After an absolutely horrid third period collapse in game 4 that saw the Hurricanes go from a 2-0 lead after two periods to a 4-2 deficit 15 minutes later and ultimately a 4-3 loss, the team will try to bounce back in game 5.
No doubt, coming back from a 3-1 deficit is long odds. But even regardless of results, I think game 5 is now incredibly important for measuring what this team is made of. There is nothing shameful in losing a playoff series to a good team. But there is a bigger problem with a combination of collapsing and then just packing it in. So as much as today’s game represents a chance to climb one game deeper into the series, I think very simply how the team reacts has a bearing on the future.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offered four reasons for optimism and hope. You can find that HERE.
Those thoughts also play into my watch points for Wednesday’s game.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Boston Bruins
1) Determined or downtrodden?
Per my introduction, because of how game 4 ended, I think today’s game becomes a measure of who the Hurricanes are in terms of heart, character and leadership. Are they meek and fragile such that any kind of Bruins push causes them to meekly accept their fate and quickly accept that the season is over? Or does this Hurricanes team show some fire and determination after being embarrassed? More so even than results or level of play, that is what I will be watching?
2) Testing Jaroslav Halak
As I wrote in my Daily Cup of Joe, I think the missed opportunity was testing Halak in the second period to see if he would crack. Down 2-0 he looked really shaky on the next couple shots he faced. Immediately after that the Hurricanes passed and did not get shots on net on odd man rushes. It is just wild speculation obviously, but I really think that if the Canes could have peppered Halak with 3-5 more decent chances that he was on the verge of cracking. He is generally a good goalie and a veteran who has been through enough that he likely bounces back with any potential disaster averted and rebounds. But I still think there is a chance that if the Canes can test him that he breaks. The Hurricanes have had long stretches during which they were unable to muster much offensively, but if the Hurricanes can get going, I will be watching closely to see if Halak still looks shaky or if instead he seems to recover.
After a difficult loss like Monday, there is a need for leadership to help right the ship and start the next game with the right mindset, determination and confidence. Some of that happens off the ice between games, but there is also a huge element of leading by example in the next game. I will be watching closely to see who leads. No doubt there should be leadership from the veterans and players wearing letters, but I actually think this is a time for players like Aho, Teravainen, Hamilton and other top players to make a statement. I will be watching closely to see who leads and how.
4) Focus in the face of adversity
Especially if things do not go the Canes way out of the gate, I will be watching to see how the team reacts. If Boston scores first, half-heartedly playing out the string and thinking about a return to home and loved ones makes for a decent consolation prize. If the Hurricanes do not have the upper hand from the beginning, I will be watching closely to see how the team reacts.
If you net it out, my watch points are three parts character/heart/leadership and one part hoping that we saw the beginning of Halak cracking in game 4 and that the Canes can get back to chipping away at him.
The puck drops at 4pm (soon very soon!) on Fox Sports Carolinas with Tripp, Mike, Abby and Shane.