Evaluate Mitch Marner’s game from what you saw a year ago to what you saw tonight. What was the biggest difference?
Jim Hiller: It’s like what we talked about in camp – he just seemed more mature. You just wondered if it was going to transfer from the camp to a real live game. I think he answered that question tonight for all of us. I thought he looked terrific.
He sort of catches your breath. You noticed him out there, didn’t you?
Hiller: He did. And did he [ever] want the puck. He came back deep to get the puck. He might have started four or five breakouts on his own and carried through into the offensive zone. Not easy to do. He’s got a special awareness of the ice. He knows where to go to get the puck. That’s kind of what I like about him.
He seemed like he might have inspired others to do the same – basically to use their speed to attack. Did you like that, or is every player their own sort of guide?
Hiller: That’s not something that most players are going to be able to do. The league is just too tight. There’s not a lot of room. It’s difficult to explain a player like that who can create time and space for himself. It’s a special player. He was able to do it tonight.
Offense from defense – is that something we should expect to see a lot? You had three goals from defencemen tonight.
Hiller: You always want to see that. I don’t know if that is going to be a trend or anything like that. We didn’t get to the net enough, our forwards. I think that’s why we didn’t see forwards scoring enough goals, because we got pushed to the outside a little bit. They’ve got a strong team, a strong defense. We weren’t able to penetrate often enough to get to their net front.
Any concern about your own end? Six goals, but not a lot of shots.
Hiller: Yeah, we made some big mistakes. It wasn’t d-zone coverage so much. There were some rush chances and some rush goals that were kind of bang-bang. We were a little sloppy on some of our sort-outs. I thought our d-zone coverage was okay. That wasn’t the issue. They didn’t have us hemmed in our own zone or anything like that. To me, we made mistakes, and they scored. We had puck possession but we didn’t threaten the front of their net enough.
Those are sort of the easiest things to sort out, right?
Hiller: We can show some video clips. You can bet on that. There are lots of good clips that we have to show where we have to be more aggressive at their net.
Day off tomorrow for the players. Can’t imagine it’s a day off for the coaches. What are the coaches going to be up to ?
Hiller: We’ve got to go through the game. We’ve got to break it down. We’ve got to find the positives and find the teaching points. And then look forward to a good practice the next day. It’s exciting. It’s the first game. It didn’t go how we wanted it. We saw some good things for sure. We’ll take the positives out of it and just continue to build.
And getting a chance to get everybody together finally will certainly be better for all of you guys.
Hiller: I think so. I think it will be better probably for you guys, too. You’ll have more people to talk to, lots of guys coming in off some great tournaments. That will be exciting to get the team together, or what is the team for now, I guess. Everybody will be together and it will be good to see those guys. They’ve been gone for a while.
Andrew Nielsen made the point that it’s more leaders coming back. It’s more people that the kids can draw on. Is that important?
Hiller: That’s for sure. If you weren’t here, you’re playing the World Cup. That’s a pretty special event. Not only leadership, but the quality of player. I think that’s just important for everybody. Just more men in the room – that always helps for a young player.