RALEIGH, N.C. — Rod Brind’Amour gave the slightest of eye rolls.
The Carolina Hurricanes coach had been asked this question again and again and again, about whether his team can win on the road, about what they need to do to win on the road. He didn’t have any more answers than he had against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference First Round or earlier in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the New York Rangers.
He doesn’t have them now, when his team faces a chance to close out the Rangers in Game 6 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday (8 p.m. ET: ESPN, TVAS, SN), leading the best-of-7 series 3-2.
Through 12 games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Hurricanes have managed to win seven games, and have a chance to move on to the Eastern Conference Final, without winning a single game away from PNC Arena.
“That’s a nonissue,” Brind’Amour said Friday. “It’s all I hear about. And it’s like, we haven’t played poorly on the road. Our game has been fine. There’s been a couple of things that have gone squirrelly, penalties and then 5-on-3s. All of a sudden those games get tossed away. If that would have happened at home, it would have been the same thing.
“Every game takes on its own kind of life. There’s the way we want to play, there’s the way they’re trying to play. We’re playing good teams. This is how it goes.”
But answers or not, Game 6 is a chance for the Hurricanes to prove themselves, to prove their worthiness, to show the rest of the NHL that they are true Stanley Cup contenders.
So can they win on the road?
“Of course we can,” forward Andrei Svechnikov said.
The Hurricanes had a chance to clinch their first-round series against in Game 6 at TD Garden. Instead, the Bruins overwhelmed the Hurricanes in the third period to avoid elimination and push Carolina into a decisive Game 7 at PNC Arena.
Which the Hurricanes won.
“To go into it again against New York, we’ve got to win on the road,” forward Seth Jarvis said. “That’s going to be the biggest thing is, we’ve got to find a way to kind of grind one out there.”
There were signs of life from areas that previously had been dormant for the Hurricanes in their 3-1 win in Game 5 on Thursday. They scored on the power play after going 0-for-9 on the man-advantage in the first four games of the second round. They got a third-period goal from Svechnikov, his first point of the series. They dominated the third period and gave the Rangers, who had 17 shots on goal, little space to work with throughout the game.
“The way we played was definitely something we want to replicate tomorrow,” Jarvis said. “It just gives us a good ground base, a good framework for tomorrow.”
It has seemed at times like the Hurricanes are two different teams, a smothering, dominating one at home where they are able to best use their matchup abilities with the Jordan Staal line against the opponent’s best forwards and stymie them.
And another on the road, where they struggle to come up with the same level of play.
It’s a difficult way to win, and a difficult way to proceed in the postseason, even if the Hurricanes would be guaranteed home ice in the Eastern Conference Final.
So how do they change that? How do they replicate Game 5 in Game 6? How do they avoid the pitfalls of the [recent] past?
“You just do,” forward Vincent Trocheck said. “There’s no formula for it. It feels like kind of beating a dead horse. Not winning on the road is no different, really. It’s the same game, same team. It’s just a matter of us being prepared when we start the game in MSG next game.”
The Hurricanes clearly are tired of the questions, tired of the storyline. They don’t want to provide answers because, it seems, they don’t have them.
The problem is the only thing that will stop the questions — and the concerns — is winning a game on the road. They get another chance Saturday.
“We’re going to give it our best,” Brind’Amour said. “We’re going to try to win. Like we do every night. So nothing really changes. We don’t want to come back and have another game, but we’re going to do everything we can to win tomorrow night.”