Now that the series with Boston is tied, tomorrow night’s Game 7 is a clean slate, one-off elimination game, and the Hurricanes need to treat it as such.
There are arguments to be made for either team to have the upper hand. Prior to the series, Carolina would have taken a seventh game against the top-seeded Bruins, but needing that game after two failed chances to advance is tough to swallow. The pressure could be on Boston now that the momentum has shifted in their favor and they may be “expected” to win, but it could also be on the Hurricanes as they look to avoid falling into the small percentage of teams that don’t move on after 3-1.
There are so many angles to look at and so many ways these teams will try to skew things to their psychological advantage that they probably all cancel out. The reason it’s so difficult to find a tangible edge is because there simply might not be one, other than the fact that Boston is on home ice.
It’s one game, and just about anything can happen. If Boston wins, it will be because they are the better team, not because the Hurricanes are reeling from two straight losses.
“It’s even. I think the momentum is even,” said Tim Gleason after Game 6. “It’s 3-3, and it’s pretty much like a 0-0 series. We have to come out ready to play and play to our strengths.”
“Both teams are going to come out and give it their best shot, and a play here or there can make the difference,” said Rod Brind’Amour on Wednesday morning. “This is probably why we’re in a Game 7, because we’re both evenly matched teams.”
The Hurricanes will need to be better in their defensive zone, which includes backchecking by the forwards and better communication between the two units. If not for some breakdowns in those areas, Game 6 was more even than the final score indicates.
In that sense, it was a little reminiscent of Game 1, although neutral-zone turnovers were the main culprit at that time. The situations are similar in that the Canes hung in there otherwise, controlling the play for a long stretch after the initial poor start, but were ultimately done in by uncharacteristic errors that they don’t normally commit.
“I wouldn’t lay it on the feet of the defensemen because they didn’t move the puck so our forwards [could have] a nice, easy game,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “I think we’ve got to do a little better job for our defensemen to allow them to do the simple things to get the puck moved and not expect miracle 60-foot passes on the tape.”
In that regard, Maurice acknowledged he would look at a lineup change with the healthy Frantisek Kaberle still available, although the Czech blueliner hasn’t played since Game 5 of the New Jersey series. Then again, there were so many things that a number of players could do differently that an overall re-focusing of the existing group may instead be the remedy.
“We’ve got some decisions we’ll make on our lineup,” said Maurice.
In the forward group, the feeling from Maurice’s intentionally vague comments was that the team would start with different combinations, but would go with the same group that played Game 6.
The team did not practice today, so those combinations won’t be known until tomorrow’s morning skate at the earliest. Instead of taking the ice, Maurice planned to go over their general mindset and approach to the game as his team prepared to catch a plane to Boston one last time.
“What we want to try to do in the 48-hour period leading into that game is to frame our mind so that when we hit the ice everybody has an understanding of exactly what we’re going to try to do and staying with it,” he said. “Regardless of the first five minutes or the first ten minutes, it’s the game plan and that we’re all on the same page.”