‘What I’m watching’ — ECF Gm4 Vs. Bos: Facing elimination, Canes try to say “Not today” to Bruins

‘What I’m watching’ — ECF Gm4 Vs. Bos: Facing elimination, Canes try to say “Not today” to Bruins

Facing elimination, the Carolina Hurricanes return to the ice at PNC Arena for game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins. The long odds of winning four straight games in the NHL playoffs to pull out a stunning series win are well-documented and a legitimate long shot. But I really think the impossibility of winning only game 4 is overstated. The Hurricanes rebounded and generally played the better game on Tuesday. Only some perfect storm of power play ineptitude, missing open nets, Tuukka Rask magic and a couple bizarre lucky saves kept the Hurricanes from winning game 3 and climbing back into the series. Would’ve’s and could’ve’s obviously count for nothing this time of year, but I actually think that if the Hurricanes bring the exact same game as Tuesday the odds of winning are greater than 50 percent just needed to catch any kind of puck luck. At a basic level, there are two keys to winning on Thursday and extending the season for another game. First, the Hurricanes must show the fortitude to bring the same level of effort and intensity as Tuesday, and that must hold even if they face either an early setback or again are not rewarded for dominating play. Second, the Hurricanes need to play a focused and cleaner game. The margin for error in this series has been tiny and one of the Hurricanes’ Achilles’ heels has been too many costly errors. Penalty issues and a special teams again reared their head in Tuesday’s loss, and the penalties taken were largely of the unnecessary variety. If the Hurricanes bring...
‘What I’m watching’ — ECF Gm3 Vs. Bos: Canes seek boost on home ice and a rebound versus Bruins

‘What I’m watching’ — ECF Gm3 Vs. Bos: Canes seek boost on home ice and a rebound versus Bruins

After consecutive losses in Boston to start the series and an especially rough 6-2 defeat on Sunday, the Hurricanes return home seeking a boost and a win to climb into the series. The game is as close to must-win as can be without being an elimination. The odds are incredibly long for teams down 3-0 in playoff series. But all is not lost. The long version is detailed in Today’s Daily Cup of Joe entitled, “Making the case for a Canes rebound.” The short version is that this team is 5-0 on home ice in the playoffs, has shown resiliency after past bad defeats and has already successfully navigated this road after being down 2-0 to the Capitals and emerging with a series win. More than anything, the Hurricanes just need a complete reset such that their game in total looks very little like what happened in Boston and much more like what happened in most of the games versus Washington. My more specific watch points for today’s critical game follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Boston Bruins 1) Pace, pressure and forecheck In these playoffs, the forecheck has been the catalyst for everything else. When the forecheck is effective everything else follows. The forecheck generates offensive zone possession time and a decent volume of scoring chances spread across the entire lineup. And the forecheck significantly decreases how much the team has to defend and how dangerous those chances are. Through two games, the Hurricanes forecheck has largely been ineffective except for a short burst in the second period of game 1. On the surface,...
‘What I’m watching’ — ECF Gm2 @Bos: Canes seek rebound and road split in game 2 versus the Bruins

‘What I’m watching’ — ECF Gm2 @Bos: Canes seek rebound and road split in game 2 versus the Bruins

Happy Mother’s to all of the moms in our Canes hockey community. We hope you have a great day with a Hurricanes win right in the middle of it.   After a five-day layoff, the Hurricanes took some time to get going in game 1 against the Bruins, but a stellar first 15 minutes of the second period had the Canes on track and with a 2-1 lead entering the third. Then a quick series of events heavy on penalties and officiating reversed things quickly and sent the Hurricanes on their way to a 5-2 loss. For those who did not see the game, it was more or less a one-goal game with Boston scoring any empty-netter and then adding another late. Regardless, the Hurricanes enter game 2 needing a win to get the desired split on the road. The Hurricanes are 5-0 at home in the playoffs so far and showed in the Washington series that they were a resilient bunch capable of winning a long series and even a game 7 on the road. So Sunday is not a must-win in the pure sense of the term. But I do think game 2 is critical. Having to win four out of five against a good team is challenging, and the Hurricanes would definitely have significant pressure on them for game 3. Put another way, the path to a series win is MUCH easier if the Hurricanes can rebound and take game 2 of the series on Sunday. The Daily Cup of Joe for Friday asked whether the Hurricanes should make adjustments or stay the course? For the most...
‘What I’m watching’ — ECF Gm1 @Bos: Canes quest continues in Beantown

‘What I’m watching’ — ECF Gm1 @Bos: Canes quest continues in Beantown

After a quick four-game sweep of the New York Islanders in the second round and a five-day break, the Carolina Hurricanes return to action in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins. If you are just checking in after the layoffs, our three-part series preview includes an assessment of the Bruins, the Canes side of the series and “The Canes win/lose the series if _____.” With the team and hockey community moving into the NHL spotlight, check out also our Carolina Hurricanes fans’ guide to the NHL’s center stage and the coverage that comes with it. Significant for game 1 of the series in Boston on Thursday night are two things. First, Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy is rightly suspended for the first game because of a high hit in game 6 versus Columbus. Second, though the Hurricanes should be better for it in the long run, the five days off does present a significant restart challenge for the team. Arguably, the Bruins greatest strength is its defensive play. The forwards as a group are strong two-way players who compete in all three zones. Tuukka Rask had a respectable even if not dominant 2018-19 regular season and is now playing at a higher level in the playoffs thus far. A significant part of the Bruins finishing third in the NHL in goals scored is a group effort, but McAvoy’s loss for game 1 is still meaningful. The Bruins are not as deep on the blue line as the Hurricanes, so the question will be whether Zdeno Chara can carry a lesser defenseman for a game or if there is...
‘What I’m watching’ — Rd2 Gm4 Vs. NYI: Brooms in hand, Canes shoot for sweep of Isles

‘What I’m watching’ — Rd2 Gm4 Vs. NYI: Brooms in hand, Canes shoot for sweep of Isles

The Hurricanes could not be in better position right now being up 3-0 in a best out of seven series. And historically, the odds are 95+% chance of winning the series from here. But the margin of victory in all three games has been tiny, and the Islanders will certainly show up desperate and hungry today. The Hurricanes will need to also show up determined to ‘earn’ another victory and close the series out early. If instead, the team shows up expecting that be handed to them, then game 5 will be Sunday at Barclay’s Center in New York. On the Islanders side of the ledger, the biggest thing is finding a way to generate more offense. The Isles did manage a series high two goals, but maybe most telling was that when they were down 3-2 in the third period the Hurricanes were capable of completely shutting them down for the entire middle of the third period to the point where the Islanders were not even able to get the puck on net. On the Hurricanes side, the key is avoiding the complacency as noted above and equally so about extending the third period of game 3. The period was by far the team’s best of the series, finally on par with some of the efforts in the Capitals series and a level of play that should garner a fourth win if repeated on Friday. My watch points follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New York Islanders 1) A carry over from Wednesday’s third period I am on record as characterizing the Hurricanes...
‘What I’m watching’ — Rd2 Gm3 Vs. NYI: Canes seek to maintain lead versus Isles at PNC Arena

‘What I’m watching’ — Rd2 Gm3 Vs. NYI: Canes seek to maintain lead versus Isles at PNC Arena

With two road wins in their pocket, the Hurricanes return home for game 3 with a commanding lead in their second round playoff series versus the New York Islanders. But those who think that sprinting to an early series win is a foregone conclusion have a short memory in terms of playoff hockey. The Hurricanes are only one loss away from the 2-1 status as the other three playoff series. The margin of victory in both New York wins was tiny. And the Barry Trotz-led Capitals were down 2-0 with two road losses last season and stormed back to win a series. Shorter version — The Hurricanes are in a tremendous place right now but only if they keep the pedal down and continue pushing forward and do not pause, let up and leave the door cracked open for the Islanders. On the ice, game 3 will likely feature a significant changeover in personnel. After playing well in relief in game 2, Curtis McElhinney will make his first start of the playoffs. Haydn Fleury will likely draw back into the lineup in place of the injured Trevor van Riemsdyk. And at least one of Andrei Svechnikov or Jordan Martinook seems likely to draw back into the lineup to replace an injured Saku Maenalanen. On the Isles side, Cal Clutterbuck is expected to miss the game due to injury which could disrupt the Islanders fourth line that is the team’s ignition switch physically. The tactical side of the game should also be interesting. After consecutive losses, one might expect master tactician Barry Trotz to make changes. But the two games...