Can lightning strike twice for the Carolina Hurricanes? A couple of weeks ago, they faced one of the best goalies in NHL history, as an overwhelming underdog, on his home ice, in a pressure-packed game 7, and were able to pull off a miracle victory in the last 80 seconds of play.
Tonight they face the same daunting odds when they meet the regular season Eastern Conference Champion, Boston Bruins under similar circumstances. Boston goalie Tim Thomas has been touted as the league's best goalie this year and is the Vezina favorite. The oddsmakers have placed the Bruins as sure fire winners on their home ice for this game, but we all know anything can happen in a game 7.
Is it possible to win two game 7's on the road in the same postseason, or is that asking too much from the hockey gods? Well, there is precedent because the Minnesota Wild did it in 2003. They defeated the Colorado Avs, 3-2 in overtime in the quaterfinals, then beat the Vancouver Canucks, 4-2 in the semis, both times while on the road.
The Hurricanes were admittedly nervous at the beginning of game 6. They knew they were expected to close out the Bruins on their home ice, and sometimes those expectations can put extra pressure on a team. But now that pressure has shifted to Boston. They are expected to win and the Hurricanes will take the ice as a longshot. And the Canes always seems to perform better that way.
Carolina will need their star players to come up big tonight if they want to have a chance. Cam Ward will have to be at his best. Eric Staal will need to win battles and hopefully get on the scoresheet. It's been well documented that when he scores, the Canes win. (7-0 in this postseason). The entire team will have to play a better defensive game than they did in game 6.
Will any of the other forwards break out? After an outstanding series against New Jersey, Ray Whitney has been silenced in this series. Erik Cole has been trying to lay a body on Zdeno Chara at every opportunity, but is he taking himself out of his normal offensive flow by doing so? Captain Rod Brind'Amour has seen his role and time on the ice reduced, and he has yet to score a goal the entire postseason.
Will one of them be a hero tonight?
Paul Maurice has indicated that he will mix the lines up. He may also replace Anton Babchuk with Frank Kaberle, but I expect him to keep that decision a secret until game time. Ryan Bayda will stay in the linup in place of Tim Conboy.
The game has a late start time of 8PM and will be televised locally by FS Carolinas in HD.
We will have another update this afternoon.