For prognosticators who picked the Penguins to win this series, things have played out much as they expected. Too much Crosby, too much Malkin.
There’s no question the Canes can do a better job on those two and in stopping the Pittsburgh attack as a whole, but at some point one just has to tip the hat to what those players are capable of.
“We’re seeing a little bit different offensive machine here,” said Hurricanes Coach Paul Maurice.
The Canes now find themselves in the unenviable spot of trying to become just the third team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit, which would have them join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders in the pro sports comeback hall of fame.
Given this team’s penchant for the dramatic, Eric Staal was right on when he said the following after last night’s game:
“I was to pick a team to try to come back this would be the one because we’ve done it all year and we’ve done it this playoffs,” he said. “We’ve going to work our tails off, because that’s what we do, and we’re going to go from there. We’re going to take it 60 minutes at a time.”
“Most importantly, don’t view the whole picture,” Maurice said Sunday morning. “Just get a small glimpse. There’s some belief that we have to reclaim.”
It should be noted that Maurice later added, “Insert your favorite cliché at this point.”
Recycled lines or not, it’s the right approach, but at this point there is very little margin for error. To win this series, the Canes will have to play their three best games but also hope that Pittsburgh takes their foot off the gas enough to let them back in.
It’s the perfect storm of something drastic needing to happen to both teams, which illustrates why they have such a daunting task at hand.
With Tuesday’s Game 4 the only contest in a five-day period – there is a two day break in the schedule on either side – the Canes will have a lot of time to do some soul-searching. Either it’s a window that lets them rest up and find a way back into this series, or it’s a cruel delaying of the inevitable.
If it’s fatigue from four months of playoff-style hockey that has the Penguins’ weapons skating circles around them, it’s a chance to get back some of the overall quickness that Maurice thinks has gone from the Carolina game.
It’s a chance to heal injuries that are both disclosed (Tuomo Ruutu was in the lineup last night but played just 7:49) and undisclosed (Maurice was intentionally vague about Cam Ward, saying, “Everybody’s got something this time of year, but when he’s gotten to the net in each game he’s felt good enough to perform.”)
Besides the physical element, they’ll also have a full day to get the negative thoughts out of their system. The team was off today, but will return to practice tomorrow morning.
They’ll ultimately need four, but starting with one win will at least help restore the feeling that it can be done.
“Clearly we’ve got to win the next game, but there’s more to that next game for us,” said Maurice. “It’s the chance to play again, and the belief that would come with the win.”