Rod Brind’Amour answered the question with dry humor. Six games into a playoff series, there are no lingering secrets between the Rangers and the Hurricanes.
So how would Carolina respond to a Rangers team presumably playing with desperation while facing elimination on Saturday night at the Garden?
“Score,” said Brind’Amour, Carolina’s head coach. “Score a couple. Maybe four or five would be nice.”
What worked for the Hurricanes through five games of the second-round series wasn’t going to change just because the Rangers had their backs against the wall. The Rangers thrived all through the regular season on resiliency and made it their postseason signature in coming back from a three-games-to-one deficit in the first round against Pittsburgh.
It was not lost on anyone, though, that what had already worked for Carolina in taking a three-games-to-two lead in this second-round series was a momentum-sapping game.
The Hurricanes have been at their best this series with their defensive prowess. They’ve gone heavy on the forecheck, eaten up space in the neutral zone and made it impossible for the Rangers to get into the opposing end. They have played deliberate, purposeful hockey.
The kind of hockey that, if done right, makes things hard for a home team facing elimination to keep their crowd in the game and find the necessary desperation to get things to a Game 7.
“I think when we’re at our best, we’re a hard team to play against,” Carolina defenseman Brady Skjei said Saturday morning. “We get pucks behind the goal line, our forwards are so good at working the defensemen and cycling and keeping pucks down low. And getting pucks to their net.
“I think when we’re at our best and kinda putting other teams on their heels, not giving them much time and space, when we’re doing that, we feel good. I think we’re one of the best teams at doing that.”
The Rangers have learned all about that the hard way in this series. They struggled to muster anything resembling an offensive attack over three losses in Raleigh, N.C. The issue for Carolina has been bringing that game up north, just as it was in the first round, when the Hurricanes failed to win a game in Boston before finally eliminating the Bruins in seven.
“There’s nothing different,” Brind’Amour said. “I don’t anticipate them playing any harder. They’ve played hard, we’ve played hard. Other than this last game, I think both coaches have been happy with the way their teams have played, all five games. … I anticipate this being the exact same thing.”
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