Nov. 1, 2011
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves appeared at his weekly Monday news conference in the Camp Randall Media Room. A full transcript follows. Eaves spoke on what he learned about the team this past weekend, goaltending and the penalty kill, among other topics.
Watch the archived video
QUESTION #1: Mike, based on a comment you made after the game, are you, has this team exceeded your expectations up to this point?
Mike Eaves: I really think that with a young team it's hard to put expectations on a team, Andy. I think that it's better to have an open mind, don't limit them, and don't put low parameters on them. So I think as we go along, we'll see how they grow and maybe for the second half the season, once we have a feel, we can set better parameters.
QUESTION #2: What do you think you learned about your team this past weekend?
EAVES: Well, one thing that came up with the coaching staff the last two weekends is that we can put the puck in the net, so that's been fun to see. I think that our penalty killing is an area that still needs improvement. We talked about it again this morning. We looked at the reasons as to why. I think we're in a little bit of a funk. I've never seen so many blocked shots end up on their sticks with open net shots before in my life.
We basically had two guys returning that had killed penalties, so we're trying a lot of different people. We may have found something with 9 and 7, with Zengerle and Barnes. But it's an area that we know we need to get better. We're doing some good things. We just need to shore it up a little bit. I think we'll have some very good penalty killing. Our power play seems to find a little bit of a rhythm. We'd like our second group to get a little bit more continuity and get some ice time to score some goals as well. So little stuff like that is starting to peek out.
QUESTION #3: Over the last two weekends, Mike, would you say that probably your scoring, your ability to score, the vision of your young players has been one of the things that you, as coaches, have really started to hang your hat on, because that was something that you weren't too sure about leading into the season.
EAVES: No, we weren't. We said at the beginning, as kind of a projection, that we'd have to have scoring by committee because we didn't have anything really proven coming back to a high degree, and we found some nice things. We scored some big time goals this Saturday. Line rushes, I thought that Ryan Little goal on Saturday in the second period looked like a big time effort by Mr. Mersch cutting in and around the defenseman, driving to the net. Those are things you see at the next level. So we're seeing some things that we really like and things that we can build on.
QUESTION #4: Mike, have you seen any separation in your goaltenders to this point?
EAVES: The only thing that's different, Andy, really is the record. One is 1-3, and one is 3-1. So they're both giving us a chance to win. They both had a situation happen this weekend they'd like to have the puck back on a wraparound or a puck dumped in, but they're still head to head in terms of what we're seeing in practice and in games and performance.
QUESTION #5: You were talking about expectations before. Tyler Barnes, is this about what you expected out of him in his next year in his growth and development, and what stands out most to you and impresses you most about his play?
EAVES: Well, if we can get Tyler Barnes to play Saturday like he does Friday, we'll have something special. On Friday, he's been dynamite. He leads our team in stats and in production. Saturday night, he still hasn't gone to that next level of consistency. We're going to continue to push. We pointed that out. I think Tyler has aspirations of playing at the next level. One of the definitions of being a professional athlete, other than being paid, is the fact that you're consistent day in and day out, and that's something that, I think, Tyler is aware of and we're going to continue to push him to get there.
QUESTION #6: Besides kind of baptism by fire in games, how do you teach a young team to hold on to a lead, to preserve a lead? How do you do that, whether it's during the week in practice or do you just have to wait for games to come?
EAVES: In practice situations, we can create drills or situational scrimmages that will lead us into those type of things, but it's really an emotional thing. It's about playing with poise and confidence and understanding what the situation of the game is and how to execute and that. So a little bit in practice in helps, but, ultimately, it has to come down to games.
QUESTION #7: Mike, of all the systems that you teach and areas of the game that, with the young team that you're trying to impart knowledge on, where's penalty kill fit in there? Is that the most difficult one to teach guys positioning, fundamentals, that type of thing?
EAVES: It is. It truly is. And one of the reasons is the fact that you can't simulate the game feel or the game talent for what you're trying to create in practice. Like usually, when you're simulating the opponent's power play, you're not using your top-end offensive guys. You're using guys that don't see a lot of power-play time. And so they don't get that top-end talent to play against in practice, and it really does come down to what we can do in games. We can create fundamental stops and start situation leading with the stick, having those type of things, but it truly comes in game situation.
Interesting enough, this past weekend, we prepare for Nebraska Omaha based on video of what they did in the power play. They did nothing like they did. So we were kind of shooting from the hip, although it was very similar to what North Dakota was doing, and we handled it pretty well. Again, we gave up goals, but there was growth there for us, which is very encouraging.
QUESTION #8: Mike, is your team still kind of naïve of how young they are, that they're not putting a lot of stock into who they're beating? They're just kind of taking what they get on the weekend and just kind of put it forward no matter who the opponent is?
EAVES: I think so. I think they just, they're still trying to get their feet underneath them in so many areas, and they're just going out there playing as hard as they can and hoping the things that they do are the right things to do.
QUESTION #9: Has effort ever been a question for you the last couple of weekends?
EAVES: Not at all. Not at all. I think, and that was an indication that we got from our strength coach, Jim Snider, from what he said this summer. He felt he never had to kind of go to the whip in terms of what a horse rider will do with a horse going down the stretch. He said these guys just naturally push themselves.