As the Canes look to come back in this series, they’ll need to rediscover one of the main attributes that got them this far.
“What we want to see here tonight is that resiliency where not everything is going to go our way on the ice tonight, but the first time something bad happens, we’ve got to get back to who we are and what we do,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “We’ve always fought back.”
It’s strange to hear that said about a team that has displayed those characteristics all season. After a tough loss, the team has always bounced back. In close games, they find a way to prevail.
However, there’s no doubt that it has been lacking in this series. After nearly pulling off another miracle finish in Game 1, the Canes were either tied or trailing by a goal midway through the third period of their last two losses, situations Maurice referred to as the team’s “wheelhouse.” Instead of finding a way back in, they ultimately lost by ugly 7-4 and 6-2 scores.
“That to me has been the one element that hasn’t been there for us,” Maurice said. “Our starts in two of the games haven’t been too bad. We’ve come out with some chances and some jump and then the break happens, and that’s where we haven’t shown the resiliency that we’ve shown for so long.”
It’s obviously too late to harp on those losses, but it’s important that the team rediscover that mental toughness ahead of tonight’s Game 4, as they’ll need plenty of it – not only to make up ground in the overall series, but simply to win a game in which Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin seem guaranteed to score a big goal.
The Hurricanes seem to have plenty of motivation for tonight’s game, as you would expect from a team on the ropes. The Canes have already played three elimination games this postseason – two against New Jersey and one against Boston – and have managed to come out on top.
They won’t approach tonight’s game any differently, but the challenge is that they now need to win four of them, not one or two.
Although this season should ultimately be considered a successful one, win or lose, for how far the team managed to come from the mid-season low points, the Canes are nonetheless determined to go out with their heads held high and not with the disappointment that they went out by playing something other than their game.
There’s also the matter of avoiding the sweep, which this franchise has managed to do for the last 20 years. In the 1989 Adams Division Semifinals, the Hartford Whalers succumbed to Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens in four games, with a 26-year-old Ron Francis contributing two assists in the series.
“We don’t have to have the last four games be the defining moment of our season because we couldn’t do it anymore,” said Maurice. “We’ve got to say that in this potentially last game that we were as resilient as we possibly could be and that the final outcome wasn’t because we didn’t fight back or stay in the fight, it was if we were better than they were or they were just better than we were.
“If we have to take three or four more punches, fine. Just make sure that you extend your chin.”
There was full attendance at today’s practice, with Erik Cole, Tuomo Ruutu and Scott Walker returning from a day off yesterday. Cole and Walker will definitely play, while Ruutu is likely to do so as well.