At this point, we all know the drill about the home/away matchup game. Back in Raleigh on Thursday, Brind’Amour is right back to matching Niederreiter/Staal/Fast against the Rangers top scoring line which figures to include Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Artemi Panarin figures to still be on another line to get him away from Staal’s line and balance the Rangers scoring leaders on the road.

So I will skip another rundown of what we have been seeing for awhile now and instead offer a collection of random thoughts heading into game 5…


1) Will the Rangers open things up a bit more in Raleigh

It will be interesting to see if the Rangers open things up a bit more in Raleigh (if not losing and trying to play catch up). In the first two games, the Rangers played a very conservative brand of hockey. I think they mostly got the results they wanted in terms of staying in the game, hoping their goalie was as good or better and looking for that one bounce or goal steal a road win. The plan worked well except yielding that one more goal to win a game. With the ability to dictate match ups more at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers opened things up a bit more and benefited.

So for game 5, does Gallant go by the results (two wins in New York) from a bit more open game? Or does he revert back to the same road hockey that got his team close but did not yield results in game 1 and 2?


2) Whoever scores first in game 5 wins the series

If the game ends up being more wide open, all bets are off. But if game 5 is again played conservatively defensively such that the scoring chances are tiny, I think whoever scores first in game 5 wins the series. That team gets the upper hand in game 5 and play opportunistically offensively which has a strong probability of yielding a game 5 win. And I think whoever wins game 5 wins the series. If the Rangers win, they will have significant momentum with three straight wins, and the Canes would need a road win to break the run. If instead the Hurricanes win game 5, it would suggest that there really is no carry over from the two losses by the Canes in New York and that the Hurricanes really do just have home ice locked down. In that scenario, the Canes get to play with house money in game 6 and have another home game if that does not work out.


3) Crease count decides it

After having a very up and down first-round series against the Penguins, Igor Shesterkin has refound his regular season form against the Hurricanes. Part of that is just Shesterkin being a talented player, but an understated part of that has been the Canes making his life too easy at times. At times in the playoffs, the Canes have become too perimeter-oriented. Aho and Svechnikov in particular too often settle for safer puck possession to the outside of the face-off dots. The key to beating a good or hot goalie is to make it so he cannot track shots. At about the midway point of the second period in game 4, the Hurricanes did start making a more concerted effort to get bodies to the top of the crease. That was mostly swept away when the Rangers scored again to go up 3-0, but if the Canes focus on getting bodies and pucks to the top of the crease, how good Shesterkin is playing becomes less important when he cannot track the puck. If the Canes score one ugly goal in game 5, the chances of winning increase. If the Canes score two ugly goals in game 5, the probability of winning is very high.


4) Is it Svechnikov’s time?

On a positive note, Andrei Svechnikov has had a strong playoffs so far in terms of maturing as a player aside from the scoring. Compared to only a couple years ago, he is better defensively. He is more consistent in terms of pace, forechecking and physical play. And he has nearly eliminated the obstruction penalties either from trying to do too much when struggling offensively or having momentary lapses in terms of positioning and moving his feet that put him out position. So aside from the scoring, Svechnikov has grown as a player in these playoffs. That said, he was the team’s #2 scorer during the regular season and needs to produce on the score sheet. Not counting empty-net points, Svechnikov has two goals in a single game, and one of those was an inconsequential late goal after the game was decided. And that is it. In the other 10 games, Svechnikov has exactly zero goals and zero assists other than a couple empty-net points. It is amazing that the Hurricanes won a series and have another series win on the tee with Svechnikov’s scoring power outage. Is it time for a Svechnikov break out? He actually had a decent game on Tuesday. He was the screen on Necas’ shot off the post and the passer on the point blank chance where Necas just missed. I think it is two things for Svechnikov. With the puck, he needs to more aggressively carve a path toward the net instead of playing to the outside. Without the puck, he similarly needs to spend as much time as possible where goals happen which is between the face-off circles in the offensive zone.


What say you Canes fans?


1) Despite the road woes, do you feel confident in the Canes ability to win a seventh straight playoff game at home?


2) What do you think decides game 5?


Go Canes!

Share This