Jabber Jaws: End of the season interview Kaapo Kahkonen
Goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen reflects on his season with the Sharks, what he's doing with his style of play moving forward and how Erik Karlsson impacted the game this season.
Kaapo Kahkonen struggled at times early in the season but feels like his game came around on the back stretch. The goaltender talks about what he's learned about his game, what his plans are for the summer and how he fits into the Sharks organization moving forward.
Kahkonen on what he learned about himself as a goaltender this season
"Well disappointing and frustrating, first of all, the overall feeling after this season, but, obviously, like you said, there's always things you can learn from moments and from games and seasons like this, that, you know, things don't go your way...mentally, physically and about your game. And there's a few structural things I feel towards the end of the year, I was starting to kind of figure out. And those things helped me, you know, to feel better in the games at the end of the year, which was obviously a good sign, I feel. And, you know, they may be things that you know, people don't see on the outside, but it's what I think is important and that I feel that improvement myself so that, you know, kind of gives me a feeling that, you know, by continuing doing those things that will help me move forward."
"Yeah, I'd rather not go to those things. Obviously, there are things we discussed with the goaltending coaches and then some other people that train coaches upstairs and stuff. But yeah, to start just to be, you know, those things will help me to be more in control and, you know, manage my body better, you know, on the ice and being more square and stuff like that, the usual points."
Kahkonen on whether he considered going back to his old style of goaltending
"I don't mean I totally changed everything I was doing. I'm not saying I'm a totally different goalie now, or will be a different goalie, but obviously, there's...you got to evolve and you gotta make adjustments. Yeah, sometimes you have to, maybe, you have to take a step back to take two steps forward. But I never really thought, at first place, that I'm going to change everything now or that, you know, now I should go back to what I did before...I don't think that was ever the case. Obviously, a lot of learning, like I said, but I think it could be positive in the long run."
Note: Kahkonen says he has worked with someone outside of the Sharks' organization on his goaltending style.
Kahkonen on his best stretch of goaltending this season
"Overall, I think the later half of the year certainly was much better and I felt better. Again, I have no clue about the numbers. I don't look at them. For sure, other than the wins and losses, that's the only stat...I care about the two points every night. And certainly, I did have a few more wins on the second half of the year."
"Maybe the stretch...it was around the All-Star Break, I believe, there was a good stretch there. Obviously, the deadline then, you know kind of mixed everything in the room and that's normal and that's what happens when the team is in this situation. But yeah...but even after that, there was some good games, so yeah, for sure."
"But it's important to look at those good games and good moments but also the ones that you know that okay, you needed to be better to, you know, see what went wrong there or what I could have done on those moments or in those games to, you know, to help the team even more so. I think it's important to look both ways."
Kahkonen on the ebbs and flows of goaltending and stats
"Goaltending is obviously it's a unique position. But a lot of it has to do with...well, a lot of it has to do with a lot of things. So maybe that's why, you know, you might have a good year, the next year the change might be pretty wide on results. But, I think, kind of like what I said I don't really look at, you know, stats or the history or if somebody had a bad year and then they had a good year or none of that. What I looked at is I'm gonna try to get better this summer."
"And like I said, I felt I did that at the end of the year and I felt better. So, I think that's the key that's gonna, you know, help myself and, you know, us to move forward. And hopefully for a much better year next year."
Kahkonen on the pressure he's put on himself emotionally
"I never really felt pressure of, you know, on playing hockey. Playing hockey is that thing I always wanted to do since I was, you know, five years old. And I'm obviously fortunate and I don't want to say lucky because it takes a lot of hard work, but certain things obviously have to go your way at certain times to, you know, be able to play this sport as a professional, and especially in the NHL. So, I don't think that's something I take pressure on."
"Obviously, the thing I want the most and what I think is the best thing about this game is winning. Anything else I don't really, you know, yes, the guys in the room and all that, but the best thing this game has to offer is winning. Whether it's a game or, you know, a championship or whatever it is, winning is the best thing. So, that's always my goal going into the game or whatever it is to win. But I don't think that's...that has to mean that you have to be taking a lot of pressure at the same time anyways, you just gotta try to do your best and you know, be there for a team and help them to, you know, or give them a chance."
Kahkonen on Erik Karlsson's season
"Yeah, that was great. Obviously great to see him, you know, happy and playing with that confidence he had this year and, you know, people say, you know, things about his defensive game and this and that. I don't think, you know, for me at least, like whenever he has a puck on a stick, I don't mind that because then that means we're playing offense. You know, we're not playing in our zone."
"And I think he's very smart because you know, he has that offensive mind. So, then the other way he reads those plays well, I think some specific plays well, in the D-zone as well because he has that...he kind of knows that okay, I would do this if I had the puck right now, you know. So yeah, I really enjoyed playing with him. Great guy, I think...just awesome to see him having that success this year."
Kahkonen on Karlsson possibly leaving and what that would do for the Sharks
"You can't really [replace him]. Nobody really scored 100 points this year from the defenseman around the league. So, I don't think you can really replace a guy like that."
"I, again, it's not my decision. I really hope he's here next year. He's a great player. Like I said I really enjoy playing with him. Great guy, great teammate I think around the room. A lot of experience obviously, he's seen a lot of things around this league so, having those guys is always great I think for the young guys too and for, you know, people that are coming up and we had a lot here, at least right now. So, yeah, he's a huge part for sure."
Kahkonen on his future with the Sharks
"I felt, you know, warmly welcomed here last year when the Sharks traded for me. Signed for two years and definitely I'm looking forward to come back here and play for this team. It's the only thing I had in my mind. My mind's nowhere else than coming back here and playing the way I know I can play to help this team...just go to that direction."
Kahkonen's take on Sharks management
"I think he's [Mike Grier's] done a lot of good decisions. And that's not something I'm thinking about. Obviously, that's not my job to do. My job is to, you know, come back better and be one of those pieces to, you know, help the team to that direction."
"But yeah, I think, you know, obviously now he's got the whole summer. He's got a year of...he's seen us play and the way we, you know, that this team played and he's got probably a little more time to react on certain things than he certainly did last summer. So, yeah, like I said, I'm optimistic and excited. Obviously, you're going to take some time off now and then come back hungry next year."
Kahkonen on his summer plans
"Relax for a little bit now. Obviously, take it easy and kind of, you know, reflect on the season. See what see what happened and check out a few things that you can, you know, you can work on and then slowly starting to get into the gym, on the ice, the usual."
"Kind of spend most of my summer back home, get here, maybe, I don't know, we'll see, but pretty early probably to work with the guys here and skate. Yeah, I'm excited for next season for sure. Obviously, this was a tough grind but I'm very optimistic"