The Hurricanes know good and well what a challenge this Bruins team will be after being swept in the Eastern Conference Final last year, but the Canes have taken some huge steps forward from last year.
Rod Brind’Amour spoke to the media via Zoom Monday morning to break down the upcoming matchup.
On the familiarity between the two teams from last year and how the Hurricanes have grown: I would hope we’ve grown a lot. What did we learn last year? We learned that they’re one of the best teams for a reason. There’s no weaknesses, and they’ve proved it again all year this year. I think it’s great that we get a chance to play them technically in the first round. You might as well get at the best right away. There’s no point in waiting for it. What’d we learn? We learned that that’s a great team. Like I said, there’s no weaknesses. So we’re going to have to be sharp, no doubt.
On being better equipped to play the Bruins this time: I think just having played them, there’s a little bit of, I don’t want to say experience, but you know everything we talked about going into last year, and once you’ve done it and you’ve faced a team that had no weaknesses, you get a feel for what it’s going to take to try to beat them. It’s one thing to talk about it, but now that you’ve faced them and you understand what you’re facing, it gives you at least a little bit of familiarity in that. You don’t really have to say too much, we know we’re going to be at our best.
On the chances of Dougie Hamilton being ready for game one: I’m hopeful, for sure. I think we’ll know a lot today. We’ll get through today’s practice and see how he feels. If he says he can go he’s going to go. The positive sign is he’s practiced with us the last two days and he seems to feel better. So I’m hopeful that he’ll be there.
On playing against Brandon Carlo: They all defend. They’ve got a great system and when they do have occasional breakdowns, they’ve got great goaltending. They have a secret to success for sure, play the right way. And then their special teams are super special. When you have that cooking for you, it’s a good recipe. Last year, I think we learned about special teams and their power play was so potent and it still is. So that’s going to be a big concern. Overall, I think there’s no weaknesses. So you’re talking about defense, great, they can do that. You took about the high-end talent and the grind game, they have all of it. That’s why they were the best team this year.
On the Canes doing a lot of things right in last year’s series: I don’t know if we’re going to take a lot out of that series. It was a year ago. But those games were probably closer than the scores. A save here or a goal there might have changed a couple of the games but they were the better team. In seven game series, the better team always wins. So we have to be better at certain areas for sure, and obviously get pucks in the net. You’re not going to win if you don’t score. So that was an area that Tuukka played really well for them, but they dominated in the special teams area, and that can’t happen this year if we’re going to win.
On the difference for the team versus entering the Boston series last year: I think they’re two different animals right now. I think mentally, I’m not 100% sure, this is a different situation. It’s different to be playing. I think it’s more of the same to be playing in a rhythm and now we’ve sat for a week. I think under these circumstances, mentally, it’s tough to stay sharp, so that’ll be interesting to see how that plays out here tomorrow night, but I don’t think there’s a lot you can draw similarities from last playoff because they’re just so different.
On playing more meaningful games in the qualifying round being an advantage: I would have said yes, for sure if we had started a day or two after that series. Then I would have said yes for sure. Let’s be honest, we were playing for something, and the top four seeds were just trying to get to this point healthy, so they weren’t playing for near as much. So they would’ve had maybe a little bit of an advantage there. But I think they probably went away with us sitting for a week. I hope not, but that’s kind of what I would have thought. IF we would have gotten to keep rolling and play right away, maybe catch them, that might have happened.
On the trade deadline players: Thankfully, I think the couple weeks leading into this was really huge for those guys. You’re talking about Brady Skjei, who I thought was phenomenal against the Rangers. And Trocheck, again, solid. And then Sami Vatanen too, they needed time. So I think those are three really huge trade acquisitions right at the deadline for us that we needed with the injuries that we had. I think those guys now fit in and feel pretty comfortable with what we’re doing, so those are going to be big parts. If we’re able to move on, we’re going to have to play well.
On the goalies and a starter for game one: We usually make that decision the night before. We don’t really even talk about it until then. We have both guys that feel good, and I would anticipate seeing both of them in this series at some point. But those are decisions that we make the night before and then we let the guys know and let them prepare that way. But I think we’re in a really good spot that way. We were coming in. It was questionable for me who was going to start and I kind of still have that now. We feel pretty confident whichever way we go.