The hurricane warning facing the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been downgraded to a tropical storm warning.
The Carolina Hurricanes are now down 3-0 in their series against the Boston Bruins, following a tough loss at home. They showed up to PNC Arena hungry for a win, but it wasn’t in the cards for the Hurricanes tonight. Hurricanes captain Justin Williams lead the charge, except in the wrong direction. He was penalized three times in the first period alone, leading to head coach Rod Brind’Amour to limit his ice time in an effort to stem the Bruins’ deadly power play. An effort that went mostly unpunished, until Micheal Ferland would be sent to the box for a high-stick. Boston’s only power play conversion came during this penalty sequence, the fourth of five against the Hurricanes.
This would also end up being the game-winning goal of the hard-fought game between the two conference finalists. The Hurricanes weren’t without fight however. Defensemen Calvin de Haan (#44) would score the Canes’ lone tally on a five-hole snipe against Tuukka Rask.
Despite their effort, they fell short. This can be directly accredited to missed scoring chances, such as ones by Teuvo Teravainen (LW, #86) in the first period, his shot going well wide of an open net. Or Andrei Svechnikov (RW, #37) during the second, missing the open net as Rask was out of position. Their less-than lackluster power play which has gone 1-for-12 in three games (8.3%), including a 5-on-3 opportunity Tuesday night, has also greatly hindered them.
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
The primary takeaways from this game, compared to the others, was the significantly better special teams and goaltending. The Hurricanes penalty kill was significantly better (4/5, 80%) compared to games 1 (3/5, 60%) and 2 (0/2). Curtis McElhinney, who started tonight, allowed only two goals against. One at even strength, and one on the penalty kill. Carolina also came out in the first period with an exceptionally strong forecheck, allowing Boston a meager 6 shots on goal while registering 20.
While the first period was exceptional, the team’s inability to find the back of the net hampered their confidence. They came back out for the second period with significantly less zeal, and it showed. Boston was able to gain the upper hand early and capitalize on it. If Carolina is to come back in this series, they have to get back to playing a complete 60 minutes. A good 20 or 40 minutes won’t win the game for them, or the series. Their power play special teams ineffectiveness has also been a severe damper on the Hurricanes, and while not strictly necessary to win, is a significant factor when you see 5 opportunities in a game.
Discipline is, in my opinion, the Hurricanes enemy number one right now. Of the twelve penalties assessed to the team across games one through three, Carolina has successfully killed six (50%). Four of those six were in game three alone. If they can’t keep Boston out of their heads, and themselves out of the box, they will continue to feed opportunities to the Bruins.
The series thus far: Game 1 (5-2 Boston)
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals took place on May 9th at TD Garden in Boston, MA. It came after the Carolina Hurricanes swept the New York Islanders (M2) at home in Raleigh, NC, six days prior. At this time, the Hurricanes were the projected winners of the series, and the favorite for the 2019 Stanley Cup. The Hurricanes went into game 1 looking well, with starting goaltender Petr Mrazek returning from a lower body injury sustained in game 2 versus NYI. Steven Kampfer would start the game off early, putting Boston up 1-0, but it would be short lived. Sean Kuraly would be penalized (1st of 3 Boston penalties this game) at 3:39 of the first period. Wasting no time, Sebastian Aho would capitalize on a feed by Svechnikov a mere three seconds later.
Carolina would take the 2-1 lead in the second period on a goal by Greg McKegg (C, #42), his second of the postseason. Everything was looking good for the Hurricanes and their Stanley Cup aspirations. That’s when things began to unravel. Jordan Staal (C, #11) would be assessed a minor penalty for boarding. Boston wasted no time and tied the game on a PPG by Marcus Johansson. Shortly after, Dougie Hamilton (D, #19), would be assessed a roughing minor. Again, Boston would capitalize to put them up 3-2, on a PPG by Patrice Bergeron. By then, the damage was done and it appeared that the Hurricanes had left the building. Charlie Coyle would tally an empty net goal, and Chris Wagner, unassisted, would cap the game off at 5-2.
The series thus far: Game 2 (6-2 Boston, again)
Returning to TD Garden on May 12th, the Hurricanes clearly let the shortcomings of game one haunt them. As a team that is known for raucous, unbelievable comebacks after a devastating loss, they fell flat. They came out strong in the first period, with an early power play opportunity that would go unfulfilled (1st of 4 PPs that night). Matt Grzelcyk would open the scoring with less than 5 minutes remaining in the first period, and the Hurricanes rapidly unraveled. Williams would be penalized for a trip, and Jake Debrusk would find the back of the net six seconds later to cap off the first, 2-0 Boston. Carolina would go on the PP twice more during the second period, but again prove unable to convert.
Boston would increase their lead by two during the period, however. On goals by Connor Clifton, and a PPG goal by Grzelcyk after Williams would again find himself in the penalty box. This time on a holding minor. Entering the third period, the Hurricanes saw the Bruins extend the lead to a commanding 6-0 on goals by David Backes and Danton Heinen. The silver lining to this loss was that the Hurricanes managed to deny the Bruins the shutout. Williams manages to beat Rask to get the Hurricanes on the board. Teravainen doubles down on an already disastrous loss.
The Beginning, or the End.
The Boston Bruins return to PNC Arena to face-off against the Carolina Hurricanes again on Thursday, May 16th for game 4. The game starts at 8:00PM EST and will air on NBCSN, SportsNet, CBC, and TVA Sports.
Sources: NHL.com, hockey-reference.com
Featured Image Photo Credit – Josh Tessler