Whereas Sunday’s loss had a decent number of redeeming qualities and even a reasonable case that the Canes deserved a win, that was not so much the case on Tuesday.
The Rangers were the better team from the outset, and deservedly, the Canes were never really in the game once the Rangers got going.
The Canes took two penalties in the first period. The first sapped any possible early momentum as the Canes penalty killers were under siege for the entirety of two minutes trapped in their own end. They survived that first power play against, but the hockey gods stepped in on the second Rangers power play that yielded another pass right through the seam and a quick snipe for a goal. The first period in general had pace both ways just like Sunday’s game, but the Rangers had the better of the higher quality chances against a Canes team that can be pushed too easily to the perimeter of late. When Adam Fox scored on a deflection late in the first period, the Rangers were officially off to the races with a 2-0 lead that would hold until the first intermission.
The Canes pushed a bit in the second period, but the combination of not generating many high-end chances and Shesterkin being on top of his game held the Canes scoreless until Mika Zibanejad managed to find a hole through Raanta on a blast off the rush to make it 3-0. The Canes did finally crack the scoreboard early in the third period on a pretty pass in front to Teuvo Teravainen who finished. But the Canes would get no closer, and the Rangers would add another to reach the 4-1 final.
Player and other notes
1) More of the same on special teams
The Canes power play which has had more ups than the lack of scoring would suggest, struggled on Tuesday and the Canes again had a one-goal deficit on special teams.
2) Martin Necas
The half-full for Necas is that he is starting to find his way into some scoring chances. On Tuesday, he had a post on a shot through a Svechnikov screen and missed badly on another shot where he had half a net to shoot at. No doubt, he is squeezing saw dust out of the stick at this point with no goals through 11 playoff games, but getting chances is encouraging and offers the potential to break out.
3) Slightly better starting at midway point
It got buried beneath the third Rangers goal, but at about the midway point of the second period the Canes started to make a more concerted effort to get pucks and people between the face-off circles in the offensive zone. Right now, the Canes are settling too much for the perimeter. Even if it is ugly and just kicking pucks through defenders, the Canes skill players need to spend more time at the top of the crease and fight harder to get the puck there. Going wide of a defender outside the face-off dot and twirling the net repeatedly hoping to find a wide open teammate does not cut it this time of year, especially against a goalie who is playing well. It pains me to say it, but in some recent games, the Canes have looked like the decade drought Canes that piled up shots and seemed to be unlucky facing a hot goalie every night…when in fact much of it had to do with settling for too many perimeter shots without traffic.
4) Face-off advantage
The Canes have generally won the face-off battle in the series and despite losing had a sizable 65/35 advantage on Tuesday. Face-offs are not the be all end all in hockey obviously, but regularly starting with puck possession can be beneficial. With the pretty stuff mostly not working, quickly getting traffic to the net and shooting into traffic from the point is not pretty but can be effective at getting pucks and people to the crease at the same time.
5) Tracking toward another seven-game series win
No doubt, the inability to win on the road is problematic. Even if the Canes are able to grind out another seven-game series win with four home wins, walking that tight rope against a Lightning team that is very nearly as good on the road at home will likely lead to a fatal fall. But staying in the here and now…The Canes are a perfect 6-0 at home in the playoffs. The series boils down to a three-game series with two games at home which makes the Canes still the favorite. And despite the struggles, all that really matters this time of year is advancing to the next round.
6) Frederik Andersen?
Not realizing that he was not on the bench (he practiced at least partially and is getting closer), I suggested playing Andersen in the third period. To be clear, that was not with the intention of pulling Raanta but rather with the intent of seeing what Andersen looked like after a fully month off and determining if he was a viable option going forward.
Even if he is ready/available, I would not go to Andersen on Thursday. To me, it just makes no sense deviating from a formula that has worked at home with Raanta generally being solid, especially at home. If and only if the Canes lose on Thursday and Raanta is ‘meh’ or worse would I consider turning to Andersen for game 6.
Heads up Canes fans! Our team that is 6-0 on home ice just needs to win two more at home to advance.