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Hurricanes following Brind'Amour's lead in playoffs

Confident heading into Game 6 against Capitals thanks to coach's straightforward approach

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Rod Brind'Amour's approach in his first season as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes has been as straightforward as it was during his 20 seasons playing in the NHL.

Brind'Amour rarely minces words, except when he's asked to talk about himself. Never one to take credit, even when he was captain of the Hurricanes' Stanley Cup championship team in 2006, he similarly downplays his role in their turnaround this season.

 

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"The coaching thing is fun, but I always say it's a little overrated," Brind'Amour said. "Your players play."

But the Hurricanes players know Brind'Amour deserves as much recognition as anyone for their transformation from a team that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs nine straight seasons before he became their coach to the one that had given the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals all they can handle in the Eastern Conference First Round before a 6-0 loss in Game 5 on Saturday.

The Capitals lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 heading into Game 6 at PNC Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, FS-CR, NBCSWA).

"That's what leaders do. They downplay their importance, and that's what Roddy does," Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said. "It's a trickle-down effect. He leads the way and really the players take on the persona of the coach. If the coach is calm, we'll be calm. If he's animated, he's upset, he wants more, we can give him more.

"So I wouldn't downplay anything he does."

Williams was teammates with Brind'Amour for five seasons on the Hurricanes, including when they won the Cup in 2006, and says Brind'Amour the no-nonsense coach isn't much different from Brind'Amour the no-nonsense player. It turns out the formula that helped the 48-year-old total 1,184 points (452 goals, 732 assists) in 1,484 NHL games with the St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers and Hurricanes, and twice win the Selke Trophy as the League's best defensive forward, also is pretty effective from behind the bench.

"He knows what works, right?" Williams said. "One thing you can't second-guess yourself on is effort. If the effort is there, then your skill will take over."

That's pretty much the Hurricanes' philosophy. They don't have the skill to match Capitals' stars such as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson, but they rarely get outworked.

That began with the example Brind'Amour set from the first day of training camp.

"The thing about it is his work ethic," Carolina general manager Don Waddell said. "As far as preparing for games, in the gym, everything else, he's never going to ask a player to do something that he wouldn't do himself, and it rubs off on them."

After spending seven seasons as a Hurricanes assistant, Brind'Amour viewed becoming the coach as the natural next step for him when Bill Peters resigned April 20, 2018 and moved on to become the Calgary Flames coach. Brind'Amour even downplayed that, saying last summer, "I felt like it was the time to at least throw my name in the hat and see how it all shakes out."

It's shaken out pretty well.

The Hurricanes went 46-29-7 during the regular season to earn the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference and a first-round series with the Capitals, who finished first in the Metropolitan Division for the fourth straight season.

Perhaps the series looked like a mismatch on paper, but the Hurricanes, after losing Games 1 and 2 in Washington, responded by winning Games 3 and 4 at Carolina by a combined 7-1.

Video: Check out the best mic'd up moments from WSH@CAR, Gm4

The Hurricanes had confidence they could do it because Brind'Amour instilled it in them.

They will need that confidence again after the Game 5 loss.

"He's been that way all year," Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton said. "We had to believe in ourselves and believe in our game when it wasn't working at the start. He's got a lot of belief in us and he's the easiest guy to respect."

Brind'Amour always is careful to share any credit he receives with his staff, which includes assistants Dean Chynoweth and Jeff Daniels, goaltending coach Mike Bales and video coaches Chris Huffine and L.J. Scarpace. Brind'Amour has a separate office, but only uses it for individual meetings with players.

Otherwise he prefers to work in the same office with the assistants.

"When you have good people around you, I just find it pretty easy," Brind'Amour said. "It's, 'You take care of that. I'll take care of this. You take care of that.' Then we meet and it just feels like it's not as [difficult]. … There's other things to head coaching that are very, very important, but there's a lot of it that if you just have good people around you, which I feel like I do, it makes the job a lot easier."

To Brind'Amour, everything is a team effort. That too is a carryover from his playing days and one of the reasons his players want to play so hard for him.

"I was lucky enough to play with Rod, play on his line, and he didn't have to say much," said Fox Sports Carolinas analyst Shane Willis, who was teammates with Brind'Amour on the Hurricanes for three seasons. "He's a modest guy and he was an unselfish player as he is an unselfish coach. That's what players respect."

In Year 1 under Brind'Amour, the Hurricanes have exceeded almost everyone's expectations, except his and theirs. He often says he couldn't ask his players for more than the effort they've given him.

And they're not done yet.

"A new coach in the League, I don't know what I'm doing compared to the other guys, I'm sure, but these guys, they play hard," Brind'Amour said. "If you have that every night, you pretty much have a chance."

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