With less than 24 hours to go before the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers kick off the 2020 NHL playoffs, Canes’ captain Jordan Staal and defenseman Brady Skjei, who was with the Rangers earlier this season, spoke with the media via Zoom from Toronto.
Here is everything Staal and Skjei had to say:
On the quality of the ice during the exhibition: It’s fine. It wasn’t unbelievable, but I’m assuming four games in a short period of time can do that. I’m sure it will be fine.
On if this will have the same feel and intensity as a normal playoffs: I would say for sure the intensity will be there. As for momentum shifts with the crowd and stuff, that might not be the same, obviously. I know for a fact that as soon as that puck drops it’s going to be intense, it’s going to be a good game. It’s going to be a good battle.
On what Brind’Amour had to say after the exhibition, and also what the team saw on film: I think everyone worked through a little bit of stuff during that game. I think every player kind of wanted to feel out what they wanted to do. Obviously, I had a big turnover at the blue line on a PK. I saw a couple other plays that were cute. I think towards that third period our group started to feel that out and started to play the game we know how. We have to make sure we are going to jump right to that. It’s keeping it simple, getting those shots off and getting that chaos out front. That’s been our style from the start, and it’s worked for us.
On how he’s shepherding the group as the captain: I think the group we had last year, with the core we had, those kids, [Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen], all those guys know how to do it. I saw it from day one. I don’t have to talk to those guys too much. They are going to be competitive every night. They know what it takes to win. You saw it last year. It’s going to be a big challenge to try and jump right into that and get into it as fast as we can, but we have a group that has bought in, can buy in and can get to our game quick and find ways to win games right away.
On what the team is feeling like with meaningful hockey so close after such a long time away: We’re excited. It’s been a long wait. We’ve been itching to get back. I know our team is fired up to play. Me personally, I’m really excited. I think the excitement is going to be there, and we’re ready to go when that puck drops.
On how you approach a five-game series differently than a seven-game series: Obviously every game in the playoffs is extremely important, but getting off to a good start in a five-game series is definitely a huge thing. You don’t want to fall down in the first game or the second game. Getting off to a good start is going to be crucial in a five-game series.
On if he has any MLB friends from New York that he’s talked to about playing a five-game series: Unfortunately, I don’t. I’ve never talked to anyone about it. This will be new for all of us. But like I said before, it just puts a huge emphasis on those first few games in the series.
On what the key to stopping the Rangers in transition is: I think stay on top of them. For defensemen, it’s keeping a tight gap. I think obviously they have some high-end skill in their forwards. I think the main part of our game is puck pressure and being aggressive, so if we can stay above them and take away their time and space, it definitely will play into our hands. You can’t give those guys much room because they’ll make plays. Staying on them, keep that puck pressure up and limit their space.
On his emotions getting to play the Rangers: I’m fired up. I think whenever the playoffs come around you get amped up. You get that extra level. For me going up against my old team, Im’ just as excited if not more than previous playoff years. It’ll be a fun battle. I’m going to do whatever I can to make the Canes come out on top.