NEWARK, N.J. — Five years ago Monday, the Hurricanes made their most pivotal decision in franchise history.
“Obviously, you never know,” Sebastian Aho said of that day in 2018. “You can’t really predict what’s actually going to happen. But since day one, he’s obviously set the bar high, and that was to be the best team in the world, right?
“And that’s been our mindset, our goal since day one he’s been here, and it hasn’t changed.”
The “he” is, of course, coach Rod Brind’Amour, the franchise icon who went from beloved player, team captain and Stanley Cup champion to coach on May 8, 2018. Under Brind’Amour’s guidance, Carolina is in the postseason for the fifth straight season, two wins away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals as the team did in the coach’s first season.
“For whatever reason,” Brind’Amour said at his introductory press conference, “our expectations have fallen a little bit here, and we need to raise those.”
The obvious expectation was a return to the playoffs, which the Hurricanes had missed in nine straight seasons when Brind’Amour took over.
But that was too low for Brind’Amour.
“I don’t think his expectations for us have changed since the day he started,” defenseman Jaccob Slavin said of Brind’Amour. “He’s expected to win the whole time he’s been here, and he doesn’t just speak it. He does it himself, and he’s still one of the hardest workers there is in this organization.”
That makes the Hurricanes’ task Tuesday after an 8-4 loss in Game 3 one with an obvious solution.
Brind’Amour has always set the Stanley Cup as the bar, but he also preaches not looking beyond the next day as a means to reach that goal.
“We didn’t have our best,” Brind’Amour said of Game 3. “But even if we had our best, what would that have mattered coming into (Tuesday)? Nothing, totally. So it’s like you have to prepare and you have to get ready to play your best. What’s done is done, and we’ve gotta try to find a way to win a hockey game.”
That could involve a change in goal — Antti Raanta fully participated in Monday’s practice, manning one net while Frederik Andersen and Pyotr Kochetkov split the other. There could also be a slight tweak to the lineup. Jesper Fast worked with the second power play unit during that practice, an indication that Mackenzie MacEachern might slot back in in place of Jesse Puljujarvi, who had been working with that unit.
Regardless, the Hurricanes know the key to Game 4 is moving past what happened in Game 3.
“In the end, you gotta have a short memory,” Fast said. “This is just one game. We’re still up to one and we get folks to get the next one like it we knew it’s going to be not going to be an easy two. We know they’re a very good team. So short memory and get ready for the next one.”
And there’s one person the Hurricanes look to so they can be ready.
“He’s the leader of this organization,” Slavin said of Brind’Amour. “He’s brought it to where it is today.”