I was tied up most of the day after the Canes game on Saturday, so I did not post my usual game recap and notes. Since this is a bit belated now, I will skip the recap and will instead look at Saturday’s loss mostly in terms of broad themes for the game.
Game 2 themes
And odd tale of two different games
Probably forgotten by some after having to watch the latter two periods, the Hurricanes actually started well and had a strong first period. The first power play early in the period featured a shooting gallery with a few decent chances with the best being Teuvo Teravainen narrowly missing off the post. So after finding that higher gear for the latter half of games two, the Hurricanes were able to dial it up again to start game three. But that pace and intensity level that gave the Hurricanes the upper hand in the first period seemed to evaporate instantly and never return in the latter two periods.
Special teams as the difference
As noted above, the Hurricanes first power play was actually a very good one despite not scoring. But that unfortunately was not a sign of things to come. The Hurricanes mostly struggled mightily on the power play. There were stretches when the Canes were unable to even gain clean entry to the offensive zone with possession. And then even when set up, the power play just looked lackluster in terms of puck movement that was anything other than slow and predictable. Giving credit where it is due, the Bruins are very good at reading plays and being waiting in shooting lanes. And the special teams play was the difference on the score sheet too. Not counting the Bruins’ empty-neeter, the Bruins scored one of their goals on the power play and the other shorthanded. The Canes lone goal also came on the power play. So the game (again ignoring the empty-netter) was scoreless at even strength.
But let’s not kid ourselves…
But the close score was a bit misleading. Petr Mrazek played very well to allow only two goals. The Bruins could easily have had a couple more. And on the Hurricanes’ side of the ledger, the meager one goal that was scored seemed very fair for as little as the Hurricanes generated offensively in the second and third periods. The Hurricanes were out-shot 32 to 15 in the latter two periods. For me, those shot totals seemed indicative of the play. The Bruins were by far the better team once up and running.
Maybe not as far off as it felt?
No doubt the game was a slog through the mud for the Hurricanes as it wore on. But against a Bruins team that is one of, if not the, stingiest teams in the league, maybe Saturday’s game was not that far off the norm. Put another way, beating the Bruins might require a bit of opportunistic scoring efficiency instead of willing in goals via sheer quantity of chances. Teravainen had a post in the first period, and Sebastian Aho clanged the cross bar in the second period. In a game of inches, if those go in, are the Hurricanes playing from ahead early and mostly throughout the game? And is that enough to push the Hurricanes to a hard-fought 3-2 win? It is definitely possible.
Player and other notes
1) Andrei Svechnikov
The biggest news coming out of game three was the status of Andrei Svechnikov who twisted his leg awkwardly while being taken to the ice by Zdeno Chara courtesy of a battle for ice in front of the net. When I watch (and rewatch) the play at live speed, I do not see it as dirty. No doubt Chara was looking to take Svechnikov down, but that in itself is not a dirty or abnormal play in front of the net. That is a physical piece of hockey real estate. And I have seen the stop motion photos that seem to suggest that Chara slew-footed Svechnikov. There was definitely contact, but again, at live speed, I just do not see that as what happened.
Moving on from that debate, the bigger thing is hoping that Svechnikov would be okay especially given the awkwardness of how his leg twisted. Chip Alexander from the News & Observer reported that Svechnikov was very unlikely to return in the Bruins but could actually return later in the playoffs. The team did not say specifically on the injury and I am not a medical expert, but the maybe timeline for later in the playoffs would seem to suggest that he did not tear something that requires surgery and significant recovery time. If correct, that would be a huge positive.
2) Petr Mrazek
He is now 0-2 in this series, but his play has been better than that. His game one was a bit of a mixed bags with some good saves but also a couple goals against where he maybe overplayed shots. But in Saturday’s loss, his game was closer to flawless. The Bruins were the better team for most of the game by a wide margin, and Mrazek did well to keep the Canes in the game.
3) Making chances count
Repeating a theme from above, the key to winning one or two of these games that do not go the Canes’ way could likely end up being opportunistic finishing. Finding a game where a small number of chances still turns into three or even four goals could be what tilts the series in the Canes favor.
Next up is game four which is also a Canes ‘home’ game at 8pm on Monday.
After losing game 3 my biggest concern, outside of the loss of Svechnikov, is that the Canes have stuggled to match the Bruins intensity through most of the first three games. The Bruins are a real deal Stanley Cup contender. Are the Canes just not ready for that level of play? I don’t know. I hope we see better tonight.
As far as Svechnikov goes I was glad to hear he could be back in a month or so. I was worried surgery could be in his future. It was an unfortunate break that his skate caught in the ice and caused his injury. Chara was doing nothing more than battling for position which happens dozens of times a game. It was not a slew-foot. Sure he was trying to get him off balance and knock him down. It’s his job. If that was a dirty play so is every other contact play on the ice. If a player catches a rut or the skate sticks, bad things happen.
I was quite embarrassed to see Carolina fans reactions on Twitter. Even so called “media” members acting like Svechnikov was targeted by Chara. It’s a tough game and sometimes guys get hurt. Foegele’s push on Oshie last year was way worse than what Chara did.
LTS, I agree that there was no “dirty play” by Chara. Let’s face it: the ice can’t be in good shape (what with it being August and the sheer number of games and practices held at Scotiabank), there was normal fighting for positioning,etc. Injuries happen, regardless of ill intent.
As far as Canes fans’s reactions on Twitter, I think many of those were push-back at Jack Edwards’s comments on Twitter. Though there were still quite a few saying Svech was targeted.
I can’t help but wonder if the week of downtime after the Rangers series took the edge of the team’s intensity. Maybe this was the wake-up call they need.
Agree with LTS about the injury—not an unusual hockey play. Sure it was a big player using his size, that is one of the values of being big (more later).
Where I don’t necessarily agree is about intensity. I think it is more a question of competence. On another site there was a good discussion around the premise that Boston had an advantage with Krejci/Coyle. After 3 games, I think that argument makes sense. The Canes don’t really have anyone scoring reliably after SAT—even when they separate that line. Trocheck isn’t producing points, Staal isn’t producing points, even Williams is absent from the scoresheet. All three of those players seem intense enough.
My personal take is that the front office miscalculated. This year really isn’t part of the Cup window (if the Canes turn things around against Boston I could be proven very wrong). Instead of using the playoffs as more experience for our young stars (Aho, Svech, and Necas) and opportunities for some future contributors (Geekie, Fleury, Bean, perhaps even Ned), the organization went all-in acquiring Trocheck, Skjei, Vatanen. Vatanen contributed in his first game, Trocheck and Skjei haven’t been any more productive than Geekie and Fleury.
Meanwhile (this is where size re-enters the discussion), Nic Roy has looked like an above-average 3C for Vegas in their playoffs, his size makes him effective in all zones. Had the front-office trusted their own development system, the Canes could have Necas moving to 2C next season with Roy and Staal taking the defensive challenges. As I have learned in my own career, sometimes tactics that appear really good undermine long-term strategy.
It does appear Nic Roy is growing in Vegas. The team does need a long term replacement for Staal. He’s still a good defensive player and faceoff man, but as the game gets faster he looks…well…slower. On the other hand I do not see Necas as a centerman any time soon. He really struggles with the physical game. Not that he isn’t willing, it’s just he doesn’t win many battles. Playing center is all about winning battles.
The Bruins are the more talented team, but the Canes have been last to pucks far too much in this series. They struggle moving the puck at the pace of the game. The Canes look like they are playing with a superball instead of a puck. Jaccob Slavin included. Don’t know what they need to pick it up, but they better find in fast.