With probably four or more months until Carolina Hurricanes hockey returns to the ice, there will be plenty of time in the coming days to consider the playoffs, the Boston series and the 2019-20 season in total. So I am going to save that and focus this post narrowly on game 5.
The lead in
The entry point to game 5 was not a good one for the Carolina Hurricanes. After not playing their best but still being very much in each of the first three games, game 4 took a nasty turn for the worse. After entering the third period with a 2-0 lead, the team imploded via a series of errors and managed to go from up two goals to down two goals in a span of 15 minutes of hockey. Shortly after the game, I called the loss possibly the most disheartening loss of the Rod Brind’Amour coaching era. Without a bounce back win in game 5, I think possibly can be removed. So that made for an interesting and dramatic backdrop entering game 5. Would the team respond? Would they go meekly into the off-season? Who, if anyone, would rise up in the face of adversity? Etc.
In that regard, I think the Hurricanes responded admirably on Wednesday night. No doubt, there was room for improvement in terms of level of play, but by no means did the team mail it in or play a timid and defeated brand of hockey. The effort and response was there which despite the result does make a meaningful statement about the team’s character.
Though it was not by a wide margin, the Hurricanes were the better team out of the gate. The Canes had jump and were aggressive right from the opening puck drop and converted it to some pretty good/almost chances. The best chances came courtesy of the Foegele/Staal/McGinn line. In the first period alone McGinn had two chances from the side of the net and Staal another from the same place. All three were the bouncing/rolling puck variety with traffic and stick battles to boot, but all three saw Hurricanes whacking at the puck from point blank range seemingly with some amount of an opening available. Foegele also drew a penalty in the first period. The Hurricanes were rewarded for their strong start about midway through the first period when Haydn Fleury fired a well-placed shot past Halak, off the far post and in. As I said on Twitter, this was not the typical defenseman ‘shot into traffic that finds the net’ type of goal. It was a nifty snipe. The Hurricanes finished the first period with a 1-0 lead and a definite even if modest edge in play but also maybe with a few opportunities missed on the Staal line’s scoring chances and failure to score on a power play opportunity.
The Hurricanes were competitive in the second period, but the Bruins found a higher gear and seemed to have the upper hand for stretches. The Hurricanes failed to score on their second power play opportunity and then were tied at 1-1 when Boston capitalized on the team’s first power play opportunity. Then a couple costly mistakes inside the last minute of the second period compounded to improbably see the Hurricanes exit the period with a 2-1 deficit. First, Jordan Martinook took an ill-advised roughing penalty in the offensive zone. Then with less than five seconds until the intermission, Petr Mrazek inexplicably left a gap at the post such that Patrice Bergeron was able to shoot off him and into the net from even with the goal line. The goal was a horrible one and the kind that sucks the wind out of a team especially at the end of a period.
With a 2-1 lead, the Bruins seemed to initiate lock down mode. The Hurricanes did try to push and activated their defensemen but still mustered very little for true grade A scoring chances. The Canes finished the period with six shots on goal, nothing to show for it and a 2-1 loss.
Player and other notes
If one ignored the score sheet, Jordan Staal’s line was easily the best on the ice. They had the Canes’ three best chances early and then tacked on at least four more in addition to Foegele drawing a penalty. But especially in an elimination game, it is a results business and for as good as that trio can be generating chances, finishing just is not their strength.
2) Petr Mrazek
The goalie position is a challenging one for the fact that how well a goalie played can often be defined by one or two bad plays regardless of how many good ones he made. Mrazek played very well especially in the second period when Boston pushed…right up until the ugly goal against to finish out the second period and ultimately decide the game. In a game with no margin for error against a stingy Bruins team, that error was the difference at the end. But worth noting is that Mrazek played well otherwise, and it is tough to hang too much of a loss on a goalie in a game where his team scores only once.
3) Haydn Fleury
He continued his constant build during the playoffs. The goal he scored was a pretty one and his second of the playoffs to put him behind only the top line of Aho, Teravainen and Svechnikov tied with Martinook for fourth on the team in scoring. After a strong playoff run, his stock has risen significantly over the past few weeks.
4) Special teams
As has too often been the case against the Bruins, the Hurricanes were minus on special teams with the Bruins collecting both of their goals on the power play and with the Hurricanes scoreless with the man advantage.
Next up for the Canes is a long and uncertain layoff until the 2020-21 season kicks off, but Canes and Coffee will continue to have your Hurricanes hockey fix pretty much on a daily basis until hockey returns.
Yes, the Canes fought back, but the outcome seemed preordained. They played hard, but other than a few players they didn’t play with confidence. They were fragile and the result was expected, at least by me.
Now it’s time to look at next season. Cap Friendly suggests the Canes have $9M in space. Fleury will probably get a decent raise with his new deal. Foegele less so. I would say that leaves $6M. Maybe less.
Where can the Canes get cap space? Would they consider buying out Gardiner? Three more years at $4M? Ugh…I can’t imagine him out there for that long. He’s 30, can’t skate, and you know about the gaffes. He’s Dundon/Waddell’s Alexander Semin.
Who would you trade? Sure, the team would like to unload Neiderriter, but no way anyone takes that contract unless you throw in a prospect. Dzingel? He might garner a draft pick. He seems to have no role on this team. Dundon’s free spending ways with players has put him in a pickle. After this season both Hamilton and Svechnikov are due large raises. Can they afford both?
I only saw the third pariod, I have an unfortuante tendency to witness the bad bits.
I didn’t see much of a push, but I definitely agree with the lack of confidence.
The refereeing was pretty suspect throughout the series, definitely did not benefit the Canes, but regardless of that, the Bruins were the better team throughout, the scores were closer than the difference I witnessed on the ice, sadly.
I’m sure we’ll ahve a million posts on how to retool this team (it will be a fun discussion, armchair manager activities are always enjoyable).
I think Tommy has probably run out of money with the current crisis so I wouldn’t expect much of an investment or buy out.
Yes, I would buy out Gardner. I would definitely let Vatanen go. Skjei wasn’t the greatest contract but I suppose he’s usable.
I would not resign TVR, though eh played pretty decent but his expectation will be more than Canes can afford for a top 5/6 D, I imagine Fleury will cost less.
I would try to trade Jordan Staal to a eam that needs a bonafied third line/defensive center, we got that in Troycheck (and we won’t be able to trade him). I think it’s time to turn the page on the Staal family. I thank them for contributing to some of the greatest moments in Canes’ history but it’s time to let the new generation take over.
I beleive that second goal was worse than leaving a gap at the post. I think the puck went off his skate 5-hole. Mrazek had simply stopped playing and paying attention.
What a bone head play. Totally stopped playing. A smart player vs a not so smart player. That was devastating. Great way to destroy a team effort. I still believe with real officiating this series would still be going. Blind refs again this game. I sure hope there is accountability that we do not see. I agree with the ones they called (even against us), it is the ones they did not call. That is what I will remember most about 2020 playoffs, the biased incompetent officiating.
I can’t agree with the biased part. Yes, the officiating was poor. Then again the team that played better won the series. The Canes did not match up well vs. the Bruins and it showed. I would say the Canes outplayed the Bruins in 4 or 5 periods of the 5 games. Not nearly good enough. Blaming the refs is fooling yourself about the quality of this team, IMO. The Canes need upgrades in the support players and the best players on the team need to continue to grow so they are the best players in playoff series’. They weren’t vs. the Bruins.