Thanks to big nights from Nino Niederreiter, Jaccob Slavin, Martin Necas and others, the Hurricanes picked up a 5-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at PNC Arena Friday night.
Necas, Niederreiter, Slavin and Brind’Amour spoke to the media after the win, here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say:
On Martin Necas: He’s definitely matured in his game. I think he’s becoming very noticeable on other things other than when he has the puck. His speed is an asset. I think his confidence has really grown, and you can kind of see it in the way he’s playing. He’s been really solid.
On Nino Niederreiter: He’s getting pucks to go in. Last year, he just couldn’t buy one. Once that doesn’t happen, it snowballs and you kind of fight it, vs. the opposite now, where a few have gone in, and it snowballs the other way, where you just feel like you can’t miss. That’s kind of what’s happened here. I don’t know that he’s playing any differently or anything, I just feel like the confidence is definitely flowing in him right now.
On Niederreiter ‘overthinking it’: That’s an interesting thing. I think that’s sports psychology 101 right there. Everyone knows it. You know when you’re not scoring, ‘No, I can’t press,’ but you just do. And then it doesn’t help. I think he’s just in a good place where he’s feeling good about himself. That’s the way you want everyone to feel, because that’s when you play your best. Unfortunately when you don’t score, you press. That’s just the nature of it.
On James Reimer: When we needed a save in the third, he made a couple real good ones to let us relax. We had a great game tonight. I thought we could have had 10 goals. We were on it, and I didn’t think we gave up a ton. But they’re such a dynamic team, where they just seem to all of the sudden spring something out of nothing and James had to make some big saves. Any win you look at, your goaltending basically has to do that.
On Jesper Fast on the power play: He’s on the power play now for the last couple games on that unit. Really, just to do what you just saw. He factored in on it by being down at the goal line, made a nice little play on the one and was obviously involved in being in traffic on the other one. Good to see him contribute there for sure.
On Jaccob Slavin: I thought he was probably the best player on the ice. He logged a ton of minutes against, I think, arguably the best player in the game right now in Patrick Kane. He is so dynamic with the puck. He’s a handful, and Jaccob logged a lot of minutes against him tonight.
On if his hot start to the season is a relief to him after last year: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, when I first got traded here things went very well. Last year, I had a hiccup year and definitely didn’t plan to play the way I did last year. I’m glad to find my jam again and play the way I am playing right now..
On how important this bounceback win was: That was definitely huge. To lose the game against Florida, we weren’t very pleased. We were up 2-0 and gave it out of our hands. Then the same tonight again. We went up again. We played a pretty solid game tonight, but overall I think there were still some areas where we’ve got to improve to make sure that when we play teams like Tampa Bay or other teams that we are sharp 60 minutes straight.
On if he’s ever been to Hartford and if he’s going to ask the team to switch to Whalers jerseys permanently: I actually followed them way back. You obviously see some video and tape from back in the day. Obviously coming in today and looking at the jerseys, they just look fantastic. It’s always fun playing in a uniform like that with a lot of history. But at the end of the day we are the Carolina Hurricanes now, and I’m glad to be that way.
On what it means to “find his jam again”: If things go your way, it’s always easy to talk about it. Last year there was a lot of overthinking and trying to do too much. I wanted to be too good instead of just laid back and playing the way you want to play and allowed to play. If things go that way, then it’s obviously a lot easier to talk about it. But I was definitely not very happy or pleased with the year I had last year.
On if he’s been trying to ramp up his physicality recently: I mean, not recently. Sometimes you’ve got to play physically as well. It’s part of the game. I think I’ve started doing that since the start of this season. Maybe you guys see that a little different, but I’m trying to play a little more physically when I can.
On sticking with the power play: The special teams always make a difference in the game. Just like you said, we had a few good looks in the second period at the end. We are just trying to get the pucks in the net. If there’s a play then make the play. But yeah, we just had a good screen in front of net on the first one and on the second one it was a great little play from [Jesper Fast] to Nino.
On seeing Jake Bean, who he played with in Charlotte, succeed in the NHL: I’m really happy for him. I played with him all that season. I always knew that he’s a great guy and even better player on the ice. His skill set as a D is unbelievable. He’s building his confidence, as you can see now in the games. He’s making those little plays. He’s playing well. Hopefully, he keeps going. Like I said, I’m just really happy for him.
On how noticeable the improvement in Niederreiter’s game has been this year: Nino has been playing great. How many goals does he have? Nine, 10 maybe. He’s been scoring. He’s been on the scoresheet a lot. He’s playing really good in front of the net, around the net. He always creates a little space there. He gets every rebound. He’s really good at that. I’m really happy that it’s working so far for our line and that we are contributing.
On if he feels like he’s getting his wind and legs back after his COVID pause: Yeah. After the Chicago series it started to get better, a couple weeks ago. Ever since then I feel like it’s kind of been getting better game by game, but I think tonight was the first night where it was all the way there, back to the way guys may be able to play. And it’s just playing hard every shift.
On what was said after the second period and on what the team did right to close this one out with a win: We played a pretty good second period. We had our chances, just a couple unlucky breaks there at the end. [Brind’Amour] just came in and said ‘keep doing it the right way.’ Obviously our power play came up huge there in the third period. That was the difference maker tonight. But it was a good team effort for pretty much the whole 60 minutes.
On the schedule change and having to play Tampa Bay four straight games: Obviously they are a great team. We’ve got to dig in. This is going to be an important four games. Obviously every game this year is important, but especially when you’re playing a team of that caliber four games in a row. We’ve just got to make sure that we are dialed in every night and be ready for the task and just continue to play similar to the way we played tonight. And just getting better as a team every night.
On Chicago liking to fly the zone and on what adjustment’s Carolina had to make to handle that: Their forwards are skilled. Like you said, they do like to fly the zone. We’ve just got to make sure that we are staying above them. Our forwards did a great job tonight hemming their D in the zone and not letting them have the time to make those long passes. You saw a lot of turnovers tonight because of our forwards, so that’s huge. That’s a great way to not let them have them and keeping their offense from getting the way they want to play.
On if the penalty kill took the game as a challenge to not let Chicago’s power play dictate the game: Yeah, definitely. Obviously last time we played them our penalty kill wasn’t great. So tonight we were definitely ready for the challenge. Special teams is a huge part of this game, so when our kill is going strong and our power play is going well that’s the result you get; a good, solid game all around.