Thanks to a first-period tally from Jaccob Slavin, game winner from newcomer Jani Hakanpaa and 27 saves from Alex Nedeljkovic, the Hurricanes closed their eight-game homestand with a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators Saturday night.
Slavin, Hakanpaa and Rod Brind’Amour spoke to the media following the victory, here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say:
On the first period: Pretty good. It’s probably one of the best periods I’ve seen ever, to be honest with you. We were good. We were on it with everything we were doing. It was the way it was supposed to look, and we probably should have had a few more, but it was nice to get one, at least. Sometimes we’ve had periods in the past like that, not quite like that, but close and we didn’t get anything out of it. So at least to be up one was nice.
On Jani Hakanpaa: It was nice to see him get that. Obviously it was a big goal. And that’s the best way to feel part of a group for sure, when you can contribute like that. It came at a great time for us, obviously.
On offensive production from the defensemen: I think that goes in waves. We’ve had a lot of offense from our defense, they just haven’t maybe gotten on the score sheet or scored as much as in the past, but that’s obviously a big part of our offense. It drives our team at both ends. It was nice for them to get on the score sheet, but I think they’ve been solid all year in both categories.
On the homestand: I don’t know if there’s any big takeaways. It’s too long. I love being at home, obviously, but I think at times you can get a little stale. But I thought we had a couple games in here that weren’t great, but other than that we played pretty well, pretty solid. That just goes to the group. These guys, they’re pros. They prepare, they play hard. That one game was a little iffy, but even that, we’re still in the game. So I give these guys a lot of credit on how they prepare and play every night.
On the three-goalie rotation: It might not be the easiest, but the good news on it is there’s so many games. So in the past, where you might play two games a week, three, now you’re getting four, so that helps, for sure. But then it goes to my last statement. They’re pros. Do your job.
On if the team will take Brock McGinn and Teuvo Teravainen on the road trip: McGinn, I don’t think so. Teravainen, yes, for sure.
On his goal: We were going into the faceoff, and with all these plays these guys run on the draw, I’ve got to double check what we’re about to do every time. [Vincent Trocheck] just told me ‘Hey, it’s coming your way. Just shoot it.’ He put it on a silver platter for me. I just tried to put it on net, and luckily it went in.
On the Canes fans: They’ve been unreal. There was a sign down the road already for the first game for me. I’ve never had that happen before. So it’s been unreal how good they’ve been to me and how they’ve welcomed me to the Canes here.
On getting involved in the offense: We talked about if it’s possible to join the rush, just keep going. There’s a green light to get up there and join, play some offense too when the opportunity arises. So I’m just trying to do that and then off the point, just trying to get those pucks through and trying to create some chaos in front. So that’s been a lot of the things we’ve been working on here in practice is to get those shots and get pucks to the net.
On the first period: It’s always cool when you have a feeling that things are going your way and when all the guys are chipping in and working really hard as a group of five. So it was a really nice feeling. The togetherness these guys have in here in the locker room, that shows up on the ice like that. So for me, I’m just trying to soak it all in and enjoy it, and work as hard as all the other guys, help the guy next to me to make his life a little easier out there.
On his nick name: Nick name wise, here and in Anaheim, the guys usually call me ‘Hak’, just keep it simple. And then they might end up making their own, too. I told them it’s free, just whatever you guys want to call me, I’ll take it. So they might end up giving me a new one here.
On the transition: It’s kind of a whirlwind when it happened. Everything happens fast, and then suddenly late Monday night, I’m here from San Jose. And then it’s like you’re in a hotel wondering how it’s going to go. But the guys have been good. The coaching staff’s been helping me a lot. I guess it’s been a little smoother than what I would have expected. I feel like there’s still work to do. But we’ll get there slowly, just keep working on those little details. I think it’s going to be good here.
On if he could have imagined scoring the game winner and fans chanting his name: I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t think of that, I was concerned about some other things. But it’s really cool how the fans took me in. I’m really glad and honored for that.
On Jani Hakanpaa scoring: It’s awesome. He’s a great addition to the team so far. Off the ice, he seems like an awesome guy. So as teammates, we’re super excited for him. Not only with the goal, but he had some great, big plays all over the ice tonight, blocking shots, big hits. Like I said, he’s a great addition to the team.
On where the first period ranks this season: Probably up there pretty close to the top. I think everyone was going, we were all moving our feet well and playing the right way. Pucks in deep, like we always talk about, forwards working down low and everything thrown at the net. So it was a super solid first period from top to bottom.
On the homestand: It’s nice to play in front of fans and be in front of the Caniacs again. Obviously with more fans being able to come in the building, that’s awesome. I know we as players really appreciate our fans. So from that side, it’s awesome. Just being home with the family, is mentally, I think, really helpful. And just with the hectic season that it is, it’s nice to be home. But we’ve got a big road trip coming up here, so we’ve got to take care of the work we’ve got to do.
On it being important to get a goal in the first period: It is huge, obviously there’s ebbs and flows to the game. Sometimes you play a heck of a period and you could be down 1-0. So to be up after that period was great, but as Roddy always says, you play the period, you put it behind you and you go back to work. You’ve got to repeat it and be able to do the same thing. There were ups and downs to that game, but we stuck together as a team and got it done.
On Jani Hakanpaa’s nickname and him making the transition: He’s a great player. He’s smart. He’s big. He’s physical. He skates well. He fits in great with our D corps. The coaching staff has done a great job catching him up to speed on all system stuff.
Nicknames, there’s quite a few floating around, from Haagen Dazs, to Hufflepuff, to Hubba Bubba, we’ll come up with something good and something will stick. But he’s a great guy and it’s great to have him.
On scoring against a goalie: Trust me, I’ve been trying really hard. But it was nice to see one go in the back of the net. Just try to keep throwing pucks at the net and see what happens.
On if he was surprised to see Alex Nedeljkovic score: No, not really. We work on those in practice, those set plays. That’s just one of those ones that was a good win. I think it was [Trocheck] that won it back, he wins it back and it’s a quick shot on net. It’s tough to read when he gets it off quick there like that. Those are hard to pick up, so great heads up play. It’s a smart play and something we’ve been trying to do all year and since Rod’s been here.
On the games against the Predators getting chippier than the past: I think across the board you’re seeing it. Not just with these guys, but with every other team in the division. But you’re seeing it in other games between two other teams. There’s some bad blood building up. Even though it’s a shortened season, it’s a long one at the same time. We’re playing every team back to back and in some cases three or four games in a row. So there’s some mini series in there. There’s playoff type atmosphere, it feels like, even with a minimal amount of fans. So it’s pretty easy for some bad blood to build it and more physical play to creep in.
On the first period: Obviously the first game against these guys, the first period wasn’t that great. We were fortunate to get out of there up a goal. [Petr Mrazek] was big in that period. And tonight it was completely different. We were all over them from start to finish. Then we kind of got a little bit of adversity in the second period. But we fought through and just stuck to our game. That’s what’s going to take us far the rest of the way is just sticking to our game. It doesn’t matter what happens. If we get punched in the face, just get back up and keep grinding.
On staying sharp with the three-goalie rotation: Just having good practice habits. That’s all year, whether you’ve got two guys, three guys, however many guys, you have to have good practice habits, because that’s what’s going to translate over to the game. You start doing things a little differently in practice, it’s going to creep into the game in some way, shape or form, especially when you least expect it to. That’s usually the time when you need to keep up with the big save or timely save, something like that. Just saying sharp and staying mentally focused in practices is all you can do at this point.