Tonight is a pivotal game in the series. If Carolina wins, the series essentially becomes a best of 3 where home ice doesn't mean a whole bunch with both teams picking up at least one road win so far. If New Jersey wins, well, sorry Carolina, but it won't be looking too good for you.
A two game lead may not seem like much, but when it's 3-1 in a series, it's a deep hole. It means the one down needs to win 3 in a row to win and in this case, it would mean taking both games at The Rock. Obvious, but it's rarely done (just ask Philadelphia fans about, oh, 2000. Eastern Conference Finals. And have some tissues ready). I suppose that is the logic that is driving Bubba's sentiment when he invokes Yogi Berra.
But again, going up 3-1 requires taking another game at the RBC Center, where the Devils finally got their first playoff win since 2001 on Sunday night. It won't be easy at all given that Carolina is coming off their best game in the series. Moreover, it's not like the Devils' performance isn't without flaws. They took some dumb calls in Game 3 so discipline remains an issue (especially when Bobby Holik is on the ice), they have been outshooting Carolina in each game but they are still getting thwarted by Cam Ward/bad accuracy, and the power play has been all kinds of lost opportunities. Yes, even Bubba admits that Carolina has been outplayed for the most part in this series. Yet, only Game 1 was what you could call a decisive win by New Jersey.
Should Carolina get extra motivated or steal a win or get any kind of win tonight, and it's a brand new series. The Devils know this and that's why Sutter told Gulitti today that they, as a team, are not satisfied.
They shouldn't be. They really can't be even if they take Games 4 and 5 since the main goal isn't just to get out of the first round. But they need to pursue wins in each. The first to put the screws to Carolina and the second to end the series and tell the rest of the NHL that New Jersey is a force.
As far as what each team will do, the Devils won't be likely to change their lineup. Keep an eye on Bobby Holik, who amazingly feels rusty after not playing 4 games (via Gulitti), and hope he - along with the rest of the team - keeps his calm. But for the most part you should keep an eye on Zach Parise; according to Gulitti, Paul Maurice and Carolina certainly will. Parise leads the Devils with 3 goals, 2 assists, and an astonishing 16 shots on net. Surely, Carolina has kept an eye on him all series, right?
They upped the physical game as a whole after Game 1 and yet, Parise continues to generate, frustrate, and create for the Devils. Given that Brian Rolston seemed to fit in well with Parise and Zajac, I think that line will continue to be the thorn in Carolina's side. And with their energies focused on them, the others can strike (I don't have any other reason why Pandolfo-Madden-Shanahan has been able to keep pulling off 1-2 minute shifts of offense.)
The Hurricanes need an answer for Parise and unfortunately for the Canes faithful, I don't think they'll have proper one in time. According to Javier Serna at Canes Now, Maurice hints at making some changes on defense. In the meantime, via Canes Now, Luke DeCock has his Talking Points on what the Canes should do to get Game 4 and he wants Dennis Seidenberg in there. I don't think Seidenberg is the answer, who would sit for him: Kaberle? Corvo? Gleason? Anybody? I don't think he's all that good to make a big difference unless he has a Mike Rupp Experience and just sparkles for one game. Plus, the Devils do well enough in having their shots blocked against the other 6 defenders on Carolina. Do read his article as he specifically think the Canes must have an answer for New Jersey's forecheck as well as a response other than "trying to out-New Jersey New Jersey."
DeCock is correct: the Devils have been dominant all series on puck possession and winning pucks in the corners and in neutral zone. If it hasn't been for Ward and the decision to actually battle on the ice, this series is likely done by now. I don't know what Bubba and Cory will have at Canes Country, but I expect something similar as it has been a serious problem for the Hurricanes. Like with Parise, I'm not really sure Carolina can have an answer for that short of New Jersey losing their focus.
And if the quotes from the team at the posts at Gulitti and Chere yesterday and today are any indication: that's not happening. After all, there's a series to control at stake for New Jersey in Game 4.