–The game was a story of 3 periods. Courtesy of a power play goal, the Hurricanes picked up a small victory with a 1-1 tie in the first period. Then the Canes 5-on-5 and forecheck took over in the second period. The Hurricanes climbed to a 2-1 lead but it could easily have been 3-1 or 4-1. But then entering the third period with a 2-1 lead, the Hurricanes took a run of bad penalties, two power play goals against and a 3-2 deficit that ultimately turned into a 5-2 loss.
–This was definitely one that got away with a 2-1 lead entering the third period, and that hurts.
–But as I said on Twitter afterward, there are silver linings:
Disappointing obviously, but 2 silver linings…
1-The good (5-on-5/forecheck winning majority of 2nd) and bad (bad penalties) should drive home the need to play 5v5.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) May 10, 2019
After the five-day layoff, my first watch point for Thursday’s series opener in Boston was how the Hurricanes would respond after the long layoff. I would categorize the first period mostly as the slightly positive version of what I feared. The Bruins were better early, but it was not by a wide margin. The Canes were a bit sloppy and sluggish out of the gate which could be reasonably expected, but it was not in a horrible way. The Bruins scored first courtesy of a short series of errors. The Hurricanes turned the puck over just inside the offensive blue line, but Justin Faulk did a reasonable recovering to defend the puck. Brett Pesce also retreated quickly to defend the second player back. But the problem came after that. Greg McKegg hustled back but incorrectly went to the player Faulk was defending and Micheal Ferland was beaten up the ice. The result was a wide open center lane and a pass and a goal. But a response by the Hurricanes power play tied the game at 1-1. That play saw Andrei Svechnikov make a pretty pass to Sebastian Aho who deftly scored on a tip. By the end of the first period, it seemed enough for the Hurricanes to get through the first period tied which they did.
The second period was reminiscent of a couple other middle stanza surges including game 3 in Capitals series and game 4 in the Islanders series. The Hurricanes were on the forecheck from the outset. Within the first three minutes, the Hurricanes forced an icing and two turnovers. The second period surge was finally rewarded when Greg McKegg barreled to and ultimately into the net just after the puck did the same. From there the Hurricanes had multiple flurries of chances over the next few minutes. The best was a back door tap in chance for Brock McGinn that somehow missed the net. I commented around that point that the Hurricanes needed to capitalize on having the upper hand. But almost as quickly as it started, the momentum ended. Almost like a bizarre summer pop up thunderstorm, the game shifted suddenly with about five minutes remaining in the second period. The Hurricanes weathered that storm to exit the second period with a 2-1 lead, but the Boston push would foretell what was to come.
The third period saw the Hurricanes come unraveled at the expense of unnecessary penalties. First, Jordan Staal took a boarding penalty. Then Dougie Hamilton took two penalties for high hits. The combination of a carry over from the second period and the man advantage saw the Bruins quickly go to work. Marcus Johansson banged in a power play goal from the top of the crease less than three minutes into the third period. Then, Patrice Bergeron added another power play goal less than 30 seconds later. Suddenly, the Bruins had the lead and all of the momentum. The Hurricanes did push back with the best chances coming on a flurry from Aho, Teravainen and Svechnikov. But shortly thereafter the Bruins potted an empty-netter and then added another to put salt in the wound.
I offered my glass half full assessment on Twitter:
Biggest positive looking forward is that @NHLCanes showed that they can get their way. The loss was much more the need to clean some things up going forward not so much that team was ineffective. #TakeWarning
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) May 10, 2019
What stands out is that Thursday’s loss was not about the Hurricanes being ineffective and unable to dictate play. Thursday’s loss was more about shooting themselves in the foot after playing their way into a position to win. Cleaning up the unnecessary penalties by itself could have been enough to tip this game into the win column.
Player and other notes
1) 60 minutes
The Hurricanes played a ‘meh’ version of surviving for 20 minutes, played great hockey for 15 minutes and then were mostly some combination of overwhelmed and sloppy for the last 25 minutes. That is not good enough in the playoffs. With 60 minutes of great hockey like the team was able to muster in a couple games against the Capitals, the Hurricanes will be in good shape going forward.
2) The difference between opponents
Sort of in that same vein, I am on record as saying that I did not think the Hurricanes were great in either of the two road wins versus the Islanders. The difference is that the Islanders struggled to capitalize and score, so the Hurricanes were able to grind out imperfect wins in low-scoring battles. But with the door cracked open for the Bruins, their top players burst through the opening.
3) The penalties
That was the story of the game. Jordan Staal’s penalty was unnecessary. The Hamilton interference penalty was also a bad one. The Ferland penalty was not all that much but was probably a penalty. The Hamilton reverse hit was maybe questionable as a player mostly just bracing for a hit. And the missed, egregious interference should have evened up one of the Hamilton penalties. But when you add it it, it just takes too much adding. It was no secret coming into this game that the Hurricanes would be much better off playing 5-on-5 hockey. Hopefully the turn of events in Thursday’s loss will drive that home in a substantive way.
4) Micheal Ferland
He looked rusty and challenged getting up to playoff pace after a long layoff. That could be reasonably expected. As a big body who can skate and score, he has the potential to be a difference-maker in this series, so here is hoping that he can find the higher gear on Sunday.
5) Match ups
This game reminded me a bit of a couple of the tougher road games against the Capitals. Cassidy mostly steered Bergeron’s line away from Slavin and to Pesce/Faulk. Pesce/Faulk struggled at times when the Bruins trio started swirling around in the offensive zone. In trying to balance things defensively in terms of Cassidy choosing match ups, I will be curious to see if Brind’Amour tries more to Pesce/Slavin more as a set of five with Staal and defensive help. The series increasingly looks like the Capitals series in the sense that Bruins top line has the potential to carry the Bruins to victory in any game such that Brind’Amour needs to find a way to slow them.
6) The turning points
Two points jump out in this game as pivot points for deciding the winner. First, the near miss by McGinn on the far post could have been the difference. Despite outplaying the Bruins for most of the second period, the lead was a slim 2-1. That extra goal could have been the cushion that the Hurricanes needed to stay composed when Boston pushed. The other turning point was obviously the run of penalties to start the third period. I cannot really even say if the Hurricanes started the third period playing well or not. It was completely snowed under by the penalties and power play goals against seemingly as soon as it started.
7) Greg McKegg
The results did not follow on Thursday, but credit to Greg McKegg for scoring huge goals in consecutive playoff games.
That trio had their moments and came the closest to tying the game late in the third period. There is reason to believe that if they are left together that they will be a going concern offensively in this series.
9) An odd case of optimism
This might sound odd, but I actually exit this game with more positives than negatives. The Hurricanes showed that they can do what they need to do to win this series. They just need to clean things up.
Next up is a Mother’s Day matinee at 3pm on Sunday that fits nicely in between breakfast/brunch and dinner for Mom.