March 5, 2012
MADISON, Wis. -- Head men's hockey coach Mike Eaves made his weekly Monday news conference at the Kohl Center as Wisconsin begins the postseason this week. Eaves answered questions on the team's rising confidence, last weekend's series at Minnesota and the team's conditioning, among other topics. A full transcript follows.
View the archived video footage
QUESTION #1: Could you just recap the Minnesota series and how well you thought you played. Even Saturday in the 2-1 loss
Mike Eaves: Well it was the continuation of the way we've been playing for a while. It was disappointing... It was hard to watch that game from Saturday night on Sunday, but in looking at it, we continued to do a lot of the things that way we had been doing that allowed us to play at the level we've been playing doing in terms of breakouts, working hard, executing. We gave ourselves a chance and fell a little short, but right now, that's done with, and that kind of is in our hip pocket right now. And, yesterday, we started looking at Denver. The fact that we played them here recently, I think, is fresh in our minds. So we've turned the page and now moving forward for Denver.
QUESTION #2: Mike, winning on the road is not going to be easy. But all teams going in will always say they're confident. But I'm just curious, given how your team has played recently, their level of confidence, how legitimate will it be going into the series, as is your own?
EAVES: Well, I think the word that you used in asking a question, legitimate, is key. It's legitimate. We feel it from the inside out, intrinsically. We've been on the road here the last couple weekends. We've won three out of four. We were in a position to win four out of four. So I think, intrinsically, we understand what it takes, and we just get on that plane and head into Denver and continue what we've been doing. But I think it's legitimate, what we're feeling inside.
QUESTION #3: Mike, you said it was hard to watch Saturday's game. Was it hard just because you viewed it as a lost opportunity, or was there more to it than that?
EAVES: No. Just, just losing the game, Andy, because we were so close it hurt. It hurt to watch knowing that we were so close.
QUESTION #4: In the past, you've had a number of seasons here recently where you have finished with back-to-back series on the road. Might that be a blessing in disguise this time, given not only where you went, who you played, the environment you were in, big ice, small ice, all those types of things, all the adjustments that you've had to make, does that not factor into a better prepared team?
EAVES: It very well could be, and that's the way we're going to look at it. You know, we don't control the schedule, and every, maybe every other year, we end up being on the road because of wrestling, whatever's here in the building. So, but the fact remains that because this year, the way the season ending, the fact that we're on the road, that we're going to have to play on the road kind of lends right to itself. So we're looking at it as a positive.
QUESTION #5: Is conditioning any more important knowing what the rigors of going on the road, that type of thing, going to Denver, going to the thinner air, that type of thing, is, and I'm curious how you're approaching, how you taper off this team with regards to conditioning and that type of thing right now?
EAVES: Right now, I think we're in excellent conditioning. We went down to three lines in the third period on Saturday. I thought our guys were tremendous. We spoke with Jim [Snider] this morning as a coaching staff, and we were talking about our conditioning this week in practice, and we're going to bring down the volume a little bit, because we're at the end of the year. Today's practice is just for guys that haven't played as much, so we keep them sharp. So we're downsizing the volume of what we're doing right now to keep ourselves sharp at this time of the year.
QUESTION #6: I don't know if you have any idea about Derek Lee for this week, but in his place, Brendan Woods, for the most part, has played in the middle. How's he come along in that spot?
EAVES: Brendan is playing with great confidence right now, and what's really nice is to have a big guy in the middle. We've talked about that at different points of the year. But it was, he seems to be doing a good job with his play without the puck, which is always your question mark as a young center iceman. But he's doing a good job there, and he's, his level of confidence is allowing him to do good things with the puck and skate.
There's been great growth with Brendan in the fact that, early in the year, when things wouldn't go well, he had the habit of hanging his chin a little bit and feeling bad, and that would take away from his next shift. And he's mature to the fact that he's let that go now, and he doesn't drop his chin. He's ready for the next best shift that he's going to have. So as that has improved, I think his play has improved, his confidence has improved, and we're seeing that right now.
Oh, sorry, about Derek, he had a good weekend. He'll be on the ice today. We're going to put him through some paces this week and see if we can stay away from any side effects of pushing hard.
QUESTION #7: You mentioned the confidence as a whole with the team being legitimate. What about the fact that you've had that recent success against your opponent in playing Denver, and having played well against them, what does that mean for your team going into this weekend?
EAVES: I think that's part of what makes our feeling legitimate is having played well here against them and taking that and using that as we go forward. We're going to be playing on a different sheet of ice. We recognize that fact. We'll be practicing on that this week, and, you know, we played at Bemidji, which was a small sheet. That factors into that feeling of being legitimate with our confidence. So all those things add up into us having a basic feeling that we can get the job done should we continue to play like we are.
QUESTION #8: Mike, you were pretty outspoken in your, in how your felt your defensive corps played in the opener against Minnesota. Do you feel that it stayed at that level in the second game?
EAVES: Yes. You know, I, the one thing that jumps out is Frankie, the way he played that 2-on-1 in that shorthand situation, I think if he had to do it over, he might play it a little tighter, to the middle of the ice, to negate the ability for, Holl had a cut to the middle there. But other than that, as a whole, we only gave them three goals over the whole weekend against one of the higher scoring teams in our league and in our country. That says a lot for what that defensive corps did.
QUESTION #9: You probably agree it's been kind of like the playoffs began maybe a few weeks ago for your club. Joel Rumpel certainly has played pretty well considering all that has transpired here. I would assume he's got confidence going into this.
EAVES: I sure hope so. We're going to need that. It starts and ends right in the pipes for us, or for any team, for that matter. The fact that Joel is playing well, I mean, he falls in with the question that was asked earlier about legitimate confidence. He played in a real tough environment and played well. And we're going into another tough environment, and that doesn't seem to rattle him too much. He just kind of stands in there and does his thing, so we hope that continues.