Interview with Hejda: About wins & VarlyLike last season, the Eurolanche fanclub will be bringing you up-to-date interviews with Jan Hejda. This is the first one.
What’s happening to the team? I mean, how is it even possible that you’re in this situation?
What’s happening to us? The fact that we’re winning (smiles)? It’s all about the new system that Patrick brought. Everybody’s respecting him. It’s been a change for the better.
What are the differences between the old and the new system?
The biggest difference is the way we’re defending – not just the defensemen, but the forwards as well. Playing in our own zone, it’s more about man-to-man coverage, everybody has their respective player to cover. We try to keep players off the puck. When it happens, we try to make it a 1-on-1 situation, which means less opportunities and shots on goals.
Is the new system established by the coach really that important? That changing the system would bring so many wins...
I didn’t think of it that way either, but it seems like it really is that important. It just makes sense. Winning the opener changed the climate in the locker room, it’s been more relaxed, there’s less tension. We just believe in ourselves. Everytime we step on the ice, we believe that we can win the game. For example, trailing Carolina after two we just came into the third knowing we’d win. The mindset’s really important.
What’s the mood in the locker room compared to previous seasons?
You can’t compare it. Everyone’s just happy playing hockey, everybody’s enjoying themselves. It’s just so different compared to last year when everyone was just down because of the losses.
Do the defenders work mainly with Andre Tourigny or do they also work with Patrick Roy?
Patrick controls everything, but when he’s on the bench he’s focused on the forwards. Andre takes care of the defensemen and penalty kill.
What kind of coach is Andre?
First of all, every coach that’s on the team was had a head coaching gig in the juniors, so they’re really smart. They pay attention to the details. We have the best penalty kill in the league, because they really do care about every detail. Even the smallest things, like the position of your stick, how to play the start of the opponent’s power-play... Those details are really important, for them and for us. It’s about the game the opponent’s playing and we’re just adjusting to it.
What’s playing with Erik Johnson like?
It’s been really good so far. It’s the exact opposite of how it was at the start of my tenure in Colorado. The stats are there to prove it. We’re just doing what’s asked of us. I changed my game, I play different than I played 2-3 years ago, when I started to play with Erik. I don’t attack as much anymore, but it still brings scoring changes.
Did you expect that the start of the year under Patrick would end up like this?
No. I don’t think anyone expected it. I wouldn’t trust anyone saying that we’d have a 9-1 record after 10 games. We were really looking forward to this season. I didn’t know what to expect from a former goalie (Roy). He surprised us with his knowledge of the game, how he helps the goalies, defensemen and the forwards, the kind of details that decide games.
What did you think of Roy’s conflict after the end of the season opener?
I kinda liked it, his strategy about not putting himself above others. He’s part of the team, he say’s that we’re all on the same level. The fact that there was a little conflict just shows that he cares about winning and does everything he can to win. It was a signal that things will be different than they were last year, where we were going to play a game just trying to win. We’re focusing on the next game, not next week’s game. Every game’s important, even if there are 82 of them.
About your goal against Winnipeg, did you aim for your spot or did you just close your eyes and let it rip? It was a beauty of a shot to say the least.
Their goalie had a couple of great saves during the game. He was bailing them out, making open net saves. You weren’t going to beat him with placed, technical shots. You don’t have a lot of time to think in hockey, but in a situation like this you kinda think a little faster. I was like „if you can’t place a shot, then you just have to fire a hard shot.“ I just took a hard slapper and it worked.
The Avs traded Steve Downie a couple of days ago. Was it a shock or was it expected?
It wasn’t expected at all. I was really surprised. Steve’s a great guy, fits in well. I think that he was traded because you can’t really predict what he does on the ice. He’s a fan of the occasional not clean play. He brought a lot of energy, but he took too many penalties. We had a meeting in the morning, trained afterwards. I was told that he was traded after I came off the ice. I said that the team’s been playing well and working, it just doesn’t happen this way, but it still happened.
What are your first impressions of Max Talbot?
He’s a nice guy. His first game was a little difficult. We play a system that probably nobody else in the entire league plays. I liked the way he played in his own zone, he’s really great on the PK. Plays a similar game to Downie’s. I think it’s going to work.
Could you describe the style of play that the team plays?
Man-to-man coverage in the own zone. We try to have three guys in the neutral zone – triangle. Two guys pressure the puck carrier and the third one has got their backs. Three player together, everywhere, even in the offensive zone.
After the injury to Alex Tanguay, are there any speculations about the possibility of Milan Hejduk coming back?
I haven’t heard anything yet and I think it’s not going to happen. Milan would have to get ready, taking a couple of weeks at best. Maybe Alex would be back by the time Milan would be ready to play again.
Milan is ready to call it a career, are there any plans to sign elsewhere?
No, at least not this season.
Are there any thoughts about the the play-offs or the Stanley Cup in the locker room?
The play-offs are our priority. It’s the reason we play. As I mentioned earlier, we’re focused on what’s next (facing the Predators on Wednesday – author´s note). We don’t like to think ahead too much. We go from one game to the next one, trying to win them all.
How did Varlamov’s arrest affect you? Has something changed?
I think the whole thing showed how strong the team is and how mentally strong Varly is. When something like this happens, the team has to come together and support everyone. It was probably a good thing coming from a bad thing that happened (not implementing that Varly commited something, talking more about the whole issue and the medialisation – author´s note). At least we know we have a team that supports each and every member of it.
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Transcript: Michal Hezely
David Puchovsky, Slovakia, email@example.com
04/11/2013 - 16:17