The Sports Daily > The 6th Sens
MacLean Speaks About The Ol’ Three-Legged Stool

After two consecutive losses, Senators head coach Paul MacLean joined Team 1200’s In the Box yesterday morning. The ‘Stache hits on a number of important topics including Craig Anderson’s play, his trepidation in dressing Borowiecki and Wiercioch in the same lineup and the ol’ three-legged stool.

Like in any other interview, MacLean touched on a few things that I did not bother to include in this post, so if you wish to listen to the full interview, you can do so here, or via streaming the embedded audio below.

As always, my thoughtsare in bold.

On back to back games and it being crunch time…

“Well, I think everyone in the league has a similar type schedule and you have to try and manage your minutes. We have to play the game, so I feel like it’s like a playoff series type atmosphere – where your practices are limited to the time. The hour practice is… we’re already into the playoff mode where practice is twenty or thirty minutes long and then you’re off the ice. You’re just trying to keep the motor running and keep things going. If you have stuff to work on, the players’ ability to take it from video from the video room and put it on the ice is real important.”

Patiently awaiting YouTube parody Video Killed the Hockey Star.

On not wearing guys down…

No, the games are more important than the practices but you have to play well in the games. I think there’s still some, what I would call it sloppiness within the league. I don’t think it’s just our team. I think it’s every team. It’s just the execution and the precision that you expect from your team, it’s just isn’t there yet because you haven’t played enough or practiced enough. So it’s important that when you do practice, you identify… you can’t work on everything. You can only work on one thing a day type of thing and I think the execution part of it is, if we can get that better, then that’s going to make our whole game better.

Are we supposed to care about the product on the ice? Everyone keeps telling me about how this season is exciting because every point matters in the standings. This is a sprint dammit!

On special teams being important…

Well it is for sure. Again, it’s like a playoff mode where you have to have the ol’ three legged stool of power play, penalty killing and goaltending. I think that’s really what it is right now and for us, we’d really help our penalty killers and our goalie a lot if we didn’t take our five or six minor penalties every night. Again, that sense of sloppiness and execution in our game, if we clean that part up, we feel we’ll take less penalties. You’re taking penalties because you make a bad pass and you turnover a puck and now you’re reaching to try and recover from a play and you wind up taking a penalty. So if we can get that execution stuff cleaned up, it’s going to help us a lot.

After the past two games, does it not seem bizarre to see the Senators right in the middle of the league (15th) in terms of PIMS per game with 14.8? It certainly feels like they’ve been on the wrong side of the referees’ calls of late.

On Craig Anderson

“One thing about Craig, he’s very athletic and he’s a lean athlete…and he’s very competitive. I think the work he did is a little bit different than some of the other (guys). He didn’t just go out there and stop tons of pucks, like you said, you’re playing three-on-three or four-on-four and get into bad habits. So he ended up with Francois Allaire and Roberto Luongo in Florida at his house and community rink down there. They actually did the goalie-specific stuff that Francois is very well known for being very good at it. Craig’s not the typical Francois Allaire goaltender, but still, at the same time, the drills and stuff that is goalie specific that (Francois) put them through – I think it’s really helped him well and served him well to this point.”

Spending time with @strombone1 certainly hasn’t improved Anderson’s Twitter game. Ah well, at least he has picked up where he left off last season.

On Silfverberg…

“Well I think, I agree (that he is close to breaking out) because when he was in Binghamton at the start of the year, when I was down there watching him, he’s very similar to that type of player right now. He’s a smart enough player to, he can play the game and he’s kind of feeling his way around and where he can be successful and getting some comfort with the league and with the players. I agree that at some point here, the puck is going to start going in the net for him and he’s going to start making plays and things are going to start to happen for him.”

Interesting comments to hear from the coach considering Silfverberg’s ice-time has steadily dropped for three consecutive games since the January 21st game versus the Panthers – a season high 18:08 and to Sunday’s season low of 13:03. More importantly, with Alfie’s absence from the lineup on Sunday, Silfverberg was punted from Spezza’s line. (Note: apparently Jason Spezza is missing tonight’s game with an upper body injury and Silfverberg will be skating on the wing with Michalek and new first line centre Peter Regin…hmm.)

On Silfverberg’s smarts providing some level of comfort…

“Yeah, he just has not played in the NHL. I mean, he’s played in the (Swedish Elite League) and he’s been an elite player. I think he shows that in the way that he’s got his way around the AHL at the start, and ended up being a really consistent player for Luke (Richardson) down there. And I think as we’ve talked about, he’s starting to do the same thing up here for us and at some point, he’s going to start to produce some offence. He does all the good things without the puck. Defensively, very little schooling as to being in the right place (is necessary) and being inside, he knows how to get around the rink. He knows his way around the rink and I think he’s used to the smaller rink here in North America from playing in Binghamton. Now he’s just getting used to being in the National Hockey League where things are just a little bit quicker and he’s starting to catch up with it, and I think he’s going to be fine.”

Most people are looking forward to Silfverberg and Zibanejad acclimating themselves to North American hockey because it will mean that they’re productive NHL players. Me, I’m just looking forward to interviews in which the organization’s respective coaches can stop talking about the size of the rinks on this side of the pond.

On Kyle Turris…

“The work that he put in with Chris Schwarz at the end of last season has given him confidence. He has grown into a man. The difference of, last year at times, he’d going in and put his arm out and he’d be looking up at the ref because he’s the guy going down. Now he goes in and he puts his arm or body on somebody and maybe that guy is going down. Or more importantly, he’s staying up. He’s not the guy that is down on the ice anymore; and that gives (him) a lot of confidence. If you can feel strong and stable on your skates, it gives you tons of confidence. I think his maturity and his growing into his body and being stronger has really helped him a lot and that’s given him confidence. We challenged him last night to play against Sidney Crosby and to try and do a job on him. Yeah, they had some scoring opportunities and (Kyle’s line) had some scoring opportunities. But for the most part, it was a one-one game and Crosby wasn’t… he was still a factor in the game… but at the same time, I thought Kyle’s group did a very nice job against him.

And that’s a challenge that he is going to have to take on. If he’s going to be the number two centerman, he’s either playing against Malkin or a Crosby. And he’s going to be playing against… you go down the list, it’s Plekanec or somebody else in Montreal. In Boston, it’s going to be Krejci or Bergeron – one of those guys. When you’re starting to play against the better guys in the league, you have to be aware of what’s going on. You have to be focused on what it is. And you can’t just do it one night. Like he did it last night and that’s great, but now we’re playing Washington tomorrow so, who is it? Is it Backstrom tomorrow night? You’ve got to do it every night and you have to do it against the good guys every night and that’s going to be the test – our team, like every team, — is the consistency and our ability to get to that level and stay there.”

I can remember going back to the Corel Centre in January of 1996 with my dad to watch Jacques Martin’s debut behind the Senators bench. At the time, Radek Bonk was failing to live up to the expectations that so frequently accompany a prospect who is drafted that high – third overall in 1994. Rather than bury the young player in the team’s bottom six, Martin challenged Bonk by putting him up against his countryman, Jaromir Jagr. During those days, Jagr was a dominant and mulleted offensive force who was difficult for teams to match up against, and still is in between groin strains. Much like Turris playing against Crosby, the confidence and jump that it gave Bonk was so apparent. Although the Penguins won and Jagr wound up with a lonely assist during the game, his frustration throughout the course of the game was clear to see. He wound up with three uncharacteristic minor penalties and Bonk led the Senators in shots with 8. The game was a turning point for Bonk’s career and he wound up becoming an incredibly underrated second line center for the team. These tough defensive matchups are nothing new for Turris. Last season, his line was frequently called upon to play against the opposition’s best players; however, the important takeaway from Sunday afternoon’s game was that MacLean opted to use Turris’ line despite Alfredsson’s absence.

On the young defencemen that you’re breaking in…

“Well, I think that we can assess it that they can all play in the league; it’s whether or not we can play them all at the same time is the one concern we have. I think Andre Benoit may not have played in the National Hockey League but he has a lot of experience in the (AHL) and he played in the KHL. So he gives us a little bit of a veteran presence and a comfort that … Patrick (Wiercioch) played with him in Binghamton and (Mark) Borowiecki played some with him in Binghamton as well, so there’s a partner that they know and  have a comfort level on the ice with him. We’ve played each of them a little bit with Sergei (Gonchar) on the left side and some with Phillips as well. We felt in the first three games that Patrick Wiercioch played fine. Wiercioch and Borowiecki are two different players. Patrick can get the puck moving and he’s a puck-mover, and he can get it moving. The play that he made on the power play on the Turris goal in the home opener here was a great play; a NHL-type play. Well, Borowiecki made a couple of NHL-type plays last night. One-on-one (with) Malkin, (Borowiecki) was physical; that’s the element that Borowiecki brings. He doesn’t bring that puck-moving eliteness that Patrick does but Patrick doesn’t bring the physicality that Borowiecki (brings). You can compare the apple to the orange, but I think both of them I think are ready to play in the National Hockey League… it’s whether we have enough ice-time or patience to keep them out there at the same time, is a challenge that we have. But the more we play them and the more we see them, the (higher) comfort level we’re going to find with them. And then we have to factor in the Michael Lundin when he comes back. He’s a player that is totally forgotten. He’s an NHL defenceman. He can skate. He can move the puck. He can do some things that are a combination of maybe what (Borowiecki and Wiercioch) bring. Right now, we just have to wait and let that sort itself out. (Lundin’s) not close (to returning). I think he had the pins taken out of his fingers yesterday or the day before. But, he’s still not skating with the team yet until he gets the proper flexibility and that could be, I’m going to take a guess and say another ten days at least before he gets to skate with us. And then it could be another ten days before he even gets into the lineup. We’ll see how it is, but we’re looking forward to getting him into practice to see what he can do.”

I’m impressed with the honesty of the answer. I never would have expected him to address concerns that the organization has with its young defencemen. Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize that MacLean either has enough confidence in his young defencemen to play with the team’s aging veteran d-men. Although Sunday was just one game and it is such a small sample size to assess, the play of Borowiecki and Benoit has to be reassuring. After the disaster (aka the Phillips/Gonchar pairing) that was on full display during Friday’s game against Tampa (and actually goes back to their time together last season), I was wondering how long it would take for MacLean to continue going back to that veteran duo. Fortunately, the answer was, not long.

On Borowiecki playing with an edge and irritating opponents…

“Hockey is still a physical game and physicality is part of it. On our team on the back end, Erik (Karlsson) and Sergei (Gonchar) are certainly not in that class of player. Patrick Wiercioch is not really in that class of player, so we have got Marc Methot who can be physical. Chris Phillips can be physical back there. And Borowiecki brings that physicality but the other thing that I think he brings is youthful enthusiasm. There’s a lot to be said for having young guys out there wanting to play in the league and wanting to show that they can play in the league and try and find their way into the National Hockey League. They play with so much more desire or passion is the better word than desire. He plays with that passion that is visible and you can see it and I think it energizes his teammates. The only thing that you fear as a coach is that he gets a little over-passionate and things get a little carried away but that physicality that he brings is an important part of our team.”

Right on. There’s nothing quite like the sight of a worked up Mark “The Mandible” Borowiecki jutting his lower jaw out after a post-whistle scrum.

On Daniel Alfredsson’s status…

“My understanding is that he is (going to skate today) but if he doesn’t, I wouldn’t read anything into it. Again, the games are more important than the practices. And if he needs another day, we’ll have a pregame skate tomorrow that if he participates in, we would anticipate that he’ll be ready to go.”