Here's a stunning fact: only one of the quarterfinal matchups went into Game 3 with a 1-1 tie.
- Anaheim, Pittsburgh and Chicago won the first two games only to lose Game 3.
- The Bruins, Wings and Canucks all led 2-0 en route to first-round sweeps.
- The Caps lost their first two games to the Rangers, but rebounded in Game 3 with a 4-0 win en route to a seven-game series win.
And then there's the Canes. Carolina took Game 2 in New Jersey on Tim Gleason's overtime winner, seizing the overhyped home-ice advantage away from the Devils. Then they gave it back by losing 3-2 in overtime at the RBC in Game 3.
Nevertheless, the Canes know what it's like to be in what amounts to a best-of-five series. That experience, coupled with the number of Stanley Cup winners in the Carolina room, could prove to be a benefit to the Canes in Game 3 and beyond.
But Boston will be — apology ahead of time — like a wounded bear after losing for the first time this postseason. It's not often that Zdeno Chara is on the wrong end of all three goals scored in a game (as he was Sunday), and Tim Thomas must be wondering when he went from Vezina favorite to second fiddle to Cam Ward.
While I don't buy a lot of the "Canes figured out how to beat the Bruins" things I've read the past couple days (the playoffs are all about adjustments; the Canes adjusted in Game 2, expect Boston to do the same tonight), there's something to be said for the job Eric Staal and Erik Cole did on Chara. Staal managed a goal (empty-netter) and assist on the night, while Cole took the body on Chara at every opportunity. And when Staal scores, the Canes win: Carolina is 5-0 this postseason (and was 22-3-2 during the regular season) when he manages a goal. On top of that, Staal's next point would tie him with Ron Francis for the franchise mark for playoff points (39).
Ward already reigns supreme among all-time Hurricanes goalies, but he's cementing his legacy as one of the league's best playoff performers with his effort this postseason. His shutout in Game 2 was his second of the playoffs, and his 2.08 goals-against average and .937 save percentage are remarkable considering how tight Carolina's games have been thus far this postseason.
In those tight games, teams must rely on production from their secondary players, which is exactly what the Hurricanes received in Game 2. And if you're a Boston fan, you need to worry about Joe Corvo and Matt Cullen.
Cullen and Corvo are arguably the two streakiest scorers on the Carolina roster. Since he became a Cane, Corvo has usually had prolonged scoring droughts followed by several games of impressive output. On Nov. 2, he ended a seven-game goalless streak with a goal, then reeled off another goal and three assists in his next three. A three-assist night in mid-March against the Isles was the beginning of a six-game run where he put up eight points. The Canes and their fans will expect Corvo to get hot now that he's gotten on the scoreboard.
Cullen scored 22 goals this season, but had five separate seven-game goalless streaks. His goal in Game 2 was his first in nine postseason games this year. He scores in bunches, and the Hurricanes are certainly hoping there's more to come now that he's broken through with his first.
With Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose consistently producing, Carolina suddenly has the chance to go from two-line team (that's generous given the way things were in Round 1) to a three- and perhaps four-line team if Rod Brind'Amour can get untracked centering Ryan Bayda and Patrick Eaves on the fourth line. Couple that with Corvo getting on the scoresheet and Anton Babchuk settling into postseason play, and the Hurricanes could again boast the kind of attack that made them so dangerous coming down the stretch in the regular season.
Boston will also look to get their offense back in gear after being shut out for the first time since March 10. It's been nearly as long since Thomas lost two in a row: the B's dropped a game at Pittsburgh March 15 and then lost four night later in overtime to the Kings, both with Thomas between the pipes.
Through two games of the series, both Chara and Dennis Wideman have yet to register a point against the Canes (both had 50 points this season). The same is true for Patrice Bergeron (39 points), Mark Recchi (61), Blake Wheeler (45) and Chuck Kobasew (42).
To make matters worse, Kobasew missed practice yesterday with flu-like symptoms (some seem to think that playoff flus are the new lower and upper body injuries — a clever way to hide an injury).
But like Games 1 and 2, it will likely come down a few key matchups: Ward vs. Thomas; Chara vs. Staal; Gleason-Corvo vs. the top line of Milan Lucic-Marc Savard-Phil Kessel; and winning the fourth-line battle. If either team can get their power play going — or in Carolina's case, get an opportunity to get it going — expect it to make a difference.
With the final change at home, Canes coach Paul Maurice will have the opportunity to match as he sees fit. But like he said following Game 2, it's more about the players working for and wanting it than anything done on the bench.
The game starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast by FS Carolinas (in HD as well), and 99.9 The Fan will have Chuck Kaiton's call.
Bubba will be attending today's morning skate, so he'll be able to add any breaking news or information heading into Game 3.