MSGNetworks.com: Before discussing the Stanley Cup Final, I wanted to get your thoughts on the upcoming Expansion Draft. There’s been a lot of discussion that the Expansion Draft could be used as a big catalyst for change for some teams. Do you expect Devils general manager Ray Shero to take advantage of it and try to reshape the roster?
Ken Daneyko: I’m sure Ray Shero isn’t getting much sleep these days. There’s just so many different dynamics going on behind the scenes. I’m certain that many hours are being spent on the telephone, as teams try to get creative to make deals in the Expansion Draft. It’s an opportunity for teams — and certainly for the Devils — to improve.
So to answer your question, yes, I do expect Ray to be involved in the Expansion Draft and try to get a few players to help the Devils immediately. I’m sure it’s going to take a lot of work and creativity to make those deals happen. I couldn’t imagine what’s going on behind the scenes and I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Ray Shero’s office to hear what conversation is going on.
You have to really have your thinking cap on and play a little poker in order to figure out a way to pry some guys away at the price you want. There’s a lot going on and Vegas GM George McPhee holds a lot of cards, too. I’m sure a lot of general managers have been calling him to see what can be done. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m intrigued to see where it’s going to go.
MSGNetworks.com: Getting back to matters on the ice – the Stanley Cup Final and Game 5. The Penguins absolutely routed the Predators and are one win away from winning back-to-back Cups after getting big efforts from Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. What was your take on the game and how does Nashville recover?
Ken Daneyko: It’s really hard to figure out what happened [Thursday night]. We’ve certainly seen, not only in this series but throughout the playoffs, that momentum hasn’t meant a whole lot. The Predators had great performances in Games 3 and 4 to tie the series, and they got demolished in Game 5.
When the Penguins’ big guns show up and play that way, I don’t think Nashville can match that. The Predators can defend it at times, but they couldn’t contain them in Game 5. Kessel, Malkin and Crosby got going and when that happens, it’s tough for any team to contain a three-headed monster like that. No other team can boast that.
Now, Nashville has to find a way to hold serve at home in Game 6 and somehow find a way to win in Pittsburgh in Game 7. It’s funny, I thought Pittsburgh’s best performance in the series up until Game 5 was Game 4. The only reason they didn’t win that was Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne. For whatever reason, he hasn’t been the same goaltender when the games are played in Pittsburgh. It wouldn’t have mattered much on Thursday night, but there’s no question he’s had his struggles there throughout his career.
The way this series has gone reminds me of the series I played in my last year of my career in 2003 against the Ducks. You don’t see it as much in the NHL nowadays where home ice is such an advantage, but we’re seeing that here in the Final. We won all four games on our home ice and Anaheim won their three games on home ice. We felt so comfortable at home, even going into Game 7. On the other side, Anaheim felt so comfortable playing in their building. This series has a similar look and feel.
MSGNetworks.com: It’s such a weird situation with Rinne, who’s been one of the better goalies in the league in his career. Do you remember seeing Marty Brodeur struggling in a certain building?
Ken Daneyko: Well, I do remember that Marty had some trouble in Anaheim in 2003 and he was outstanding in New Jersey. He had three shutouts and all three happened at home. A lot of times, it comes down to your team. It’s been a very similar situation with both Nashville and Pittsburgh in this series. It’s not just a goaltender, everything goes hand in hand and there’s a parallel there to our series.
MSGNetworks.com: One of the other talking points to come out of Game 5 was the Sidney Crosby-P.K. Subban incident/wrestling match they had during the game. Replays had shown Crosby was pushing Subban’s head on the ice. Did Crosby get away with that and does he get away with more because of who he is?
Ken Daneyko: I don’t think it would have made much difference to the game, but I agree that Crosby probably got away with it. Sidney Crosby is a great player and one of the best in the world. P.K. Subban is a star as well and this is just two guys competing. Gamesmanship is involved and things go on behind the scenes. Things even get a little dirty at times. As good as these players are, you have to have an edge to you.
It’s not dissimilar to a guy like Mark Messier who won all of those Cups and was one of the best players. He was tough and he was nasty. These guys aren’t known for this type of play on a regular basis, but it’s two stars trying to not only get at each other but also trying and get in each others heads. They’re trying to throw each other off. You’re going to see incidents like this – sometimes P.K. Subban is going to get the upper hand, sometimes Crosby will.
Their actions might even cross the line like Crosby did and I thought he deserved to be penalized more. Having said that, that’s what makes them great. Great players have some kind of a competitive edge to them, no matter who you are. Guys like Messier could back it up in every facet of the game, including being a physical force. It’s going to happen and you have to hate your rival when you’re out there.
MSGNetworks.com: Game 6 will be in Nashville with the Predators trying to stay alive. In a “non-traditional” hockey market, we’ve seen such excitement and enthusiasm for the game of hockey in Nashville. What are your thoughts on the growth of the game in a place where many wouldn’t have expected hockey to blossom?
Ken Daneyko: The game certainly has evolved. Nashville hasn’t always been a hockey hotbed like it is now, but it certainly has developed into that and I think it’s fantastic for the game. From what I’ve heard firsthand, the Predators’ organization has done a great job in terms of youth hockey development.
It’s certainly made a difference in how they’ve played in their building. They’ve been tough and nearly unbeatable at times. That’s what they’ll need to rely on and draw upon in Game 6 in order to make this go the full seven games. Their fans have made a difference and gotten their team fired up. Fans are so important and we all know that around the league. It’s been a whole other decibel level down there in terms of noise.
When I hear that fans greeted the team at 1 AM at the airport after a 6-0 loss saying that they believe in the Predators and they haven’t given up, how can you not love that? As a hockey fan, regardless of who I root for, that’s nothing short of phenomenal.