The Hurricanes swept their two-game series with the Panthers Thursday night with a 3-0 win to take over first place in the Central Division and NHL.
Vincent Trocheck and Martin Necas both picked up a goal and an assist and Alex Nedeljkovic made 24 saves for this third shutout of the season. Rod Brind’Amour, Trocheck, Necas and Nedeljkovic spoke to the media following the victory, here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say.
On how proud he is of this group: I’m obviously proud of the group. I have been since day one. Tonight was such a different game than the other night. Tonight, special teams won us the game. Our penalty kill was really sharp. [Nedeljkovic] is a big part of that. I don’t know how many shots we gave up but it wasn’t much on the penalty kill. That was huge. They have a really good power play, so that was, I think, the game. And then our power play obviously got us a nice one. So special teams were big. [Nedeljkovic] came up with saves when he had to. That’s what goaltending does for you. You need those saves at the right time, and he did tonight.
On if this was the most complete win: It was just a weird game. I didn’t know that we were really good, but we worked hard, and our D really got in the way and made it tough for them to get a lot going on. It felt like there wasn’t a lot of action either way, but it was so different than the other game. But I like the fact that we found a different way to win tonight. I guess that’s the way to put it.
On the team’s potential: I don’t know, that word, who knows? The expectation, I can tell you that. I know what that is. That’s to be the last team standing. Can we get to that level? We’ve always got to get better. So every day we try to figure out how we can do that. Hopefully we keep getting better, because I think we’re a pretty good group. Potential, I don’t know. I don’t know what the potential is, I know what the expectation is.
On if he can coach the team to play the way he did: It starts with this group’s willingness to prepare and go to work. And right now, it just feels like, even when we’re not at our best, because you can’t be at your best every night. The other team’s trying to make that impossible to happen, so sometimes it doesn’t look right. The guys work and they dig in. They literally haven’t thrown a lay up. You always usually have a couple games where you’re like, well, we just didn’t have it. These guys have worked their butts off. That’s why we’re finding ways to win.”
Rod Brind’Amour on Vincent Trocheck: Obviously he’s been great. Those players that are working hard and creating stuff get some of those ugly goals too. It’s no secret, no accident, I guess. He’s doing it right. He created some chances tonight that he didn’t score on. I think he hit the post on one. He’s been great, and obviously that’s been a huge addition for us.
On if he felt he got a bit lucky again on his odd-bounce goal: Did you see the goal? It looked pretty lucky. The hockey gods were on my side on that one.
On how important it is to get these wins against teams they’re directly competing against in the standings: It’s huge. We talked about it after last game. All these games are really important right now. It’s going to be a hard-fought battle to the end to try to secure first place with them (Florida) and Tampa. To beat both of them over the last few days is huge.
On how they approached their power play opportunities: They actually switched it up quite a bit, so they were tough to read, but once you figure them out in a game you realize what you need to do to break it down. After the first one, we had a plan going into the second one. It was obviously a big goal for us.
On how important Brind’Amour is as a coach: I feel like I compliment him so often in the media, but he’s just been incredible. I can’t say enough great things about Roddy. He’s been awesome to play for. He’s been one of my favorite coaches to play for, ever. He’s a great player’s coach. He makes sure we’re all prepared every night. Even just coming into the locker room before the game and giving his pregame speeches. It seems like every night he has something new to fire us out. Every game, it’s like, how does he keep doing this, he makes me want to run through a brick wall. I think it’s important every season, especially in the big games that really count, like tonight and in the playoffs. Every season, having a coach who cares that much is important.
On if it felt like the hockey gods weren’t on his side during his injuries and dry spells: Everybody goes through dry spells and has injuries. You just have to keep your faith and stay positive. It’s not something I like thinking about (injuries and dry spells), but luckily for me, it’s going well right now.
On if it’s difficult to manage his game with the new three-goalie rotation with everyone healthy: You can’t control that, right. We got three guys right now who are playing at a high level. [Petr Mrazek] came back and played two games and he was lights out. It’s tough. There’s a reason why you don’t see it very often, or hardly at all, because it’s hard to rotate through. Rod’s been good with us, [Goalie coach Paul Schonfelder]’s been good with us in comminuting and keeping us in the loop and letting us know what’s going to happen. The only thing we can do is work hard in practice and play our best, come game time. All three of us are rooting for each other.
On how hard it is to handle a guy like Patric Hornqvist in front of the net: He’s a tough player, a tough guy to play against. He’s got a knack for finding pucks in front of the net there and he knows how to do it. He’s got good hand-eye, deflecting pucks. On the power play, he’s always in front of the net. Whenever there’s a scrum going on, he seems to be the one involved. He’s a hard worker and a tough guy to control.
On if he gets more motivation from seeing Mrazek come back and play so well: Yes and no. You’re happy that Petr comes back and does well, same with [James Reimer]. He’s won a lot. You’re always happy about that. It’s a good competition. It’s competitiveness and that’s what drives us and that’s why we’ve gotten to where we are, we’re competitors. We work and we want to win and we want to succeed. You see it and you want to be at least as good and give the guys a chance to win every night. That’s all we can do, give the guys a chance to win.
On how Necas and Martinook have stepped up in bigger roles on the PK with McGinn injured: It’s what it’s been all year. The entire organization, ever since I’ve gotten here its been next man-up mentality. You’ve seen it a lot this year. We’ve had injuries and COVID stuff going on. The next guy in has to go out and he has to perform and he gets put in the lineup and he has to play, he’s not just sitting on the bench. For both Marty’s to step up and play PK minutes, that’s huge. Hopefully, knock on wood, we can get healthy and stay healthy and we can have a full lineup and do our jobs.
On how much tonight helps getting his confidence back after a dry spell: It’s always nice. You have some games where you have some chances and you can’t score, and you have some games where every time you touch the puck it goes in or you have a point. Games like that happen. I had a few games without a point, but we still won some games. That’s the most important thing. It’s for sure nice to see yourself on the scoreboard too.
On if the Canes frustrated the Panthers: Just the way we play the game, we’re maybe not making the most plays in the league or stuff like that, but we put lots of pucks in the corners and stuff. We get to the forecheck and it’s pretty hard to play against. So sometimes it’s frustrating, especially when they don’t score a goal, and then they take some penalties. It’s good for us.
On being benched in a game against the Panthers in early March, and having a mutual respect with Rod Brind’Amour: In Florida, it was just one of those games when not every game is perfect, and that was the game when Roddy felt that I didn’t great so he benched me. Then I remember he put me out there for the last shift, we scored and we scored in overtime. So just like I said, sometimes it happens. You play all the time, you play a lot, you have chances and you don’t score. Then you’re benched, you go there for two shifts, you get a goal and an assist and that’s how it works in hockey.
On Vincent Trocheck: He’s a really good player. I don’t even know how many goals he’s scored this year in front of the net or from tips and stuff. So he’s really good at that. He can make a move. He likes to go one on one. Obviously we missed him a lot, and it’s great to have him back. He helps our team a lot.