I was tied up most of the day after the Canes game on Saturday, so I did not post my usual game recap and notes. Since this is a bit belated now, I will skip the recap and will instead look at Saturday’s loss mostly in terms of broad themes for the game.
Game 2 themes
And odd tale of two different games
Probably forgotten by some after having to watch the latter two periods, the Hurricanes actually started well and had a strong first period. The first power play early in the period featured a shooting gallery with a few decent chances with the best being Teuvo Teravainen narrowly missing off the post. So after finding that higher gear for the latter half of games two, the Hurricanes were able to dial it up again to start game three. But that pace and intensity level that gave the Hurricanes the upper hand in the first period seemed to evaporate instantly and never return in the latter two periods.
Special teams as the difference
As noted above, the Hurricanes first power play was actually a very good one despite not scoring. But that unfortunately was not a sign of things to come. The Hurricanes mostly struggled mightily on the power play. There were stretches when the Canes were unable to even gain clean entry to the offensive zone with possession. And then even when set up, the power play just looked lackluster in terms of puck movement that was anything other than slow and predictable. Giving credit where it is due, the Bruins are very good at reading plays and being waiting in shooting lanes. And the special teams play was the difference on the score sheet too. Not counting the Bruins’ empty-neeter, the Bruins scored one of their goals on the power play and the other shorthanded. The Canes lone goal also came on the power play. So the game (again ignoring the empty-netter) was scoreless at even strength.
But let’s not kid ourselves…
But the close score was a bit misleading. Petr Mrazek played very well to allow only two goals. The Bruins could easily have had a couple more. And on the Hurricanes’ side of the ledger, the meager one goal that was scored seemed very fair for as little as the Hurricanes generated offensively in the second and third periods. The Hurricanes were out-shot 32 to 15 in the latter two periods. For me, those shot totals seemed indicative of the play. The Bruins were by far the better team once up and running.
Maybe not as far off as it felt?
No doubt the game was a slog through the mud for the Hurricanes as it wore on. But against a Bruins team that is one of, if not the, stingiest teams in the league, maybe Saturday’s game was not that far off the norm. Put another way, beating the Bruins might require a bit of opportunistic scoring efficiency instead of willing in goals via sheer quantity of chances. Teravainen had a post in the first period, and Sebastian Aho clanged the cross bar in the second period. In a game of inches, if those go in, are the Hurricanes playing from ahead early and mostly throughout the game? And is that enough to push the Hurricanes to a hard-fought 3-2 win? It is definitely possible.
Player and other notes
1) Andrei Svechnikov
The biggest news coming out of game three was the status of Andrei Svechnikov who twisted his leg awkwardly while being taken to the ice by Zdeno Chara courtesy of a battle for ice in front of the net. When I watch (and rewatch) the play at live speed, I do not see it as dirty. No doubt Chara was looking to take Svechnikov down, but that in itself is not a dirty or abnormal play in front of the net. That is a physical piece of hockey real estate. And I have seen the stop motion photos that seem to suggest that Chara slew-footed Svechnikov. There was definitely contact, but again, at live speed, I just do not see that as what happened.
Moving on from that debate, the bigger thing is hoping that Svechnikov would be okay especially given the awkwardness of how his leg twisted. Chip Alexander from the News & Observer reported that Svechnikov was very unlikely to return in the Bruins but could actually return later in the playoffs. The team did not say specifically on the injury and I am not a medical expert, but the maybe timeline for later in the playoffs would seem to suggest that he did not tear something that requires surgery and significant recovery time. If correct, that would be a huge positive.
2) Petr Mrazek
He is now 0-2 in this series, but his play has been better than that. His game one was a bit of a mixed bags with some good saves but also a couple goals against where he maybe overplayed shots. But in Saturday’s loss, his game was closer to flawless. The Bruins were the better team for most of the game by a wide margin, and Mrazek did well to keep the Canes in the game.
3) Making chances count
Repeating a theme from above, the key to winning one or two of these games that do not go the Canes’ way could likely end up being opportunistic finishing. Finding a game where a small number of chances still turns into three or even four goals could be what tilts the series in the Canes favor.
Next up is game four which is also a Canes ‘home’ game at 8pm on Monday.