"We played four very, very tight games. After Game 1, neither team is begging for offense. They're getting their chances so I don't think either team is going to change a whole lot."
-- Paul Maurice
Good luck to both. This series has been about as even as you can get thanks to the two men in goal, New Jersey's Martin Brodeur and Carolina's Cam Ward.
In the wake of the Devils' 1-0 victory Thursday, a game that produced 86 shots and just one goal, both teams agreed there is no magic weapon that either can produce to ensure a victory. Both teams were pleased with the way they played, for the most part, and both teams expect to play a similar game Sunday in Game 6.
Maurice thinks his team can play a little better and Sutter knows his team has to finish as well or better than they did Thursday.
"Both teams are looking for an edge and I'm not sure there is one," Maurice said. "Come Sunday, I think we are going to see a similar game. It's going to come down to the two guys in the pipes, which makes for a great series because there are two great goaltenders."
"This is a great team we're playing against," said Devils defenseman Colin White, who blocked three shots in a solid defensive game Thursday. “I think we're pretty evenly matched teams. You look at these games, they're just so tight. Both goalies are great and both teams are letting everything hang out on the ice. That's playoff hockey."
The Devils have a 12-9 edge in goals, due to their 4-1 victory in Game 1. Since then, they've split four one-goal games, including two that went to overtime.
"We played four very, very tight games," Maurice said. "After Game 1, neither team is begging for offense. They're getting their chances so I don't think either team is going to change a whole lot."
Maurice identified three things he wants to see his team accomplish: Have a stronger start. Carolina was outshot 29-19 in the first half of the game. Be more physical; and get back faster on New Jersey's transitions.
"It was physical for a few minutes," Maurice said. "When the transitions are happening as quickly as they were and it's going back and forth, the team that has the puck toward their own end is more likely to be banging it off the glass instead of making to look plays and create things. As the game stretches out, it's very difficult to chase things and make a hit. You have to come out of position to make hits because of the stretch and the transitions."
He saw several examples of his players lagging behind the play as the Devils took the puck up ice, with New Jersey defensemen playing well behind their forwards to monitor the lagging Hurricanes players, so "cherry-picking" was not part of his strategy.
"We weren't overly excited about that early in the game," Maurice said. "It's not part of what we do, but the transitions happened quickly in that game. Neither team was making many high-risk plays in the middle of the ice. We don't like those. There are games where a team makes a lot of seam passes and you knock them down and away you go, but that's not our plan of attack. As a matter of fact, we got better when we started to move as five guys instead of four."
Ward has been in desperate playoff situations before and prevailed. He was the most valuable player of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs when Carolina defeated Edmonton and he knows how his team has to approach Sunday's game.
"You have to be able to come out of the gate, ready to play," he said. "Now, we're facing elimination. You have to be willing to embrace that atmosphere and be willing to overcome it. We can't play tense just because of the fact that if we lose, we go home. You have to be able to play with confidence."