NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Brodeur has played in a deciding Game 7 of a playoff series eight times in his career with the New Jersey Devils and the prospect of another hasn’t changed the way the New Jersey Devils goaltender feels.
The 24 hours before the game are brutal. You know everything about your opponent. There is nothing more to study. There is only time to kill and butterflies to control.
That’s what Brodeur and probably everyone else on the Devils and Hurricanes was doing on Monday as Carolina and New Jersey waited for Game 7 of their Eastern Conference first-round series to be played Tuesday night at the Prudential Centre.
Carolina forced a winner-take-all contest on Sunday night with a dominating 4-0 victory at home. It marked the third straight time the Hurricanes had bounced back from a loss to tie the series.
“You have to control your emotions,” Brodeur said. “It’s definitely a tough game to play, but they’re fun. When you play and dream as a kid, you always get that situation you make up to be a Game 7.
“It’s nothing different when you have played for real. It’s still a game, you have to control everything inside.
“You can’t do too much and you can’t sit back either,” said Brodeur, who has led the Devils to three Stanley Cup titles, the last coming in 2003 in a Game 7 win over Anaheim.
“The hardest part now is waiting for the puck to drop. Whenever the puck drops, it’s just a hockey game.”
Picking a winner in this one is tough.
The Devils dominated Game 1 in New Jersey. The Hurricanes dominated Game 6 in Raleigh. The other four games have been decided by a goal, with two in overtime and one in the final second of regulation.
“It’s been a series that has been all over the map,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said Monday. “That’s what has made it so exciting.”
Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said that while he would hope his team had the momentum heading into the final game, he also realized that the way the series has gone, there is no momentum.
What he expects is excitement.
“There is nothing like it, even if you lose,” Maurice said. “It’s a completely different feeling. You never want that feeling to change. It’s as enjoyable as anything.”
This will be the 11th time the teams have met this season, and little separates them. Carolina has outscored New Jersey 13-12 in the series in which Brodeur and Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward have been spectacular.
The best players on the ice in Game 6 were Carolina centre Eric Staal and forward Ray Whitney. Staal had two goals and an assists and linemate Whitney had three assists and a goal.
Maurice felt his team didn’t play a desperate game on Sunday nor does he want them to be that way in Game 7.
“Sure there was tension and nervousness, but I just wanted them to come out and play,” he said.
“Now I want them to be excited about being part of a Game 7, and if you can’t enjoy it you shouldn’t be in the sport.
“I don’t want them comfortable, just excited to play.”