Jewels from the Crown: How do you prepare differently for the NHL playoffs—where you basically play every other day—as opposed to the AHL, with games mostly on the weekend?
Paul Bissonnette: We've kind of been doing it all year with just mostly the weekend games. So it's kind of nice to get back into a routine. I didn't necessarily mind starting off on the road. Obviously, we would've liked to win both. But a split's okay. We come home for three now. It's essentially what a [regular] season weekend would be. We got the whole week to prepare and I guess fine tune and get better at some things that maybe we weren't in the games.
JFTC: Do you have a personal preference? Better to play quickly after a loss? Or have that extra recuperation/refocusing period going weekend to weekend?
PB: For me, being older, I kind of like the rest because of how amped I get for games. It takes a lot out of you. It's pretty emotional. The back-to-back [in San Jose] was tough, so it's nice to get five days off after that.
JFTC: In the locker room, is it pretty split in terms of preference?
PB: Yeah, I think certain guys who maybe play a lot like getting into the rhythm of a game as opposed to practice. It's played at a little of a different speed, right? Where in a game, you can't just run around like me, like a chicken with his head cut off. Maintaining that flow...for them, it's probably a little different. But for me, I like it.
JFTC: I wanted to ask you about the SAP Center. You've played there when it's full for the Sharks. A lot has been made of the Barracuda drawing about 4,000 in an NHL-sized arena. What's the difference in the arena as a player?
PB: It does take the life out of a little bit when they don't draw as well. I think maybe if they close the upper bowl and maybe just offered it at better pricing for the lower bowl, just make it look more full. I don't really see a reason why you don't charge ten bucks, and [instead of sitting] all the way up in the rafters, [give] them a seat at the top of the lower bowl and make it look full. Then if you get more than that, start charging more. As far as the playoffs though, I thought they had a somewhat-decent atmosphere their first couple games there...
I'm a big fan of them closing off the top bowl. They do it in Winnipeg for the [Moose]. It's a great atmosphere.
JFTC: As a player, does it affect you to play in this huge, empty-feeling arena?
PB: No. When you're the away team, it's a little nice. You don't have that little bit of added pressure of fans and the anxiety they create when they're yelling at you. I've played in some pretty intimidating buildings like Chicago and even San Jose [when it's the NHL]. We were a division rival in Phoenix, and that was probably one of the most intimidating buildings to play in. I'd say it's the loudest building. As well as Utica in the finals last year. We played them, and man, I noticed it.
JFTC: You guys haven't been able to consistently get to the high-traffic scoring areas as much against San Jose. Is it more a mental thing, something you guys aren't doing, or a physical thing, where they're preventing you from getting there?
Mike Stothers: Thing is, they always say in scouting reports, he doesn't like traffic. Well, name a goalie who does like traffic. I drive around California, I don't like traffic. It's just the way it is. Who the hell likes traffic? Nobody.
JFTC: Were you a part of the decision to go with the two-three playoff format? Why did you guys choose it?
MS: Well, we didn't have much choice. It was going to be a two-three...so we either have two games at home and play three there. Or we have two games there and play three here.
The league's not really flexible on that. I did inquire about [doing] a three-two. Three at home and two there. They didn't bite on that. I mean, what are you going to do? If it comes down to a Game Five, you always want it at home.
And you know what? Maybe it's not that bad. We were there for two...it always seems that in the playoffs, [there's] a little extra incentive, a little extra pressure, so maybe it's a better to open up on the road. I dunno. The way I look at it is, our record was good all season long. Home. Away. I think it was almost identical. (JFTC Note: Ontario earned 48 points at home, 45 on the road) So it shouldn't much matter to us where we play.
JFTC: Would you have preferred a three at home, then two on the road?
MS: No, I would've preferred a four out of seven. The way it should be. This is so minor league, it's...it's amazing to me. Junior, they play four out of seven. ECHL, they play four out of seven. NHL, they play four out of seven. We play three out of five. What's wrong with that picture?
Later, we talked about Michael Amadio. Ontario Reign Insider reported earlier that there's a fair chance Amadio will make his AHL debut this Thursday.
JFTC: Have you spoken with [North Bay Head Coach] Stan Butler about Amadio?
MS: I haven't talked to Stan yet. I know Stan very well from our days of coaching against each other in [OHL]. I'm planning on phoning Stan.
But when you call Stan, you got to have a lot of extra time on your hands, because he likes to talk. I don't. So that's one of those ones where you've got to schedule yourself a four-hour window in the afternoon. Right now, I don't have that much time to give anybody.
JFTC: What is San Jose doing to keep you guys from the high-traffic scoring areas?
Brett Sutter: I think they do a really good job of keeping things to the outside. But it's our job to not worry about what they're doing. Just got to work to get there. Bottom line is [Dell] is seeing a lot of shots. We got to do a better job of getting bodies in front, getting those second opportunities.
JFTC: What has grown most in your game this past year? (Note: Wagner went from 39 points to 62 this season)
Austin Wagner: I think puck protection is a big one. And obviously, consistency. I was a bit more consistent this season. More on the ball every game, I guess you could say. My skating, my first step got a little quicker. I got better at edge work in the corners. Obviously, gained a bit of weight. I think just everything all around got better.
JFTC: That's pretty terrifying, you improving your first step. You're already plenty fast.
AW: Yeah, yeah, just coming off the wall there as a winger, it's kind of big for me. Worked on that a bit. But obviously, strength is a big thing for me right now. Getting some weight on me.
JFTC: You've mentioned Jannik Hansen as a good comparable for your game. Is that still the case?
AW: I kind of changed it. Maybe a Chris Kreider kind of thing, in your face, big, kind of fast, use your body to get in there, and play a good two-way game. A power forward game. I think I play a lot more like him now. I'm trying to develop into that type of player.
JFTC: Are you still a Canucks fan?
AW: Uh, I don't think I am anymore. Think I changed it to being an LA fan once I got drafted here.