Q & A with Darren Pang
November 23, 2010
Blues beat writer B.J. Rains sits down with broadcaster Darren Pang to discuss the Blues 11-5-1 start, their power play, Jaroslav Halak, the impact injuries have had and how the young players have played in their absence.
How would you summarize where the Blues are at right now after losing five straight and now winning back to back games over the weekend?
Darren Pang: "I think to use a little bit of a golf term and I am a big of the mental aspects of golf and kind of parlaying that into hockey but the Blues did a good job of stopping the bleeding. That's kind of the situation that they were in. They went double bogey, double bogey, and now they've come back with a couple of really nice pars and a birdie. At the end of the day, you aren't going to win ten in a row every ten games. It's not going to happen. But it's how you respond to a loss and I think what they learned after that 8-1 loss in Columbus was, they bounced back with a really good game against Nashville but couldn't continue that on. A lot of that has to do with the quality of the injuries that the team sustained. Your depth gets really tested and you put a lot of young players in really vital situations which are good down the road, but for the time being, there are good teams in the NHL. By coming back and winning against Ottawa and New Jersey, now they can get that sense of winning again and that sense of confidence back in the locker room."
The players don't like using the injuries as an excuse, but just how much have they been hurt by the absence of several key players?
"Here's what I've learned in my NHL career. Once a player is injured, and I was injured before and got stuck in the back halls of a locker room, the coaches don't want you thinking about those players. You try right away to eliminate that player and the memory of that player in the locker room, you try to delete them, and it's hard to do. I think the one injury, even though Roman Polak's is significant and then Barret Jackman went down and Carlo Colaiacovo, but the one injury they had a harder time handling was the one to T.J. Oshie because he's such a resilient player and he bounces back, and then all of a sudden it's surgery and three months away from the team. That's a real tough one. Then David Perron, you think 'is he going to be back? Is he going to be back?' So there is more gray area there, but for Oshie, its black and white. He's not coming back for three months. That's a tough pill to swallow for the players but in the end you just have to go forward, you have to make sure you're not thinking in the back of your mind about so and so coming back and saving us. That's not going to happen. You have to go forward."
How do you think the players that have come up from Peoria and filled in have done?
"I think even starting with Nick Drazenovic, I think that was a great experience for Nick to come up here after three years in the minors without getting a chance. Now the next time he gets called up again he will be better prepared. I thought Ian Cole came up and played real well and got great experience playing his first NHL games. I think the one guy that's kind of been missing here is the fact that Tyson Strachan is playing more after not playing here last year at all, so between he and Nikita Nikitan, this is a great experience for them. I like Chris Porter's game all the way around. He's just a pro. He fills a lot of different voids. He's a good defensive player. He has good jump. He can get around the ice real well and he can make a play and then T.J. Hensick is another guy who isn't the biggest guy, but he's got good hockey instincts and has played well too."
The top line of Brad Boyes, Andy McDonald and David Backes really seems to be clicking. What are they doing to be successful?
"The key in my opinion is that they are battling and getting to the inside of the ice. I thought earlier in the year Andy and Brad, although they wanted to make the plays they were thinking, they were still on the outside and I just really admire how Andy McDonald is going towards the post. He's driving hard to the net and Brad Boyes is not losing the one-on-one battles, he's winning them. He's knocking pucks out of mid air, he's taking a hit to make a play, and I think because of that, that inner competitiveness they have, now they are gaining confidence because they have the puck a lot more. It couldn't have come at a better time. They have been magnificent the last three or four games."
How impressive was Jaroslav Halak's performance Saturday against New Jersey considering he had given up 13 goals in the previous two games and allowed another goal just 26 seconds into Saturday's game? Halak stopped the next 35 of the Devils 36 shots to lead the Blues to a 3-2 win.
"I thought even after he gave up that goal, he was still battling with his confidence. He didn't look so sure, but as the game went on, he got more and more sure with his game. His foundation was so much stronger and he was pushing out to pucks and not sliding off of shots and that's him. He went through a little bit of a funk. Conklin comes in and wins a big game against Ottawa and then that allows Halak to bounce back. But giving up that early goal against New Jersey and then coming back and making saves says a lot about him, especially on home ice because that's where you over think things. You wonder if the fans are going to get on me, etc., but he battled back like we expected him too."
Why have the Blues struggled on the road this year?
"I think they've played better on the road this year in losing games then they did at home last year in losing games. I still go back to the game in Phoenix. They played a heck of a game but the penalty kill let them down. They gave up three power play goals. The game in Detroit I thought was an outstanding hockey game except for the last six minutes and Detroit pulled away like they can do so well. But man for 54 minutes that was a phenomenal game. I think you have to look at the positives in how you play the games and then put it together to make it a 60 minute game. But again I think they've been much more competitive on the road then the record actually indicates."
The Blues have scored a power play goal in each of their last five games. What are they doing differently with the man advantage that they weren't doing when they struggled earlier in the season?
"I think No. 1 is the entries into the zone have been better and then once they get into the zone, it's not a pop gun offense. It's get the puck in and then the set plays they work on in practice, they seem to have more composure to that point to where they are setting up shop. I also think the defenseman are doing a much better job getting pucks through to the net where as before I thouth5 they were getting blocked an awful lot.
How big will Barret Jackman's return from injury help this team?
"I would expect Jackman to return against Nashville and that's significant. He is such a warrior. He came back from that knee injury. He knew he couldn't hurt it any worse and he still came back and played. He's a unique guy. He's a special one, and the thing about him is that it rubs off on his teammates because he sets a high standard playing with pain and that goes a long way."