First and foremost today is to recognize and appreciate the ultimate sacrifice made by those who gave their lives serving our country.
A good place to be on Memorial Day
There are no guarantees in an NHL playoff series game 7. In a game where a couple scores can win a game, a couple bounces early in the game can chart a course toward the ultimate outcome.
But with the disclaimer of ‘no guarantees/anything can happen, one has to like where the Canes are right now.
As I said on Twitter on Sunday:
It is an absolutely tremendous day to be a @Canes fan.
Team has won EACH AND EVERY home playoff game for 7 fun wins and has another game 7 AT HOME.
Said game 7 is on Memorial Day perfect for peak playoff tailgating.
Rest up today Caniac friends. Tomorrow is going to be epic!
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) May 29, 2022
For Canes fans that lived through and remember the decade-long playoff drought, where the team is right now is even better.
What does it take for the Canes to win?
1) Continued stinginess defensively
With the margin for error tiny at this juncture of the series, Jordan Staal’s line needs to put forward another nearly perfect home effort. That line’s job is to shut down the other team’s top scoring line. And Antti Raanta who struggled on Saturday needs to rebound and play as he has throughout the playoffs. With those things clicking, the Canes have yet to give up three goals through seven home playoff games and have given up two goals only twice.
Stingy defense has been the foundation of the home success.
2) Enough offensive aggressiveness but with soundness
Past that foundation, the Canes need to find the right level of aggressiveness. In the Rangers series, the games in Raleigh have been characterized by tight-checking play that has not afforded either team much for scoring chances. The Canes were a bit better in game 5 but still have only mustered five non-empty net goals in three home games. That leaves a tiny margin for error. In game 3 and for parts of game 6 in New York, the Canes carried play and were more aggressive offensively. The Holy Grail for the Canes is to continue to smother the Rangers defensively, as they have in previous home games but do so while attacking offensively. If the Canes do that, the team will have the best of both worlds. If they play too cautiously and/or have to dial down offense to make sure the defense is there, this game looks like a possible 1-0 or 2-1 game which is treacherous.
3) Pucks and bodies to the top of the crease
It was buried beneath too many mistakes, but I actually thought the Hurricanes did well creating chaos at the top of the crease in front of Shesterkin. Trocheck’s goal was on a rebound, and Skjei’s goal came on a Seth Jarvis’ screen. Playing ‘try to beat the hot goalie’ with no traffic even with a high shot volume is a recipe for failure. The Canes must be diligent in getting people and pucks to the crease at the same time.
4) An even game for special teams
As I said toward the end of the Boston series, best for the Canes is just to keep it simple and stay out of the box. The power play continues to struggle a bit, and the penalty kill is not what it was during high times in the regular season. Best thing is to play the game 5-on-5 aiming for a 0-0 tie for special teams scoring.
My two cents
With a tough night for the bottom half of the roster in game 6, I expect that Brind’Amour will shorten the bench a bit and use the bottom defense pairing and fourth line selectively.
After a tough outing for game 6, I think Raanta will be fine on Monday.
Finally, I think peak Canes right now is being able to bring the stingy defense but at the same time be aggressive offensively. If the Canes can find that perfect balance, I think they have their first big outburst of the series and win 4-1 or 5-1. If instead, the Canes are cautious and conservative such that the game plays like game 1 or game 2, then I think the game is destined to be a nail biter that ends 2-1. With Shesterkin playing really well right now, I think that kind of game is basically a coin flip where a play or two decided the series.
What say you Canes fans?
1) After his first bad outing in the playoffs, are you confident that Antti Raanta will rebound for game 7?
2) What do you think decides the outcome for game 7?
3) What do you predict for the outcome?