Coming off a 2-1 loss in game one of their second round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Hurricanes will look to put it behind them and bounce back quickly with game two Tuesday night.
Rod Brind’Amour, Jesper Fast and Brady Skjei spoke to the media Monday about the keys to the rest of the series, here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say:
On last night’s game and changes that need to be made: Like I said last night, it was a good game. We could have easily won the game, but we didn’t. There’s definitely areas to improve on, for sure. There’s a few. But I think what happened last night is their top guys kind of cancelled each other. There was not a lot going from both groups. That’s kind of what happens. One little play here or there is the difference. But we’ve got to find a way to get more traffic and make it tougher. Their guy’s elite. We know that. We knew that coming in. That’s not a surprise. We can be sharper on the power play with some areas there. There’s always areas to get better. We’re going to have to find a way.
On making possible lineup changes: We think about it all the time. Those are discussions that we have daily. Whether we make those switches now or in the future, it’s a good possibility, for sure.
On Alex Nedeljkovic and the second goal he gave up last night: I didn’t even talk to him. We all make mistakes. We all have things we wish we could do back. That’s not going to affect how I think of him or how the guys think of him. We have a lot of trust in him. We certainly know he’s going to battle for us and he’s going to give us his best, and that’s all we can ask from everybody. We’re all going to make mistakes. We’re all going to have those things we wish we could have back. It’s all about the next play. It’s all about how you respond.
On the fan atmosphere: That’s felt like that since the playoffs for me. The atmosphere is just incredible here. The only disappointing thing is that we lost the game. You always want to win in front of your home crowd, just show them the appreciation for what they’re doing here, because it is special. Not only for just showing up but how they’re into the game, how emotional the game is. It’s a treat, to be quite honest.
On managing distractions off the ice: They don’t have time for that. That’s the good thing about the way this season’s gone. You just play, play, play, play. They’re obviously going to have some distractions, but I think they’re past that. We’ve got a pretty good group here, they understand what’s at stake and they’re pretty dialed in.
On going against Andrei Vasilevskiy: I go back, I remember the days of Dominik Hasek basically just dominating. But it never got in your head, you just keep trying. When you don’t get opportunities is when it gets in your head. If you’re getting your chances, you feel like ‘OK, eventually we’ll get something.’ We know he’s good. That’s one of their aces. You’ve just got to keep trying. You keep pounding the rock, eventually you break it down. That’s the mindset we have to have.
On if the team would change anything about last night’s game: I thought we were right there. Even though we didn’t play our best, we were right there. We’ve just got to raise the level a little bit, make a little bit smaller plays, get pucks deep and get a few more pucks behind them. As soon as we get the puck deep, we create a lot of good chances.
On what the team would want to change: Like I said, pucks at the line. It’s just getting the puck deep. I feel like as soon we get the pucks behind them and make the right plays, we create a lot of zone time and very good chances. So that’s the way we’ve got to play a little bit better.
On facing adversity: Like I said, we were right there yesterday. Even though we didn’t play our best, we were right there. So if we just raise the level, we have a really good chance of winning. Like I said, tomorrow, we’ve got to focus on winning that game.
On losing Nino Niederreiter: During the season, we’ve had players hurt. It’s been that way for a while, and it’s just been the next guy stepping up, so that’s the way we’ve got to keep doing it. Even though we lost a guy, the next guy’s got to step up.
On having fans back: Getting fans back, it feels like a different game out there. It’s very fun to play in front of these fans. It’s been unreal every game they’ve been back, so we’ve got to use that energy for ourselves.
On going against Victor Hedman: I feel like we have competitiveness even within our group. I know for me, I watch guys like [Jaccob Slavin], [Dougie Hamilton] and [Brett Pesce]. You’re always just trying to be better and those are guys you can look to in practice and even in the games. Take things off their games you want to recreate. But every team has good defensemen on it, so yeah he’s obviously a solid player and we want to play well against him.
On shifting gears against the Lightning: I just think the mistakes get amplified that much more. Obviously this team’s very skilled and they make plays off the rush. You’ve just got to be that much more careful with the puck and make the smart plays. I feel like when we got pucks behind them we were very dominant, got to our forecheck and we were all over them. So we just need to keep doing that.
On the loss of Nino Niederreiter and if there are more injuries with this schedule: Injuries happen, it’s part of the game. It happens in an 82-game season and it happens in this season. Obviously it’s a lot of games in a short period of time, I don’t know if it’s a byproduct of the schedule. But it’s kind of like we’ve been saying all year, it’s the next guy up. This team’s depth is one of the strongest assets of our team, so we know the next guy up’s going to step up and fill those minutes.
On playing playoff hockey: It’s a ton of fun. It’s the best hockey. Playoff hockey is so much fun, it’s so competitive. I know all of us players love playing it. It’s that much more important. Every time we have the puck, it’s a huge play. That’s why we play. You just want to keep getting better and better.
On going against Andrei Vasilevskiy: We obviously know he’s a solid goaltender and one of the best in the world. We’re not really focused on that, we’re just trying to get as many pucks as we can to the net. I thought we did a pretty good job of that at times. There were times last night where pucks were bouncing around in front and some guys had a few chances at it, so if we keep doing that, I think we’ll be just fine.
On Alex Nedeljkovic: I talked to him this morning. I just told him it’s not a big deal. He’s been great this whole year. He’s been a stud. We need him to keep playing that same way. His confidence, I think, is the biggest thing for him. When he’s going, it’s fun to watch. I know us defensemen really enjoy when he’s in the net. The way he plays the puck, I think it’s definitely a game change. So he’ll be just fine, he’ll be right back to his ways and we’re excited that we have him.
On the games being tighter: I think even the Nashville series seemed pretty tight. Obviously they play a little different style than Tampa, but playoff hockey, there’s really not much room out there. If you watch most series, it’s very tight and guys are on top of everybody. So the rink gets smaller and smaller as the series go on. I thought we did a pretty good last night and I’m looking forward to tomorrow night.