GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It was nearly 2src years ago when Rod Brind’Amour was just off the ice at Joe Louis Arena after watching the Detroit Red Wings celebrate winning the Stanley Cup at his expense.
Brind’Amour, then a player with the Carolina Hurricanes and now their coach, has vivid memories of how he felt on that night of June 13, 2srcsrc2, how at 31 years old and a veteran of 13 nhl seasons he thought he may never get another opportunity like the one he just had.
“Sitting there going, ‘Oh wow, that might have been it right there,'” Brind’Amour said Tuesday. “I was getting older at that point. Thankfully that wasn’t it, but you never know. It’s not an easy road, winning the Stanley Cup. Everybody knows.”
The Hurricanes certainly do. They’re in the Eastern Conference Second Round for the third time in the past four seasons, getting ready to play Game 1 against the New York Rangers at PNC Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS).
They have eight players who have been a part of each run: forwards Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Martinook, and defensemen Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce.
But the Hurricanes have gotten out of the second round once, in 2src19, when they were swept in the Eastern Conference Final by the Boston Bruins.
They lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games last season. Twelve players who played for Carolina in the playoffs last season are expected to be in the lineup for Game 1 against New York. Martinook would make 13 but he’s out because of a lower-body injury.
The pressure is on because opportunity doesn’t knock every year.
Carolina won the Stanley Cup with Brind’Amour as captain in 2srcsrc6 and didn’t get back to the postseason again until 2srcsrc9, which preceded a nine-season gap between playoff appearances.
“The older you get, the more it matters,” Brind’Amour said. “You’re trying to impose upon the players that urgency, just don’t take it for granted. We talked about it all year. Nobody knows what tomorrow brings.”
The feeling around the Rangers is different.
Certainly, they know opportunity is knocking for them now, the first time since 2src17 they have reached the second round. But they are not feeling the weight of what lies ahead because, unlike the Hurricanes, they don’t know how heavy it is.
“As far as pressure goes, I don’t think we feel it in our locker room,” forward Tyler Motte said.
Said defenseman K’Andre Miller, “I don’t think there is really any pressure.”
The Rangers instead feel the high of coming back from 3-1 down against the Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Eastern Conference First Round in seven games. They want to roll that vibe from a 4-3 comeback win in overtime in Game 7 on Sunday into Game 1 against Carolina.
“Experience was something that was talked about our team for a little bit; I think we showed people what we could do and showed that it didn’t really matter at the end of the day,” Miller said. “Coming off a 3-1 series against a really good Pittsburgh team with that experience and those top guys in [Sidney] Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin and [Kris] Letang, I think our confidence is where it needs to be right now.”
It never wavered, coach Gerard Gallant said, after their 52 wins, 11src points and .671 points percentage all ranked in the top eight during the regular season.
“I truly believe every team has got a chance to win when we start the playoffs,” Gallant said. “I still believe that. We’re going to have to play real well against Carolina, but I truly believe we’ve got a chance to win.
“I think we’re a good team. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing at home or on the road, I think we’re a good team. When we play our game for 6src minutes we’ve got a real chance to win every game.”
That will be Gallant’s message to the Rangers too. Simple and straightforward. He said he’s not one for rah-rah speeches because he doesn’t want to add more to Game 1 than he would any other game.
“I do the same thing as I do for Game 1 of the regular season,” Gallant said. “I’m not putting more importance on this game than the other ones. Players have got enough pressure. We try to take pressure off them. Just go play your game and have fun. We prepare the same way.”
The Hurricanes will try to do the same, except it’s a little different on their end because this is their third opportunity with Brind’Amour as the coach and the core players in place.
Nobody knows if there will be a fourth. Nobody with the Rangers is worried about that.
nhl.com independent correspondent Kurt Dusterberg contributed to this story