At this time of the season, it's so cliché

Updated: June 15, 2006, 2:42 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

RALEIGH, N.C. -- They are the comfortable old robe and slippers that players happily slip into when the games become most important -- the cliché.

The closer players get to the end of the long line that is the Stanley Cup playoff schedule, the less inclined they are to give voice to their thoughts.

Fearful of inciting the other team by revealing even the smallest hint of bravado, hope or fear, players embrace the unoriginal. Fearful of somehow angering the hockey gods and bringing down a pox on their hockey homes at the most critical juncture of the season, players strive for the inane, the trite, the tried and true.

Rod Brind'Amour
AP Photo/Paul ChiassonWhen the lights are on and the reporters are out, the clichés run rampant.

Who can blame them?


The NHL's season began almost eight months ago. Players on both teams have played more than 100 regular-season and playoff games. Who wants to screw it up now?

Luckily, we have obtained a copy of the NHL's "secret cliché translator," which will help sort through exactly what players are trying to say as this final series heads to its conclusion, possibly as early as Wednesday night.

What they said
"Mark Recchi said it as soon as we came off the ice, 'The fourth game is the hardest to win.'" -- Carolina forward Kevyn Adams

What they meant
"Actually, I've never understood this. The other team is generally demoralized and spent, having been sent to the brink. And we have a chance to win the Stanley Cup at home. Do you know how many times a team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals? Once in the history of the NHL playoffs. So, actually, I think Game 4 should be a piece of cake. But if Mark said it, it's got to be true. He's as old as the hills, you know."


What they said
"If we got a couple of more power-play goals in the series, we're at least tied." -- Oilers coach Craig MacTavish

What they meant
"Our power play couldn't organize a one-car funeral procession. And it's funny you should mention funeral."


What they said
"Obviously, everyone's got a solution [to the Oilers' power-play problems]. And when you're watching something struggling, everyone's quick to jump to conclusions and say, 'OK, this is what you need to do to fix it.'" -- Oilers center Shawn Horcoff

What they meant
"Hmmm, maybe that suggestion about having Georges Laraque play in the slot on the power play wasn't such a bad idea. I think I'll mention it again to Mac T and [assistant coach] Craig Simpson."


What they said
"As far as the penalty kill goes, I think it has a lot more structure; I think that you have to have assignments, you have to have routes, you have to execute those routes. I think the biggest thing is execution." -- Carolina coach Peter Laviolette

What they meant
"We're in their kitchen big-time."


What they said
"We're not going to sit around here and be happy with where we're sitting right now and where we stand. We want to get that fourth one over as soon as possible." -- Carolina defenseman Glen Wesley

What they meant
"Did you notice how I mixed the standing and sitting references in an effort to render this quote entirely unusable? That's what happens when you play 166 playoff games without winning a Stanley Cup. Where's that 'I'm going to Disneyland' brochure?"


What they said
"Obviously, you've got to take it as another game. You can't be looking ahead at the prize when the work isn't done yet. We need to have 60 minutes of hard work and get a win to enjoy that." -- Carolina forward Eric Staal

What they meant
"I'm just saying what Mr. Brind'Amour, Mr. Recchi and Mr. Weight told me to say. In fact, I've got the cheat sheets right here. I have no clue what it means other than we don't want to tick off the Oilers or incite you reporters with inflammatory rhetoric. How did I do?"


What they said
"I don't feel I lost any confidence. I hadn't been playing the game that I wanted to be playing, and last night I think I got more involved and was skating well and ended up chipping in with a few assists to help our team win." -- Eric Staal

What they meant
"Slump? What slump? Stick that slump in your pipe. Reporters ... I've seen strips of sod smarter."


What they said
"We realize this series is long from over; it's going to take another solid effort like we played in Game 4." -- Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward

What they meant
"Do you think they'll let me put the Stanley Cup at the head table of my wedding? Hey, what about bringing it on the honeymoon? How cool would that be? Wait a minute, can I say that? Eric, give me those notes."


What they said
"A key for us is to get traffic to him [Ward] and make his job more difficult. I don't think we're doing a good job of getting to the net enough. He's stopping the pucks, but the last few games he hasn't had to make that many outstanding saves. We haven't really tested him all that much." -- Shawn Horcoff

What they meant
"Come on, the kid's 22 years old. When is he going to wake up and realize he's in the Stanley Cup finals and cough up a fur ball? Enough already."


What they said
"What we learned in this season is that it's tough to close out a series, and I think there's going to be not only the pressure on us, but there's going to be pressure on them, too." -- Oilers forward Sergei Samsonov

What they meant
"Actually, we dusted all three teams we faced pretty handily, even though pesky Anaheim did win one of them, but that hardly counts. As for the pressure on Carolina, I really just said that."


What they said
"I hope that they're thinking a lot about it. Obviously, they're going to have family and stuff planned out, parties and stuff. We're hoping that that's going to work into the way they approach the game." -- Oilers defenseman Steve Staios

What they meant
"Everyone thinks we're cooked. They probably do. We would if we were them. I hope they got that extra case of champagne I sent over. And those shrimps that might have been out in the sun a little too long."


What they said
"At the risk of going down the cliché path, I think you guys know all the clichés from being in the fourth round of the playoffs. Certainly, they're all applicable right now." -- Craig MacTavish

What they meant
What the man said.

Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.