QUESTION #1: Coach, when you look back at the turnaround over the last month, are there individual players that you look at that you think are a big reason for the 7-1-1 month?
MIKE EAVES: Well, I think if you took a look at all the players, they've all elevated their level of play. But if you wanted to highlight some, I think that you could start right between the pipes with Shane. I think that his level of consistency has grown, which gives us a good chance to win.
I think the play of our defensive core, I think it's, the things that they have done offensively they have continued to do, but it's been their play without the puck and their, and that kind of thing has helped them be more consistent. And I think as a group of forwards, you know, we made some changes. We were fiddling around with chemistry, and we found some of that chemistry. And so by doing that, it's helped raise our level.
QUESTION #2: Do you have an update on Ryan McDonagh?
EAVES: Well, we went to the, he went to the doctor today, and the doctor was too busy to read the stuff he had to read, so we'll find out this afternoon at practice.
QUESTION #3: Early in the season, you had a lot of goals from your defensemen. The last few games, a lot of your forwards have stepped up and done the scoring. Is there a correlation between your defensemen being better in their defensive end and maybe not taking as many chances stepping forward, or is it . . .
EAVES: No, I don't think so. I still think, in watching the video, they're doing the same type of things. It's just that the forwards have been in the position to finish the plays.
QUESTION #4: Back to Ryan McDonagh. Have you had a chance to look at the tape to see the play on which he was hurt, and do you have an impression of what took place?
EAVES: Yes, I went back and watched the tape, Andy, and we are going to talk to our Commissioner about what we saw, because it involves Mr. Lebler, who was involved with the Stowe incident last year. And I just think, you know, for the growth of young Mr. Lebler, he needs to be, know that this is something that he's doing, and it's not a very good thing. And so that's probably the tact that we're going to take at this time.
QUESTION #5: So you won't go through the CCHA Commission, you'll go through Bruce . . .
EAVES: Well, I'm going to look for some guidance here as what's the proper way to do this. And I'm going to first talk to Shep, and then will talk to Bruce and see what is, when it's a cross-league type of thing, what's the proper protocol.
QUESTION #6: What are the advantages to having a starless team?
EAVES: Well, you don't know who to focus on. You don't know who to put your checking line against, or it's tough to play against a team where every line can go out and chip in offensively and be pretty responsible without the puck. So from that aspect, that's probably the biggest challenge, is who do you focus on as you get ready to play for the week.
QUESTION #7: It's your ninth straight weekend of the first half. Obviously, there's a finish line in sight you can see after this weekend, you get that little break. Do you see any sort of signs of fatigue, or have the results lately been enough to kind of keep your guys going weekend to weekend, and good, being good during the week in practice?
EAVES: Well, I think as a coaching staff, we're trying to be prudent about what we're doing this week, and like today's practice won't be as diligent, won't be as hard. As a matter of fact, it'll be just kind of a games kind of day, just to keep it light with the finish line in sight, and the fact that we've played nine straights weeks. And it's been a most interesting nine weeks in terms of how we started and how we've come back. So we're trying to be prudent with the things that we do with the kids on and off the ice to make sure that they stay focused and fresh for this finish line run.
QUESTION #8: You've had a lot of guys play on your so-called fourth line this year, and you continue to look at guys. What are the things that during the week of practice that, you know, when Aaron Bendickson, Chris Hickey, those type of people, what are you looking for from them? I know you want energy from them when they play and to be responsible and those types of things, but how does a guy go from being on that bubble to being in the lineup?
EAVES: I really don't think that we have what we would call a true fourth line, Andy. You know, you talk about how do you play against a faceless or a starless lineup. Heck, you could throw a blanket over all our guys. When you describe our forward lines that we have, they're all very similar. We want them to do the same things. We want them to play with energy. We want them to be responsible without the puck. We want them to chip in offensively. They can all do those things. So it's, right now in terms of forming lines, because it's so competitive, if guys aren't going to do those type of things, play with energy, be responsible without the puck, then we can make changes because they're not doing the job. It's created a very, very competitive situation on a day-to-day basis.
QUESTION #9: Is this the most competitive you've had in your time here? EAVES: I would say so, just because we don't have that really top end offensive guy where, you know, we're going to live or we're going to, you know, because he's so good offensively, we're going to live with some shortcomings. So it's the most competitive, yes.
QUESTION #10: You didn't have as many power plays to kill this last weekend. Is that connected to a growth you see or is that just a happenstance, you know, occurrence of the way things were called last weekend?
EAVES: I wish I could put my finger on that. I think if you, I would like to think that it was that we were smarter. I think if you talk to the opposition coaches, they might have a different view on that. But I would like to think that we did some smarter things.
QUESTION #11: You talk about the long climb from the start of the season to where you are now to get back to the 500 mark. How much of the feeling for you, the coaches, and maybe the players is a, whew, we made it kind of thing, and do you have to guard against guys thinking like, okay, great, we made it. There's a lot more to do, now here we go from here.
EAVES: Well, I haven't heard that from any of the guys. I don't even think that, we haven't talked about that even as a staff, because I don't think that's a feeling that we get from our kids. We still have a lot to play for in terms of the national picture and rankings and such. So for us to go, whew, we finally made it, is so far from, you know, what any of us are thinking about, because we have to continue to win to get our RPI up so that we are in the national picture again.
QUESTION #12: It's been reported that you've had an inconsistent season to this point, first month, second month. Who's been the most consistent guy? Who's, has there been someone who's kind of bucked the whole trend and been consistent through the whole thing?
EAVES: Oh, consistency, you know, at this age, in terms of who, you know, has been the most consistent in terms of what you get as far as consistency from college-age students, I think the young man that comes to mind probably, if we were to take a look at our ratings, would be Brendan Smith. If I can go back, and as I look at or picture, try to picture the sheet I have in my mind with the way we rank the kids, I think he'd be right there.
QUESTION #13: Coach, has there been an attitude shift after the last nine games that you've seen, a more belief in what everybody's doing and getting through some of that hard stuff at the beginning of the year?
EAVES: I think getting through that hard stuff and finally getting rewarded with some wins by the efforts we were putting in has had our kids start to believe in themselves and understand what they need to do on a day-to-day basis. It's still a battle with people, young people these age to have them come and be consistent. I mean, we've talked about it before. When you talk to people at the next level who are paid, who are professional, the highest compliment you could get is that you bring it every day. And trying to have these young folks understand what that is and how do you bring it every day, that's a challenge. Now whether it's you can say, well, they've got school, they've got social, nah, that's more their age. They got to learn to prioritize and put those things in the right priority so they can bring it every day. And we're pressing them, we're pushing them, and hopefully by the end of the year they will be more like that in terms of their ability to bring it every day.
EAVES: Well, I think, you know, all three of them have been, I know that Coach Os feels pretty passionately about this, that he feels that they're learning by being in and out of the lineup. As a staff, we're all proponents of you're able to learn a lot by watching. I know Os and I, in our professional careers, we were sat out at times and, you know, we got good pieces of advice. Said, look, when you watch, watch like you're playing, watch your system, watch what guys do. And I think when you're up there and you see a big picture and then you get back on the ice, you're easily, more easily able to formulate what's going on while you're playing. So they've done a pretty good job. I mean, they've played, they've sat out, they've jumped in there. They haven't fallen back at all, which says that they have been watching and learning, and that's been a real good thing for their growth. So right now, I think Os would tell you, and I'm telling you, that they're going to keep that rotation, and we'll just see how it plays out until the end of the year.
QUESTION #15: Mike, what is, you mentioned your, what you look at for a guy like Brendan to formulate who's been consistent and that type of thing. What are the pieces of that equation?
EAVES: Well, in their ability to play to their strengths, do what they do best. So for Brendan Smith, his ability to skate and handle the puck and shoot, his ability to be competitive, his ability to, one of the things that Brendan has to work on in terms of his areas he needs that is to, his play without the puck. And it's been a, because he is so gifted with the puck and has those natural offensive abilities, this has been a little bit of a pull for him in terms of learning those things, but he's growing in that area. So to go back and concisely answer your question, it's about doing what they do best more of the time and improving in the areas that they need to improve in.
QUESTION #16: Can you just tell us about Alaska Anchorage?
EAVES: They, you know, the first thing I'll say about them, they're starting to believe in themselves, I mean, where they are right now in the WCHA. They have always been a team that is well-coached, and they play hard. The playing hard gives them a chance to win, and now they've got some kids that are putting numbers up on the board. Their first line is a very good line, and so we know coming into this building, A, they believe in themselves, B, they're going to work hard and they're going to play well together, and we had better be ready to do the same.