In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it is rare that a team does not take on the personality of its coach.
In the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the upstart Carolina Hurricanes
have certainly taken on the never-say-die attitude of their coach, Paul Maurice
Nothing seems to rattle Maurice in these playoffs.
These Hurricanes have faced a season's worth of adversity in the 14 playoff games they have played to reach the Eastern Conference Final.
They were behind in each of the first two series, dropping Game 1 in ugly fashion both times. In the first round, they had to find their way out of a 3-2 series hole against the Devils. How did they do it? They dominated Game 6 on home ice, then scored two goals in the final two minutes of Game 7 in New Jersey to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Against Boston, in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, all Carolina did was blow a 3-1 series advantage and find itself in a Game 7 in Boston, what seemed a certain recipe for disaster. And the Cardiac 'Canes weren't comfortable until top-seeded Boston took the lead Thursday night.
Then they came alive, taking a 2-1 lead before winning, 3-2, in the 19th minute of OT on a goal by Scott Walker
, a player who had no playoff goals on his resume, but had played all of Game 7 on the top line with Eric Staal
-- a move, by the way, made by Maurice after much calm deliberation between Game 6's dispiriting loss and the start of Game 7.
Throughout all these trial and tribulations, Maurice has been there with his soothing voice and intellectual approach to tackle every problem.
Maurice learned a lot during a successful first run here with Carolina that culminated with a Stanley Cup loss to Detroit back in 2002. He learned even more during a more recent trying run as the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs
, a team that did not win very much during his time there.
So when he returned to the Hurricanes this time, an in-season replacement for Peter Laviolette
, he was more even-keeled than ever. He has passed that calmness on to his team. He calls it "being comfortable in the grind," which is perhaps the ultimate trait for a playoff team.
Maurice is at his most comfortable when his team is involved in a one-goal game -- be it ahead or behind -- because he believes his club has a mental advantage on its opponent. He has taught his team to be comfortable with what it is -- a low-scoring, defense-first, opportunistic team -- and what it can and can't do.
It is a formula -- a belief system -- that has been as important as any of the numerous line changes or personnel decisions that Maurice has been so adroit with this postseason.
In fact, it is Maurice's unwavering belief in what his team is about that has carried the 'Canes through the darkest of times and allowed them to come out the other side a stronger and more resilient team -- just like Maurice himself.