By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – With the first week of training camp complete, the Carolina Hurricanes feel that they’re ready to jump into the fast-approaching 2020-2021 season opener in Detroit on Jan. 14.
Effort and energy from the group has never been questioned by head coach Rod Brind’Amour.
It is the consistency and level of endurance that is maintained that the bench boss has to calibrate on a daily basis to be prepared for opening night against the Red Wings.
Is everything going according to the plan?
“That’s a good question, I don’t know for sure, I feel like it’s pretty good,” Brind’Amour said following Day 5 of on-ice sessions the Hurricanes have held at Wake Competition Center on Friday.
“We’re never really gonna know until once that puck gets dropped and that first game’s under our belt. You draw up the nine days of practice and you check it off the list and you go. We’re pretty good with where we’re at as far as I’d say accomplishing what we want to accomplish at this point. Still got a few more days obviously to put more stuff in. We’ll have a game/scrimmage coming up soon to get the guys dialed in, but I think we’re pretty good right now.”
No worries in the crease
While goaltending is always a concern for any NHL team, and particularly in Carolina in recent years, both Petr Mrazek and James Reimer will continue to forge their tandem relationship to platoon in between the pipes and work to post wins.
Though some may not feel as comfortable with either being a full-time starter or may lean to one or the other for whatever reason, what the Hurricanes do possess in each is a competitive work ethic.
Both have illustrated disgust in not making a save and really focusing on every shot during camp so far.
They know what will be at stake daily during the NHL’s shortened regular season – a 56-game slate with ample back-to-back sets that will keep Brind’Amour and his staff busy in deciding who steps into the crease each night.
For Mrazek, he doesn’t consider the schedule difference as anything out of the ordinary, just the difference in preparing for it.
“It’s different this year without the preseason games and without a longer training camp,” Mrazek pointed out.
“I’m just trying to establish myself to do as much good things on the ice and compete…I feel good physically and in good condition.
“It’s not tougher than when you have normal seasons. When you look at it, you play back-to-back games as you normally play, then we have two days without a game. You look at the schedule, you don’t look back, you don’t look at the past, you look at it like it’s just a normal regular season.”
Reimer’s focus has been to work with a high level of intensity every day.
“You’re not gonna have that middle section of exhibition games to try to find your mental game or try to find your rhythm,” Reimer noted.
“I think it’s tough as a goalie to find that rhythm in practice. It’s tough to get game-like situations in practice, so I think if you can take care of your mental side as much as possible and try to be dialed in for every shot or every scenario, then it just helps lessen that gap from Game 1.”
Maintaining pace and tempo throughout
With the non-stop skating and puck battling that the Hurricanes’ style of play demands, there is very little room for any let-up or ‘taking a breath’ as Brind’Amour terms it, from anyone on the roster, including the two netminders.
While they’re scrapping to finish the job as the last line of defense on every shot they face, both Mrazek and Reimer have the unique observational perspective to provide feedback and encouragement to teammates when they are taking too many breaths, so-to-speak.
Both have been satisfied with what they’ve seen so far.
“It’s tough to say after the first week. I think everyone looks pretty good,” Mrazek said
“I think everyone’s ready to go. Everyone’s really excited for the season to start.”
Who drives the bus?
So what happens when the goaltenders are working hard, but they don’t see the same in front of them?
What’s the dynamic in Carolina? Do the goalies call out their teammates to show how much they care and to ‘pick it up’? Do they need to do that?
Reimer fielded the question diplomatically.
“More so, I think that’s Roddy’s job, and he does a good job of that.
“I mean at times as a goalie you can add a little emotion to a practice when you’re hootin’ and hollering or chirpin’ a guy when you make a good save or somethin’ like that. But, at the same time, Roddy does a good job of making sure the intensity is there, and when he doesn’t see it, he calls us on it. That’s part of being a good coach. I think we’ve done a good job – our practices have been pretty good as far as the tempo, but there is a difference between practice and games. So, from my standpoint, you just try to have as high a level of intensity as possible.”
Brind’Amour followed up on the question of motivating to produce consistency in pace from his team when asked.
“I shouldn’t have to do that too often,” Brind’Amour said.
“Human nature – guys are at training camp, and we’re pushin’ pretty hard I guess on Day 5 – we expected it to be really good the first few days. Which it was; everyone’s excited to be back. Now, there’s this little lull until you play and guys just wanna get at it. We don’t have guys that don’t bring it all the time. It is part of my job, but it’s not something I have to do very often.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport