2021 NHL Playoffs — Gm4 @Tam: The big one that got away

2021 NHL Playoffs — Gm4 @Tam: The big one that got away

After getting the better end of the front part of a wild second period, the Hurricanes found themselves up 4-2 with less than half of the game to go. Then in a matter of minutes, the Canes seemed to implode giving up three quick goals to exit the second period down 5-4 and probably wondering how it happened. There must be 150 angles that one could come at Saturday’s game. Below is my attempt to boil it down to the most significant things.   Failure to finish The how’s and why’s are many, but in simplest terms the Hurricanes failed to close out a game in hand. In game 3, the Hurricanes similarly surrendered a two-goal lead very quickly, but it was mostly swept away when the Hurricanes pulled out a win in overtime. On Saturday, once the Canes started slipping they never really recovered. Up 4-2, the Canes needed to do some combination of smelling blood and just continuing to attack to minimize the need to play defense and maybe even extend the lead, and/or being sound with puck management and defensive play such that it would be really difficult for Tampa Bay to generate much offensively. Instead, the Hurricanes started by being a bit loose and lackadaisical defensively and compounded the problem by taking a couple bad penalties. The result was a couple power play goals against and another at even strength. That lapse has a very good chance to put an end to the team’s 2020-21 season.   Special teams The Hurricanes yielded a whopping three power play goals against. Disappointing is the Hurricanes inability to...
2021 NHL Playoffs — Gm3 @Tam: Epic Sebastian Aho game leads Canes to must-have overtime win

2021 NHL Playoffs — Gm3 @Tam: Epic Sebastian Aho game leads Canes to must-have overtime win

I am completely spent after a really long week and then of course the draining in a good way Canes win. My hope is to write a bit more of a recap and add some more thoughts lunchtime-ish on Friday, but here are a few quick hitters to at least open the post if anyone wants to chime in in the comments.   Sebastian Aho I have said repeatedly since the playoffs began that for the Canes to go deep in the playoffs two things must happen. First, the Canes top players will need to be better than opponents’ top players. Second, Sebastian Aho must be a Conn Smyth front-runner. With an epic playoff performance, Sebastian Aho covered both with an explanation point. While Nikital Kucherov was collecting a couple more minor penalties, Aho was collecting points. On his first goal, Aho actually posterized Kucherov who was a step slow. Aho’s power play assist on the game-winner came on a penalty taken by Kucherov. In another game that did not always offer much for time and space, Aho capitalized when given the chance and was the best player on the ice.   Petr Mrazek As I said on Twitter shortly after the game ended, Mrazek’s start was reminiscent of Kevin Weeke’s game 5 start against the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the 2002 NHL Playoffs. Paul Maurice made the choice to go with Weekes in a pivotal game 5 after losing two straight in New Jersey. Weekes played in both games in relief but had not started a game in about a month. When he led...
2021 NHL Playoffs — Gm2 Vs. Tam: Canes quieted again lose 2nd straight to start the series

2021 NHL Playoffs — Gm2 Vs. Tam: Canes quieted again lose 2nd straight to start the series

Viewed through the lens of having lost both home games to start the series, I think there is a gap between the perception of the Canes level of play and its actual level.   Glass not as empty as results make it appear Results matter, so losing two games is horrible obviously. I did not like the volume of break downs for odd man rushes on Tuesday. And the offense is sputtering a bit. But that is the complete of negatives right now. On Sunday, the Hurricanes played their best defensive game of the playoffs. And aside from the break downs, the Hurricanes actually controlled play and gave up a miniscule 15 shots on net to a high-powered offense. Consider that despite a decent shot volume and reasonable effort to get bodies to the front of the net, the Hurricanes have yet to find a lucky bounce off a defenseman, a tip either intentional or luck, a rebound that just happened to find a Canes stick or any kind of break. Throw in even a single lucky but to some degree earned goal early in either game, and the complexion of that game and the whole series potentially changes. Do the Hurricanes deserve an A for two consecutive losses? Of course not. But are they playing C or D level hockey overall right now. Not even close. They deserve a B+ which can be good enough to win some hockey games if you catch a break or two. The Hurricanes have not.   Brief game recap The Hurricanes started fast and were the better team out of the game....
2021 NHL Playoffs — Gm1 Vs. Tam: Canes fall 2-1 in tightly-played first game of series

2021 NHL Playoffs — Gm1 Vs. Tam: Canes fall 2-1 in tightly-played first game of series

In the sense that collecting four wins any way possible is all that really matters in an NHL playoff series, losing the first game of the series at home did downgrade the Hurricanes chances in my mind. But in terms of the Hurricanes level of play and the game in general, the game was more positive than negative. Yes, the Hurricanes played the Tampa Bay Lightning even in the regular season series, but the playoffs are a different animal. Considered as a first measurement of how the Hurricanes stack up against the Lightning in the playoffs, who by the way added all-star Nikita Kucherov since the regular season ended, I was impressed by the Hurricanes’ play. My fight card had the Hurricanes winning the first and third periods by modest 10-9 margins and earning a tie in the second period. In a game in which even a single costly error had the potential to decide the game, that is what happened when Alex Nedeljkovic seemed to get twisted up like a pretzel and let an odd angle shot sneak through him to decide the game. But on a broader level, the Hurricanes played the Lightning even. If the Canes can repeat that in the games that follow, the series is destined to be a long one.   Player and other notes 1) Defensive play Most impressive on the Hurricanes front was how well the team defended and managed the puck. Against a team that rates high for both speed and skill, the Hurricanes gave up very little. Very early in the game a Lightning player got mostly behind the...
2021 NHL Playoffs — Gm6 @Nas: Canes rise above early troubles to claim series with 4-3 overtime victory

2021 NHL Playoffs — Gm6 @Nas: Canes rise above early troubles to claim series with 4-3 overtime victory

Shortly after game 6 ended, I said two things on Twitter. First, I gave credit to the Nashville Predators for giving the Hurricanes all they could handle. I entered the series thinking that the Hurricanes were the better team, and that proved true in the end. But the margin was tiny. If you exclude empty-netters and the goal after an empty-netter and count only regulation, the Hurricanes had a lone 2-goal win (game 1), a 1-goal win (game 2) and four ties. Second, I noted that this game reminded very much of the stretch of hockey shortly after the start of the season when the Hurricanes had a run of games in which they did not play particularly well but just made enough skilled scoring plays to win anyway. That was very much the story of this game. If one looks at the progression of three games in Nashvill, the first game saw the Predators play decent and the Hurricanes do the same such that it became an overtime coin toss won by the Predators. Game 4 actually saw the Hurricanes carry play but make too many horrid mistakes defensively to again let the Predators get into overtime. Through two periods, game 6 was the worst of both worlds and then some. The Predators played their best hockey of the season and the Hurricanes were again prone to defensive lapses. But a key play by Dougie Hamilton knocking a puck out of mid-air at the point on the power play and getting it to the front of the net got the Hurricanes back in it at 3-2. Combined with...
2021 NHL Playoffs — Gm5: Vs. Canes persevere and pull out gutty 3-2 overtime win over Predators

2021 NHL Playoffs — Gm5: Vs. Canes persevere and pull out gutty 3-2 overtime win over Predators

Just like in games 3 and 4 in Nashville, things did not come easy for the Hurricanes on Tuesday night. Give the Predators credit. Playing a bit conservative with two defensemen almost always behind the play and playing to force the Hurricanes to move the puck one zone at a time, the Predators have greatly minimized the Hurricanes ability to play transition hockey that is a strength. But despite the grinding style of play, another costly error and yet another round of the referees playing a bigger role than they should in the playoffs, the Canes gutted out a 3-2 overtime win.   Scoring summary The scoring summary had Nashville scoring first on an odd deflection that saw Nedeljkovic go down a bit early guessing when unable to find the puck. A deflection then floated over him and into the net. The Hurricanes scored less than three minutes later to tie it when Martin Necas ripped a power play shot up under the cross bar. The predators scored next early in the second period when an errant Brett Pesce drop pass at the offensive blue line sprang a Nashville 2-on-1 rush. When Dougie Hamilton was unable to take away the pass across, the result was a fairly easy goal from the other side. Then with time starting to wind down in the third period, Martin Necas scored another crazy wrap around circling the net at full speed and defying laws of physics to reach back around from well behind the end line to beat Saros. Finally, only 2:03 into overtime Jordan Staal scored the prettiest of ugly goals when...