Leading up to the All-Star break, I think we had one of the toughest schedules I know I’ve ever been a part of. That break came at a perfect time in the season. This break can work to our advantage.
We also have to recognize that we’ve had time off. We have to come the first 5 minutes, 10 minutes, like I said, and get onboard and get back into the playoff adrenaline and energy out there, because both teams have had big layoffs now. It’s probably going to be a little bit of feeling out the first 5, 10 minutes. But after that, we’re going to have to really up our tempo.