Coach Eakins talked about the process this season that has gone from the biggest issue being players out of position on the ice to now just needing some better execution.
“Early in the season, we had some guys who didn’t understand where they were supposed to be and we were teaching that. Now it’s come down to, we’ve got guys in the right spot, we just need them to finish off the execution.”
The coach said that it's not for a lack of trying in most situations.
“Every player wants to do it, they do the best they can. Sometimes it’s just not being so aggressive, overplaying the guy. Sometimes it’s not being aggressive enough. We’ve been doing a good job of installing one-on-one battles in practice, two-on-twos, three-on-threes.
"You can run whatever system you want — offensively or defensively — but the winning of the one-on-one battle is huge and the creating of a two-on-one battle is huge, when you have the puck.
"For some, it’s small adjustments and for others, it’s experience."
Eakins was asked if sometimes a player just doesn't have the make-up to have that kind of battle on a consistent basis.
"A lot of times it’s the personality test. There’s guys who, no matter what they’re doing, they’re competitive. They’re polite guys in public but you look sideways at them, they might smack you. There has to be a bit of meanness in them, too."
The Western Conference has a lot of big, mean, teams which increases the importance of having those types of players.
"This conference is nasty. The game is being played by strong men who enjoy doing hard things. Not only do we have to look at our skill set, we’ve got to look at the guy’s DNA when it comes to the level of battle that comes naturally."
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