Not surprisingly, the remedy offered by the Hurricanes after this morning’s practice was more mental than physical.
As a group, the team seems to agree that eliminating some of the indecision they showed in Game 1, be it due to nerves or whatever other reason, will go a long way in fixing many of the problems that plagued them in last night’s 4-1 loss.
“I think we spent the entire night in our heads, and it never translated into our bodies,” said Coach Paul Maurice.
“We were excited, but you've got to be able to play loose and relaxed and play the way we know we're capable of playing," said Cam Ward.
One suggestion I’ve heard is that the Canes need to be more physical, which I think is true, but only in a certain sense. They’ve never been a team that is constantly looking to deliver punishing hits, and they don’t need to do that now. However, they do need to be more physical in individual battles for the puck, which a raised level of overall intensity should fix.
Maurice said the team also needed to improve its cohesiveness as a team, rather than trying to make some of the individual plays that proved easy for the Devils to snuff out.
“We didn’t move offensively or defensively as a five-man unit, and that was probably the key of our stretch in the last few months of being a good team,” he said.
Part of that will be trying to get the puck in deep, where they can avoid the bottleneck of Devils players that routinely stopped them from gaining the offensive zone in Game 1.
“They sit back and kind of wait for you to force things through the neutral zone, try to turn it over the other way and get you frustrated,” said Eric Staal. “It’s about working the puck around their net and forcing their D to make plays, because we feel that if we get on the attack, move our legs and win those battles, we can take advantage of their defense.”
I’m not too concerned about Rod Brind’Amour missing practice today with what is reportedly a lower-body ailment, and it sounds like Maurice isn’t either. I’m assuming the injury came from when he was hit by Matt Cullen’s shot at the tail end of a third-period power play. Look for the captain to be back at his normal spot tomorrow, with Cullen starting on the second unit and Jussi Jokinen moving to the fourth line.
As far as other lineup changes, there’s still a possibility of one or two involving lower-minute players, but Maurice said no decisions would be made until tomorrow.