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Canes Earn Mental, Physical Rest Day

After Game 1 OT win, Canes take a breath to reset

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

NEW YORK - At 11:31 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday, April 24, Brock McGinn got his stick on a pass from Justin Williams to deflect the puck in past Braden Holtby, the euphoric, double overtime conclusion to a grueling seven-game First Round series against the Washington Capitals.

A little more than 12 hours later, the Carolina Hurricanes boarded a flight bound for Newark and, that afternoon, checked into their Manhattan hotel.

At 7:10 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 26, the puck dropped on Game 1 of the Second Round against the New York Islanders, a turnaround time of less than 44 hours between playoff games.

There wasn't much time to rest. There wasn't much time to think. There wasn't much time to prepare. The Hurricanes had to go out and simply play.

"We wanted to roll into this game on a high and try to keep riding that wave," said Jordan Staal, the overtime hero in a 1-0 Game 1 victory. "We came into this game feeling good about ourselves. Knowing our game is good enough, we keep at it and stay with it."

"We felt great. 100 percent, the whole time," captain Justin Williams grinned afterward.

The effects of having played 91:05 of emotional hockey just two nights prior were plainly evident.

"Oh, yeah," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said, his eyes wide. "That's the thing I give our group the biggest credit for tonight is somehow figuring out how to match the intensity right away."

Mercifully, Staal potted the lone goal of the game just 4:04 into overtime to give the jubilant - and, probably tired - Hurricanes a 1-0 series lead.

"You just didn't want this to drag on again because that's really going to have effects later on," Brind'Amour said. "Happy with the win, and happy that it really didn't drag on."

Video: Williams: "In the playoffs, you need tiny advantages"

The Hurricanes then, of course, opted to spend Saturday away from the rink. Rest is a weapon, and the team hasn't had much of it lately.

"This time of year, it's more mental fatigue, for me, than physical," Brind'Amour said at the team's hotel on Saturday. "Obviously you get nicked up and banged up, but there is less travel and we have days off in between games, so physically it's not as demanding as the mental grind. It's as important to rest the mind as it is the body."

And physically, the Hurricanes have fared well so far, all things, including injuries, considered.

The Canes might say they didn't have anything left in the tank in double overtime of Game 7, but the Capitals' wheels had fallen off long before. They were gassed, and it was only a matter of time before the Canes capitalized.

A chorus of boos would typically surround Brind'Amour ending his postgame win speeches with, "You've got Billy!" but the team is now seeing the long-term payoffs of those dreaded workouts.

"Bill Burniston, our strength coach, has been phenomenal all year, driving home the little things to be able to play at this time of year," Brind'Amour said.

Video: Bill Burniston Spotlight

Physically, the Hurricanes handled Game 1 as well as they could have hoped. There were some mental miscues that resulted in turnovers and quality scoring chances for the opposition, but Petr Mrazek was there to bail his team out, especially in the first period.

"There were some parts to the game last night that weren't our best, for sure. Probably some mental mistakes, if anything. You could contribute that to whatever - not much rest or getting into a new series, trying to feel each other out," Justin Faulk said. "We definitely made some mistakes that need to be cleaned up. We know that. We have better to give, and if we do that, we can continue to make it hard on them."

Saturday, then, is just as much a mental rest day as it is a physical rest day for the Hurricanes.

"Rest at this time of year is big," Calvin de Haan said after the game. "You've got 16 minutes before a hockey game to get going, so it's all good."

"When you get tired, you're prone to mistakes," Williams said. "When you can stay sharp mentally because you're in shape physically, it gives you a little advantage. In playoffs, you just need tiny, little advantages."

One advantage the Hurricanes have is a 1-0 series lead in the Second Round. They've achieved at least the split they were seeking on the road with now the opportunity to "get a little greedy," as Williams said, and steal another before heading back to Raleigh for Games 3 and 4.

"We're young - well some of us are - in shape and hungry," Williams said. "That's a good combination."

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