Before the Rangers open up their best-of-five series vs. the Hurricanes on Saturday, The Post’s Steve Serby takes time for a Q&A with veteran defenseman Marc Staal:
Q: Your brother Eric won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes, your brother Jordan, your Hurricane opponent on Saturday, won one with the Penguins. How hungry is Marc Staal to win a Cup, so he can have some bragging rights of his own?
A: (Laugh) I could care less about the bragging rights right now with the brothers. I want to win because I want to win. I’ve been chasing this thing obviously my whole career.
Q: What was it like for you being so close to winning the Cup (2014 versus the Kings) and not coming home with it?
A: It was heartbreaking. Definitely one of the most devastating nights of my life. You work so hard to get there and not to come home with it was really hard. On the flip side of that, I have so many great memories of that run and so many good friends and teammates that it’s definitely not regrettable. I would do it over again. But it was definitely one of the hardest nights of my life for sure.
Q: How agonizing was that plane ride home (from Los Angeles)?
A: We flew out the next morning. Everything hurts, your body hurt, and on top of that you have no energy because you just lost. It was quiet the whole flight home. As a group, we were proud of what we did, we just couldn’t finish it off.
Q: What is the mindset of this Rangers team.
A: I would say kind of a nervous excitement. We have a young group not really knowing what to expect, and I think today at practice, everyone had some really good energy and you kind of see it and feel it on the guys’ faces.
Q: What have you told the younger players about what to expect in the playoffs?
A: Obviously no one has played playoffs like this (in the coronavirus era) before so I’m a little green like everybody else. I think the biggest thing in any playoff series is managing your highs and lows. You’re not going to win the series in the first shift or first period, you’re not going to lose the series in the first shift or the first period. So keeping that positivity and belief in your team every shift is very important, especially for a young team. … It means not being frustrated, just keep playing your game and then believe that you’re going to be able to do it.
Q: What do you like best about this team?
A: I like the way we came together. I like how much talent we have, how we can put the puck in the net. I think we’re very dangerous, I think we’ve scared some teams with the plays that we can make and the different types of ways we can score goals. And what I really like the last couple of months is we’ve started to defend better.
Maarc StaalNick Homler/NY Rangers
Q: How far can this team go?
A: Really I think we could beat anyone. You get into the playoffs, and you start getting some momentum and that belief in your room, you win one game and then you have the confidence, and then you win another one and then it just keeps rolling that we have enough talent in our room to make the big push.
Q: Does being 4-0 against the Hurricanes during the season give you any psychological advantage?
A: I think it definitely helps. Playoffs, it’s a whole different animal, and we understand that. Nothing’s going to come easy. They are a very good hockey team and they know they can win. We definitely feel like we are the underdogs and we’re coming into this thing hungry, and I think a lot of guys are hungry to prove themselves on a big stage.
Q: Is Artemi Panarin similar to anybody?
A: Not that I’ve played with, to be honest. When he has the puck, something always seems to happen in a positive way. Guys are scared to go at him.
Q: Jacob Trouba?
A: Troub’s a workhorse. He’s big, strong, physical, he plays the game hard, he plays it the right way. He’s really good at everything. He’s a big, calming force for our blue line. Power forwards don’t like playing against him.
Q: Mika Zibanejad?
A: The moment he got here, he worked so hard to bring himself to another level. He’s a big leader on our team. His voice has gotten stronger in the room.
Q: Igor Shesterkin?
A: Doesn’t seem like he had a pulse in net, he’s very calm. He reads the game very well. He controls the puck off rebounds, he plays the puck extremely well.
Q: Henrik Lundqvist?
A: Hall of Famer, and all-time Ranger. He’s worked extremely hard these last few weeks, he’s looked very sharp. His competitiveness and his work ethic are second to none.
Q: Adam Fox?
A: Very talented with the puck. He makes some plays every game where you’re kinda just like Wow! He’s strong defensively, he’s got a very good stick, he’s very reliable back there. He is an absolute massive addition for us.
Q: Ryan Lindgren?
A: Doesn’t back down from anyone, plays tough in front of our own net, he’s tough in the corners, he’s just an agitator.
Q: Kaapo Kakko?
A: He’s another big, strong guy who can intimidate the other team’s defense. Only exciting things ahead for him.
Q: Chris Kreider?
A: He’s an absolute beast. When he’s flying down the lane, he’s a scary player to play against when he’s going to net. He opens up a ton of ice for his linemates and does a lot of the grunt work.
Q: Coach David Quinn?
A: He demands a lot from you in practice. He tries to push as much as he can to get the best out of every guy, and that’s all you can ask for a coach.
Q: Sebastian Aho?
A: He’s a special player. He’s extremely smart, very quick, uses his teammates really well. He’s very dangerous off the rush, very good on the power play. He kind of does it all. He’s definitely someone that I’m really gonna be aware of when he’s on the ice.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Maggie Siff.
Q: How did you rebound from your early-season healthy scratches?
A: I took my time and got myself in a better mental place and physical place and when I got back in, tried to make the most of it. You never want to sit and watch as a player, no matter at what point in your career you are. I definitely used that as motivation.
Q: What has it meant to you to be a New York Ranger for so long?
A: You think as a young player you always want to be in one spot and play for one team, and the fact that I’ve been able to be here as long as I can, I gotta pinch myself, and I do realize how lucky and grateful I am for it. To be a part of this community and this fan base and play as long as I have has been incredible.
Q: If you could defend against any center or forward in NHL history, who would it be?
A: Wayne Gretzky in his prime, I think that would have been something.
Q: You can pick the brain of any defenseman in NHL history?
A: Fortunately for me, my agent was Bobby Orr. I’ve been grateful to have him in my corner all these years.
Q: Did you pick his brain before your first playoffs?
A: His big thing is, “Enjoy it.” He always just taught me not to think or worry about the pressure. Be a good teammate and the winning will come after.
Q: That sounds like a message you might deliver on Friday night to your teammates.
A: Yeah, that definitely will be a large part of it. Playoff hockey, it’s all team. We were grasping that for sure the last couple of months and we’ll have to bring that ultimate team to beat the Hurricanes. They’re going to be a tough out.
Q: What’s the key to winning this series?
A: I think it’s all about us. If we come out and play our game and execute and do the things we need to do at the level that we’re used to doing that over the last couple of months, I think we have a very good opportunity to win the series. We have to be ready right from the puck drop. Anything other than our best is not gonna cut it.
Q: What’s your message to Rangers fans watching at home?
A: Tune in and keep cheering us on. I know it’s going to be different for us not having them in the stands with us, but we know they’re watching. We’ll feel their support and we’re excited to go and win some playoff hockey games for them.