There is nothing like the playoffs. Each game is of vital importance, but as you move on in the series the next game becomes even more important than the last. That is the situation tonight as the Hurricanes get ready to take on the Devils in game five at the Rock.
The series is all tied up at 2-2 and the winner tonight will have a distinct advantage going forward. If the Devils win, they will have two more chances to finish off the Canes, with the last chance coming again at home. If the Canes win, they might be able to finish the series at home in Raleigh in game six. Neither team wants to be put into the situation where they could be eliminated in the next contest, so this game has much more on the line than any so far.
Statistically speaking, the winner of this game will have somewhat of a grip on the series. (Historically, over 80% of teams in a 2-2 scenario who win game five go on to win series). So there will be even more pressure tonight than in the previous four games.
Here are the playoff stats for the Hurricanes:
As you can see, Chad LaRose leads the way with two goals and an assist for three points. Joni Pitkanen is tied with him with three assists. A few players have two points, with Eric Staal and Ryan Bayda each having two goals. Then there are several players with one point. Near the bottom are two very important players with zero, Rod Brind'Amour and Erik Cole. Hopefully, they can get untracked tonight.
The Devils are led by Zach Parise with five points, (3G 2A), Brian Gionta and Paul Martin with four each, and Travis Zajac with three.
It has been mentioned in a few circles that goalie Cam Ward has outplayed Martin Brodeur in this series, but according to the numbers that is not the case.
While Martin Brodeur has fewer saves, (Ward 126 Brodeur 118), the winningest goalie in NHL history has a GAA of 2.19 and save percentage of .929. Cam Ward has played very well, but he might need to be even better if the Canes are going to advance. That's not impossible, because the goalie is currently rated eighth best so far in the playoffs.
Both teams continue to struggle on the powerplay. The Canes are 1-14, (7.1%), and the Devils are 1-17, (5.9%). On the other side of the coin, both penalty kill units are doing an excellent job.
The Hurricanes physical game is top notch, mostly thanks to Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Gleason. Ruutu has 18 hits, the most for any forward in the playoffs. Gleason has been credited with 19, second best for defensemen in the postseason.
There is still no word about the status of Jamie Langenbrunner and Bryce Salvador. Neither will play tonight. Andy Greene is in for Salvador and Holik will continue on the fourth line while Rolston fills in for Langenbrunner. I asked a source last night if he could give me a hint if they would be playing or not and I was told I would have a better chance of finding out where Jimmy Hoffa was buried. The Devils camp is not releasing anything presently regarding the nature of their injuries or their status.
If I find out about any updates, I will be posting it here.
Some unanswered questions....
Will Brodeur's antics after game four change the way the refs have been calling the game? Will the Canes stop creating traffic because they are afraid to take the penalties? Did the split second loss on Tuesday dampen the Devils spirits? Will the Canes continue the way they played in the first two periods in the last game? Can either team win two games in a row in this series?
Game starts at 7:30 and FS Carolinas will handling the broadcast. There is no local HD for this game.
audio from pregame skate interviews