There is, hard as it may be to believe, still a playoff series to finish, two more games to play at the minimum, a lot of hockey left. Just because Monday night felt climactic and catastrophic and cataclysmic, almost like a Game 7 and not a Game 3, doesn’t mean life doesn’t go on as normal.
It is, however, probably a very good thing for the Carolina Hurricanes that there are two days off before Game 4, because even if that isn’t enough time for Andrei Svechnikov to recover – as good as the news seemed to be Tuesday – it may be enough time for the Hurricanes to regroup and regather the emotion they expended, because it was not an insignificant amount.
The tenor of the series may have changed with an utterly dominant performance in a 5-0 win, but it can change again just as quickly Thursday.
“We understand that it’s going to be a whole new game,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Tuesday. “We’re not expecting that kind of a game to go that way.”
And they will be short-handed, for certain: Even if Svechnikov was feeling fine Tuesday after Alex Ovechkin’s knockout blow and the ensuing trip to the hospital Monday night, it would be the height of folly to bring him back in this series, maybe even these playoffs should the Hurricanes continue on, and risk two concussions in such short succession this early in his career.
As for Micheal Ferland, who exited the game early, whatever his injury situation is, it is increasingly clear he cannot be relied upon, and the Hurricanes appear increasingly willing to move forward without him – in this series and in the offseason. And with just the one goal since the trade deadline, how much will he really be missed anyway?
The Hurricanes will need at least one body from Charlotte to replace them, even with Saku Manaelanen ready to step back into the lineup, and Tuesday afternoon Patrick Brown got the first call. He may not be the last.
These are all questions that require some thought and examination, and the Hurricanes have that time, at home, this week. Desperate and wounded, they threw everything they had into Monday’s game, even after the Capitals had sensed the direction of the game and eased up on the gas. There was a statement to be made, and they made it, but it all begins anew Thursday night.
Not to be lost in all of this: Only two of the Hurricanes’ 10 goals have come from players that would have been considered their top six forwards going into the series, Carolina’s power play is actually outscoring Washington’s 3-2 and the Hurricanes have a 63 percent possession edge five-on-five.
All that said, it takes a tremendous degree of commitment and investment to play with the energy and aggression the Hurricanes demonstrated Monday. The Hurricanes can outplay and outhustle the Capitals, but it takes everything they have, as it did in Game 3. It will take all of two days to gather that again, if they can.
“We needed the two days, though,” Brind’Amour said. “Part of you says it would be great to go right back at it and play. But there was a huge emotional investment in that game for our guys. To have one day and go again, I don’t know. This is going to be nice, I’m hoping anyway, to reset.
“And then come again, hopefully, with a lot of energy. If the building is the same, which I think it will be, we can feed off that. That’s where home ice makes a difference. We need every advantage we can get.”
They’ll have to muster it again. That’s what it will take to even the series against a team that’s unquestionably more talented and experienced. The euphoria is gone. It all begins anew.