Although he is very proud to be a seasoned speaker, the Winnipeg Jets head coach is not sure what he will say to his charges before facing the Calgary Flames in their first playoff game. of the post-season.
“Not that I’m hiding anything from you, but so much, to get it right you have to feel like your bedroom,” Maurice said. “And you don’t get that 24 hours before, it’s being around them (Thursday), getting a feel for what they need. The hockey part doesn’t change much, but the motivation part is certainly a sensitive thing.
As for the mentality required when a team is in a losing situation, it’s about finding a way to keep your emotions in check.
There is no place for paralysis by analysis.
“You can’t come into the game with the fear of being knocked out. You can’t wear that, ”says Maurice. “It’s still the game of hockey, the puck drops and all the things important to help you win or cost you games will still be true. What you would like to do, in any 7 game or any elimination game, is play without that fear and not wear it.
“So free yourself mentally, give yourself a chance to be as good a team as you can get and almost play with it – slacking is not the right word, because it makes you think of flippancy – it’s playing without fear, and it can drive you. Sometimes the team with their backs against the wall has that little extra motivation and that little extra jump in their approach.
Jets center Cody Eakin is no stranger to elimination games and knows exactly what it takes.
“Getting dirty. There’s nothing to keep it, ”Eakin said, speaking metaphorically rather than breaking the rules. “We are preparing for a win, we are preparing like another game and you really want to not think too much ahead. The old times at a time, one change at a time (mindset) is more crucial than ever.
The status of the quartet of injured forwards of Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Mason Appleton and Mathieu Perreault remains a mystery – even though neither of these guys have been on the ice since suffering from their respective ailments.
Maurice is not sure whether any of the players will try to test things out during the morning skate, all he knows is that any decision about a possible return will be in the hands of the medical professionals.
“I can’t answer that question yet, really. I don’t know, said Maurice. “It’s all medical now. He is led by them. If we have a guy on the ice he’s obviously a lot closer to playing.
If none of the four forwards are available to play, it will be rookie David Gustafsson or veteran Mark Letestu who will join the roster.
What factors will determine this choice?
“They are different but similar. They are both incredibly responsible players, ”said Maurice. “Mark has the experience of being a responsible player and Gustafsson is definitely learning the game. That’s what he will do. That will be his job. He’s going to be a really responsible National Hockey League. Part of the decision will actually be which player is the most flexible to use it not only in the center but on the wing. I haven’t made a decision because I need more information first.
“First, if I have to put a guy in it. How the other lines are going to be structured – so we’ve clearly moved our lines more than we would like – but that player’s flexibility comes into play. Maybe that’s the tipping point for them.
As wild as it sounds, the Jets could look to their 16th forward in what is only the fourth game of the postseason.
“There was a thought that if you were in a physical series you might have to use the whole roster,” Maurice said. “They are ready to go, we hope there is an advantage that if we have to put another forward there will be new legs on this striker and he can help us with that.
“We were hoping we wouldn’t have to use them so soon, you would love to have your roster, but hockey doesn’t.
Overcoming adversity has been an underlying theme for the Jets this season and they are poised to see if their wide range of experience on that front can help them find a way into a must-play game.
“We’ve kind of taken the blue collar approach here,” said Eakin, a Winnipegger who was acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights before the trade deadline. “The guys stepped in and played really well. No one feels sorry for us and we are certainly not sorry for ourselves.
“There’s a little bit of Winnipeg in everyone that translates into our game. These guys had been through a lot this season before I came. They are relentless. It’s fun to be a part and be a part of the struggle and the success. With leadership, it starts there and the technical staff. Guys with the right mindset when the going gets tough. It filters everyone out and (you) lean on each other and work your way through. ”
Maurice also weighed in with some thoughts on the same topic discussed by Eakin.
Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people in the hockey world, and then they tell listeners what they heard and what they think about it.
“There’s a little bit of handling through adversity in Winnipeg because man, it’s cold in the winter, so you get used to rough days, and everybody in town is going through it, so you’re all together,” Maurice said. . “You get together as a group, this group will have their backs to the wall, so there is that sense of community in the room, there is that unity that you need.
“You need each other in this game, we have to play as a block of five and a group of five going up and down the ice. Having this sense of community, this feeling of solidarity is essential.
For the Flames, they have the Jets on the ropes and seek to end the series.
“I don’t really think of the killer instinct, to be honest with you,” said interim Flames head coach Geoff Ward. “If we play our game it gives us a really good opportunity to win. We focus on the process all the time. We don’t ask anyone to do extraordinary things. It’s an emotional time, but it’s also a time when you really need to focus on your execution.
As you can see, the shots are flowing freely on both sides, so let’s see which club is going to find a way to get the job done.
Either the Jets will go home, or there will be a winner’s tilt that wins everything Saturday night.