There were times during the 2006 NHL playoffs when Rod Brind'Amour felt it necessary to speak up and say something to his team.
The Carolina Hurricanes' captain, then and now, didn't have to say much to make his impact felt, but when he thought something had to be said, he said it.
Tonight, Brind'Amour said Wednesday, is not one of those times. Maybe the 2006 team required a nudge in the right direction, a restatement of purpose, here and there. This team, Brind'Amour said, does not.
"This doesn't so feel new. It feels like it's supposed to be," Brind'Amour said. "It's not a panic situation, it's not, 'Oh, really? We're in a Game 7?' That's what playoff hockey is all about. We expected it to be tough."
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That wasn't the case three years ago, when only a handful of players had ever played for the Stanley Cup, let alone won it. Brind'Amour's vocal intervention helped point the Hurricanes in the right direction on a number of critical occasions.
He spoke up when the Hurricanes lost the first two games of the playoffs, and the team won four straight against the Montreal Canadiens. He spoke briefly the morning of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, scoring twice in the third period to beat the Buffalo Sabres. And before the Hurricanes even left Edmonton after the Game 6 debacle in the finals against the Oilers, he had them thinking about Game 7.
In each of those cases, Brind'Amour's decision to speak was as notable as his message. Those were the times he sensed the Hurricanes going astray. Those were the times he stood up to correct their course. This time around, it has been different.
Brind'Amour never thought it necessary to address the team during the first-round series against the New Jersey Devils, and he has not done so during the series against the Boston Bruins. Nor will he now.
"Sometimes it's not how much you say, but the little things you say to keep things on track," he said. "Today's a good day to go through to each guy, see how they're doing, make sure everyone's in the right frame of mind, as opposed to making any big speeches. We know what's at stake."
What's striking here is Brind'Amour's confidence in his teammates. It's one thing when a leader wants to set the tone. It's another when he thinks the tone is set and anything he says will just get in the way, and yet another when his teammates believe it.
"I don't know if there's much that needs to be said," center Eric Staal said. "We were in a spot where we wanted to get it done, and it didn't happen, and now we're in a Game 7. When you go into a Game 7, there really isn't anything to say but, 'Lay it on the line.' Everybody knows that."
Coach Paul Maurice took a different approach, giving a dressing-room speech after the Game 6 loss and holding a team meeting at the arena before the team left for Boston -- typically a situation in which the team already has gathered at the airport and gone straight onto the plane.
His message? Belief is the most important thing.
"So much of this is staying in the fight, and if you want to go by lessons we've learned, you have to stay in the fight until the last 1:20 of a Game 7," Maurice said. "That was the gist."
Here's the situation: Two hundred and thirty-eight teams have taken a 3-1 lead in the NHL playoffs. All but 21 have moved on to the next round. The New York Rangers failed to hold that lead in these playoffs, but that series had a different flavor. The Washington Capitals were the better team in every game. Only goalie Henrik Lundqvist got the Rangers three wins in the first place, and he couldn't get them a fourth.
This series has gone back and forth. It's a tug of war, and whichever team pulls hardest tonight is going to win. As far as Brind'Amour is concerned, that doesn't need to be underlined.
"This is real, we've done it and so we all believe it," Brind'Amour said. "I guess really that's what it comes down to: Do the guys believe they can do it? Every guy here believes it."