The Canes are moving on. With a 3-0 sweep of the Rangers in their Stanley Cup Qualifier series, Carolina has officially qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs two years in a row for the first time since 2001 and 2002.
Head coach Rod Brind’Amour spoke to the media via Zoom after Tuesday night’s series-clinching 4-1 win to break down the Rangers’ series and what lies ahead.
On the plan coming in with the goalies: We knew going in that this was the plan. Both guys were dialed in right from the start of training camp. You look at the schedule, three games in four days. We knew we were going to get both guys in. We obviously didn’t expect them to be that solid. That was an incredible performance all three games by our goalies. So I’m happy for the group, but happy for those two guys. They deserve it.
On waiting for a team to break and sticking with it: It’s human nature. We were up 2-0 and the other team, the Rangers weren’t going to go away, and I don’t think we came out the way we needed to, even though we were prepared. That’s kind of what happens and that’s why you need a goalie. Our goalie was what kept us in this game. [Reimer] was phenomenal. Eventually, we got into the fight. Eventually we got into our game. But if it wasn’t for [Reimer], that game would have been over. That’s a special group we have in there, because we need everyone. They understand that. Everyone’s contributing right now. That’s why we’re still playing.
On making the decision to start Reimer in this game: We came into the series knowing we were going to use both goalies with three games in four days. We decided to start Petr and then it was obviously that [Reimer] was going to play this game. So the plan was in place before, and we stuck with it. It could have been easy to stick with Petr, because he was phenomenal yesterday as well. But with the wear and tear, I think it was obviously the right move. [Reimer] could have easily started the games as well. He’s been really good, I give him a lot of credit for really working these four months we were off. He came back looking better than ever. We’re fortunate that both guys were dialed in.
On James Reimer’s character: We’ve known him for a year now. His reputation of just being a solid character, great human being is something that we already knew before we got him. That’s really important for guys that we bring into this organization. That’s almost a prerequisite now. So we knew he was a great guy. He fit right in with the group. I’m really happy for him because he works really hard. He studies the craft probably more than any goalie in the league. He’s really dialed in on that. Obviously it paid off.
On falling behind early and the team’s poise: We’re a group that I know they never give up. We didn’t have our game going for two periods. I’ve very rarely been around this group where we had a game that we were just terrible the whole game. So for two periods, give the Rangers a lot of credit, they were the better team. We always seem to find a way to get going with huge plays. Like the Sebastian Aho play there is huge. Great players rise to the occasion. Your best players have to be your best players. He came through for us tonight, too.
On fist bumps at the end of the game: It is surreal. You win, there’s a little bit of a lack of emotion because the crowd’s not there. That’s what you’re used to when you win like that. But it’s a different time, obviously. But what hasn’t been said here, we’re extremely grateful to playing. I think we owe it to a lot of people here that are going above and beyond just to make this happen. It’s obviously a crazy time, but we’re just really grateful to be able to do this, try to bring some happiness and joy to our fans. They deserve some smiles. So hopefully we’re brining that.
On the long layoff and going to other teams’ games: There’s not much else to do. This is going to be tricky, I’m going to be quite honest. We could have a week off. That’s probably the worst thing to have when there’s really not anything to do. So we’re going to have to get creative and just find things to keep the guys together and mentally sharp, because the down time is what kills you in this kind of setting. But on the other hand, we’ll hopefully get some injured guys back. We’re going to enjoy it tonight and then we’ll figure out the rest of it as we move along.