Barry Trotz’s post-game comments after his team’s 5-4 win in Game 4.
What is it about Tom Wilson that he’s kind of risen to the playoffs this week?
Trotz: I think it’s that time of year. There are some fabulous heroes, and not always the ones you think are going to be there. The big names are always there, but I just think he played the right way today. He played hard. He went to the net. He got rewarded. I thought he was real strong at the end as well. High commitment. He is a growing young player who is physically very strong and he’s grown to be a good penalty killer. His game continues to grow. Really happy for him.
This game started out pretty similarly to Game 3. Obviously, it ended differently. Do you think you distilled a formula to beat the Leafs, and what is it, if you have?
Trotz: Well, we just won a game. What will happen is they’re going to prepare and we’ve got to make sure that we don’t take our foot off the pedal, if you will. They’re going to be preparing to beat us in Washington and we’ve got to do the same thing. I think our players are understanding what is going to be successful for us and how it’s going to be successful. I thought the start was great. The first 39 and a half minutes — I would take that most every night. We got a great penalty kill to start the third. Two minutes of 5-on-3, I thought, was great. We got tested in the third period. You talk about your resolve. You’re playing so well and then you have to kill off a 5-on-3. They get a goal that goes off the referee. We have one that is called off. You’re like, “what else is going to happen?” That type of thing. Our bench didn’t waver. They just stayed on it. They stayed true to form. They battled through it, and I think they showed a lot of resiliency. Everyone from our goaltender out was resilient today. I know the game got close there, but I looked at the stat sheet and they had five power plays. I thought we had the puck for the first two periods a lot. I’m a little surprised by that. We fought through it. That was fantastic.
Nate Schmidt now has two assists in the two games played. What about his game is helping him have success?
Trotz: The game is fast. He’s a good skater. He keeps growing. He’s had some playoff experience last year in a few games. He’s one of those guys that, when we brought Shattenkirk in at the deadline, he was sort of put in that spot. Right now, he’s making a statement going, “you’re not getting my spot back.” That is good on Nate. He is one of those guys that prepares. He’s a fantastic person. He brings tonnes of energy. His drive train is real high. All of those things you love in a player. He’s got an opportunity and he’s making the most of it.
You mentioned the stuff that went against you there. With that happening, how big was the play that led to TJ’s goal?
Trotz: TJ’s was huge. We just had all that happen to us, and the response… I just thought our leaders led today. They led, and they led the right way. They were saying the right things. They were battling through things. We didn’t always agree on what was happening out there, but we battled through it. For the most part, I thought we hung in there and found out a little bit about ourselves, as well. You’re going to have to push through stuff. We’ve been in series where we have to fight back. It brought up some great memories.
In Game 3, you had the 5-on-3 where if you scored, you could’ve put the game away. Today, you had a 5-on-3 to kill at the beginning of the third. You managed to do it and you had all second intermission to think about it. What does that say about the resiliency of the guys?
Trotz: We talked about those moments. When you have to sit and think about it a little bit, those moments can weigh on you. I thought our guys came out. It was almost like there was no doubt when we came out of the dressing room. They were going to get it done. We just had a good feeling about it.
Is there anything that you have to adjust? You had a couple of two goals lead tonight, and a three-goal lead, and you let them back in…
Trotz: Maybe move the referees out of the way, and stuff like that. That’s hockey. Part of it… in the playoffs, it’s hard. You look at it and all of the things that happened last night with the teams that had leads. There is no lead that’s safe in this league. That’s the great thing for the fans.
You promised that this would be your team’s best game in the series so far. What was working so well and how do you keep your guys buying into that and keep this rolling?
Trotz: They did it. It started with the leadership. They set the tone. I thought we had used the physical part of the game [well], where we won battles and we went to the net. We just played the right way with a little more of our identity. I thought we were really on top of them for a good portion of the game. I just thought, from our standpoint, just build. We’re starting to grow our game to the 60-minute game. That’s where you want to get to. The other night, we were really good for about 30. Tonight, I thought we were better for the whole 60, really.