With the 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, the Carolina Hurricanes are now 5-0 versus the Bruins with a massive 26 to 4 goal advantage.
I would expect the Bruins to dig down and pull out a win at home to keep the Hurricanes from running the 2021-22 streak to seven games, but with a 2-0 lead heading to Boston, the Hurricanes only need to win one of two on the road to have a path with many options to a series victory.
Whereas I was not high on the Hurricanes quality of play in Monday’s win, I thought the Hurricanes were better on Wednesday. The Bruins still had the upper hand out of the starting gate, but once the Hurricanes found the ignition switch, they were the better team.
After Jaccob Slavin made a good play to keep a puck in at the blue line, Jordan Staal just outmuscled a Bruin who seemed to have the inside track to a loose puck and then made a nifty cross ice pass to Jesper Fast who made no mistake finishing. Just over two minutes later Slavin figured in another goal circling the net with the puck and finding Tony DeAngelo up top. DeAngelo shot through a myriad of screens and crease crashers that included literally all of the other four Canes skaters. Sebastian Aho finished with a deflection goal, and the Hurricanes were up 2-0 which is how the first period ended. Along the way, David Pastrnak hit Antti Raanta high crashing the crease on a rush, and rookie Pyotr Kochetkov was pressed into playoff action.
The Hurricanes extended the lead to 3-0 early in a penalty-filled second period when Aho finished on the power play. Boston finally got on the scoreboard late in the third period when Patrice Bergeron also scored on the power play. But the Hurricanes tallied again on the power play when Nino Niederreiter cleaned up the lose change on another Tony DeAngelo point shot that got through. With that, the Hurricanes entered the third period with a commanding 4-1 lead. Kochetkov had the easier of the workload but was steady and seemingly above any pressure from his first NHL playoff action.
Three more Bruins penalties early in the third period pushed the game deeper with the Hurricanes still holding a three-goal lead. The Bruins did climb to within two goals when Bergeron scored his second goal of the night, but the Bruins would get no closer. An empty-netter by Niederreiter finished off the 5-2 victory.
It is often said that a playoff series does not truly begin until a team wins on the road, but with a 2-0 series lead heading to Boston, the series could both begin and (mostly) end if the Hurricanes win game three on the road.
Player and other notes
1) Jordan Staal’s line
Niederreiter/Staal/Fast continued to play well handling most of the work against Bergeron and Marchand. Bergeron did score once at even strength, but Staal’s line matched them with Fast’s goal. (Niederreiter also had a power play goal and empty-netter to trump Bergeron’s power play goal.) The 2019 Eastern Conference Final series loss to the Bruins saw Marchand/Bergeron/Pastrnak as the best line both at even strength and on the power play. Thus, far Staal’s line has neutralized Bergeron’s line even if not completely shutting it down.
2) Nino Niederreiter
He is playing his best hockey as a Hurricane under the bright lights of the playoffs. After dumping three Bruins on their butts on Monday, he toppled at least two more on Wednesday. In addition to being a regular physical force, his diving backcheck to interrupt a pass that would have led to a point blank scoring chance was also spectacular. Add in a power play goal and the empty-netter, and he could make a good case for being the Canes best forward through two games.
3) Pyotr Kochetkov
What stands out about his play so far is his calmness. He seems to be unaffected by whatever pressure he should or could feel as a rookie in the NHL playoffs. My biggest fear if he has pressed into action was that the team in front of him might try to hard to protect him and stray from playing aggressive hockey. But with 28 saves on 30 shots, the team can just keep doing what it does.
4) Sebastian Aho
After a fairly quiet first game, Aho broke through for two goals and came within inches of a third when he just missed poking in Niederreiter’s power play goal before it trickled across the goal line.
5) The officiating
It always feels odd to say it, but I thought the officials did a good job overall keeping a game under control that could have boiled over much worse. With the Raanta hit and then Svechnikov leveling Lindholm (cleanly) and a three-goal margin for much of the game, things could easily have gotten out of hand. The referees consistently had nothing of the extra stuff which at least through a little water on the smoldering game. DeAngelo delivered an unnecessary even if small shot in the first period and was whistled for it. The referees also did a good job giving out an extra minor when someone went above and beyond in in the post-whistle fracases which benefited the Canes. And despite being testy throughout, things never really erupted.
6) Andrei Svechnikov
For the second consecutive game, he collected his only point on a empty-netter, but whereas I thought he was quiet in a bad way on Monday, he was a difference-maker on Wednesday. He finished with a whopping nine hits including the thunderous (and clean) hit on Hampus Lindholm. By the midway point of the game, he was attracting a ton of attention from the Bruins while the Canes were winning a hockey game.
7) Jaccob Slavin / Tony DeAngelo
On a night when the Hurricanes blue line was good in total, Slavin and DeAngelo were even better. The duo tallied five assists. Slavin was especially good keeping the puck in the offensive zone on multiple occasions including Fast’s all-important first goal.
Next up is a Friday match up in Boston.