RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Hurricanes will have been off for six days by the time they hit the ice Thursday in Boston for Game 1. Some players talked about mentally getting away from the game for a bit. Others likely nursed some bumps and bruises picked up in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Head coach Rod Brind’Amour said Monday he umpired his son’s baseball game during the downtime.
Carolina, now that it knows its Eastern Conference Final opponent, is ready to get back to business. And, despite knocking off the defending champion in the Washington Capitals and sweeping the New York Islanders, the feeling is still that the Hurricanes are the underdogs.
“It’s going to be a tight series,” defenseman Calvin de Haan said. “I think we’re looking forward to the challenge. I think we’re the underdogs again, and it’s not a lot of pressure on us. It’s great.”
Boston beat Carolina, 3-2, on Oct. 30 as part of a season-long five-game losing streak for the Hurricanes. They turned around and beat the Bruins, 5-3, on Dec. 23 before falling 4-3 in overtime on March 5 in Boston.
This postseason, more than any other before it, has shown how little the regular season can mean. Carolina played a part in wild-card teams eliminating all the division champions in the first round.
Perhaps that lack of pressure de Haan spoke of is a factor. Brind’Amour believes that his young, bright-eyed Hurricanes are simply playing their game and enjoying the ride.
“A lot of them don’t realize the magnitude of what’s going on yet,” Brind’Amour said. “I’m hopeful, next year, we’re all still talking about this. When you look back, I think you see a different thing because this first time through anything, a lot of times you don’t know what on the other end of it.
“You just kind of play.”
Warren Foegele’s five goals in 11 playoff games are halfway to his 77-game regular season total. Jaccob Slavin has 11 assists. Petr Mrazek, before suffering an injury in Game 2 against the Islanders, was playing consistently at a level he’s only ever shown glimpses of.
“There’s 27 other teams in the NHL that would probably want to be playing right now, and they’re watching us play. Obviously, there’s more of a microscope, more people watching you, but this is the time you make a name for yourself,” said captain Justin Williams. “We have a lot of guys doing that.”
Foegele, Slavin, Mrazek, and others are making a name for themselves. Even veterans like Williams and Jordan Staal have come to play. Both have come up big in important moments to get themselves halfway to another Stanley Cup for themselves, a first for a number of teammates in the midst of their first playoff campaigns, and a hefty reward for a fanbase that’s waited a long time just to get back to this point.