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.