Guy Boucher Speaks: Karlsson, Puempel, Pace, More Karlsson
Guy Boucher's media availabilities don't seem to be getting shorter or less entertaining, so we'll keep bringing the best bits to you as long as we can.
You can find the entire media availability here.
On the play of Chris Driedger and Matt O'Connor:
"The minute one of your guys is injured, somebody's coming up and you want to make sure you're bringing up the right guy. Right now, both are doing well in practice. Obviously the issue that we encountered was that O'Connor got injured at the beginning of rookie camp, so that's too bad, because he was looking good in practice and we're looking to give him some more ice time now."
On if he's worried about Erik Karlsson's endurance in the later months of the season because of the WCOH:
"No. No. First of all, that guy is a machine. He's very in shape, he's trained more than ever and actually, what he has now, more than anyone on our team, he's got game shape. You've got some teams that have six guys like that on their team. It's kind of an advantage when you start the season. Over the span of X amount of months, like any player, you want to manage him so he has energy to help us win games, but certainly not right now at the beginning of the season I'm going to be worrying about the month of February and how he's going to be then. Right now, for us, he's getting rest. He's not here today. He wanted to be here yesterday to show that he was there. He knew that I was going to have a meeting with the split, basically that was the first day we split the group in two. So we did have a team meeting. I was on the ice for the first time, so he knew that, so he wanted to be there. I was quite impressed by him as a leader. And obviously we're not going to play him on a back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday, so we'll see. He'll get one, two games, maybe three if he feels that's what he needs right now. But right now he doesn't need games in terms of shape, he needs just to see what we've done in the last weeks and that was great yesterday for him to come on. We (did) some core things yesterday in practice, he wanted to be there, so that was good... We're not going to press him now to play games; he's had enough games. It's more about catching up to what the others have had: meetings, on-ice practices. He'll catch up to that pretty quick."
On Karlsson's ice time this season:
"Your top players are always at the top minutes in the league, whether it's here or somewhere else, so we're not expecting anything different. But the way we want to run our team, it's not (just) concerning Erik, it's concerning (everybody). I'd rather have players often on the ice, rather than long, because then you're able to have a high pace and maintain that high pace. Will he be often on the ice? Of course. Will he be sometimes longer? Well, it depends. You can have a power play where you've been in the zone for a minutes and a half. You're not going to ask the player in the middle of an ozone power play to just take off and come back to the bench, absolutely not. But he's a top player, so he gets top minutes. But like everybody else, we definitely want to manage it, but it's not about Erik, we want to manage all of our players in the same way. Because we want high pace. We're a high pace team. The only way to have a high pace team is to have the energy to do that. Whether it's Kyle Turris or Phaneuf or anybody, you've got to manage your minutes. But it has nothing to do with Karlsson, himself."
On how much he'll use Erik Karlsson on the power play:
"You've got a bazooka in your hand. You don't want to keep him on the bench and go in there with a pistol. I'll go for the bazooka a little longer. He knows, like all the other players, that I try to put people in their strengths and use them in their strengths, which means that some guys that are very good defensively will be on the ice in the last 30 seconds. A guy like Kelly was brought in for that. We'll have Hoffman, who's going to have more offensive responsibilities than he will in the defensive moments in the game. Erik can do both, so obviously you're going to see him often, but we're not asking him to stay (for) two minutes on the ice. It'll happen because they're in the o-zone for two minutes, but the rest of the time I'd rather him play normal minutes, but more often."
On tonight's bubble guys in the roster:
"Puempel will play with Brassard and Ryan. We've played him a lot, we've watched him a lot. Obviously because we know what the situation is; he's definitely a player we're looking at. We've had Varone who played a terrific game in Halifax; two goals, two assists. So he's in the lineup also, we'll have him start the game with Turris and Hoffman. We've got Dzingel also, so we'll have him with Pageau and Pyatt. And Blunden, we'll have him with Kelly and Paul."
On Puempel's play so far:
"We like what we see. Right now, for me, what's important is can the guys keep up the pace at an NHL level. So the more we move on, the more there's NHL players in the lineup. So you're playing against better players. Can you maintain the pace that you need? We've had him in the top two lines. We had him on the power play, we had him on the PK, we had him on the third line (and) fourth line. We put him at all different roles to give him a chance to show us where he would fit... He's done well, but like all the young guys, you want to get better defensively, you want to make sure that you don't double up because you're too anxious. So those are normal things that he needs to improve on, but right now, the thing for me is the pace."
On pace, pace, pace:
"With our team, in general, pace is everything for me. I'm a big first-on-puck guy. You've got to have the energy so you need short shifts. So that's why, for me, it's not about Erik, it's about the entire team. We've had that discussion; we want shorter shifts. When you look at the NHL, the two teams that made it to the Stanley Cup Final are the two top teams in terms of shift lengths: 41 seconds average, Pittsburgh and San Jose. That certainly says something. You look at (Team) Canada, they're all having short shifts and it's because the game has changed. It's a pace game now and you need to be able to maintain that and the only way is energy. Usually problems happen in your extended part of your shifts. That's where you get tired, that's where you get turnovers. So that's what we don't want to get into. You can't be perfect in the season, but over five, ten, fifteen, twenty games, you want your average to makes sense so the guys are able to maintain that pace throughout the entire season.
More on pace:
"Pace. Pace. Pace is everything to me. If you saw the practices, it's all about pace. Can you sustain it? Can you maintain it? Are you slowing our game down or are you accelerating our game? I want to accelerate the game, that's for sure. Our transition, our first-on-puck, our backcheck, to me, it's all about pace. Who won the Stanley Cup? The team that had the most pace. Period. And that's where we need to go."